Poland scuppers Danish climate vision

EU ministers tried to create tougher targets for carbon emission reductions but Poland vetoed the proposal due to its heavy reliance on coal for electricity production

An attempt by the EU to create further binding carbon dioxide emissions targets beyond the 20 percent reduction by 2020 were scuppered after the Polish environment minister vetoed the proposal last Friday in Brussels.

European ministers had met to discuss increasing their commitments in line with the EU’s energy plan, Roadmap 2050, which foresees a 40 percent emissions cut by 2030 and cuts of over 80 percent by 2050.

But while Poland has expressed support for a 2050 target, Friday’s veto was the country's second after it blocked another attempt to tighten emissions targets last June.

Speaking after the meeting, the climate and energy minister, Martin Lidegaard, expressed disappointment that an agreement could not be reached.

“It was a tough session. There were enormous differences. It did not end as we would have hoped. But it ended as well as it could. We are still 26 European countries with a common course," he said, according to Politiken newspaper.

In a press release after the meeting, the EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, wrote that the Poland’s veto was unfortunate.

Hedegaard also criticised Poland’s suggestion that the EU should set an emissions target for 2050 yet leave it open to each member state to find ways of reaching it.

“The EU can't work like this. The EU is a democratic community where negotiations are about give and take to get a good result for all. We can't move forward if the most reluctant one dictates the pace to the rest.”

Hedegaard added, however, that it was encouraging that only Poland objected to the plan and that the veto would not stop Europe heading toward a low carbon future

“The commission's job is to take care of the common European interest. As late as last week all EU heads of state and government urged us to move forward on the low-carbon transition. This is what we will do.”

Writing in the Warsaw Business Journal, attorney Paul Fogo said that Poland had little option but to vote against the proposal.

“Poland relies on coal-fired power plants to produce nearly 95 percent of all its electricity. If the EU were to adopt more stringent CO2 reduction goals Poland would be faced with the monumental task of revamping its entire power sector in order to achieve the more ambitious CO2 reduction targets,”, Fogo wrote, adding that the EU would have to provide Poland with significant subsidies if it were to realistically adopt stricter CO2 targets.

“Until the EU agrees to provide Poland with such financial assistance, Poland will have no choice but to continue to veto each and every future EU proposal to impose mandatory CO2 reductions beyond the current 20 percent threshold.”

Lidegaard chaired the meeting in Brussels, as Denmark currently holds the roatating six month presidency of the EU. Under Lidegaard, Denmark announced its own ambitious climate program that envisages completely phasing out energy derived from fossil fuels by 2050.