Fossil fuel-reliant Poland has won a reprieve from the European Unions climate neutrality goals that are part of the blocs newly adopted Green Deal scheme that seeks to aggressively de-carbonize Member States economies.
Poland, which gets 80 percent of its power from coal, was the lone holdout following a marathon debate in Brussels that concluded early Friday with European Union member states agreeing to the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
“We have reached an agreement on climate change, it is very important, it was crucial, for Europe to show strong ambition,” EU Council President Charles Michel said.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) December 12, 2019
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in Brussels that Poland had secured an exemption allowing for a gradual transition to the EUs climate objectives.
“The conclusions include an exception, so a rule or principle that must be taken into account in the forthcoming legislative process—and this has been set down in point three of the conclusions—that Poland will reach climate neutrality at its own pace,” Morawiecki said, according to the PAP Polish press agency.
Point three of the Dec. 12 meeting final conclusions statement (pdf) states that the European Council “recognizes the need to put in place an enabling framework that benefits all Member States and encompasses adequate instruments, incentives, support and investments to ensure a cost-effective, just, as well as socially balanced and fair transition, taking into account different national circumstances in terms of starting points.”
Without naming Poland the Council said that “One Member State, at this stage, cannot commit to implement[ing] this objective as far as it is concerned, and the European Council will come back to this in June 2020.”
“We understand that there are countries which are in a completely different economic, technological and social condition but Poland could not be blamed for being in such a situation regarding its energy system,” Morawiecki said, PAP reports. He added that on the basis of the summit conclusions, Poland had secured a path to reforming its energy sector in a way that would be “safe and economically beneficial.”
Morawiecki, who called the negotiations difficult, added that Poland did not commit to any specific date for reaching climate neutrality.
Several eastern European countries wanted other guarantees before they signed off on the blocs zero net emissions objective.
“The Czech Republic also wants to reach carbon neutrality, but we wont make it without nuclear,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Twitter. “The EU must recognize nuclear as an emission-free source [of energy]. On top of that, the costs of carbon neutrality will be astronomical.
The Czech Republic and Hungary agreed after assurances that nuclear energy could be included in the final mix.
“The European Council acknowledges the need to ensure energy security and to respect the right of the Member States to decide on their energy mix and to choose the most appropriate technologies,” the Council said. “Some Member States have indicated that they use nuclear energy as part of their national energy mix.”
EU to Deploy Green Deal Targets Despite Poland Holdout
European Union leaders will work towards the objective of convincing Poland to back a deal on climate neutrality by 2050 at a summit in June next year, the French presidency said.
President Emmanuel Macrons office said that, despite Poland securing an exemption, the EUs executive will nonetheless move ahead with Green Deal implementation.
“Without waiting, this agreement will allow the Commission to deploy its Green Deal in the coming weeks,” the Elysee said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that Polands exemption did not reflect a lack of cohesion in the bloc, but that it was a question of adopting a different timeline to reach common targets.
“There is no division of Europe into different parts, but there is a member state that still needs a bit more time,” she said, DW reports.
The EU Council President acknowledged that some member states would find the transition more challenging.
“We took this decision with respect for many concerns of different countries because we know that its important to take into consideration the different national circumstances and also different starting points,” he said, BBC reports.
The Start of a Journey
The summit was the first since European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled her European Green Deal, which she officially launched on Wednesday, calling the series of radical policy shifts “Europes man on the moon moment.”
“Today is the start of a journey,” von der Leyen said at the European Commission before pitching her flagship policy to the European Parliament. “The European Green Deal is very ambitious, but it will also be very careful in assessing the impact and every single step we are taking.”
Von der Leyen said in remarks at a European Parliament Plenary Session in July in Strasbourg that “bold steps together” were needed to realize ambitious climate goals, adding that “our current goal of reducing our emissions by 40 percent by 2030 is not enough.”
“We must go further. We must strive for more. A two-step approach is needed to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 by 50, if not 55 percent,” relative to 1990 levels.
“I want Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050,” she said, in reference to the “climate-neutral” agenda put forward in the 2015 Paris Agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) political conference.
Her two-step approach involves not just adopting ambitious climate-neutral aims for the EU, but convincing other advanced economies to adopt similarly bold goals.
“The EU will lead international negotiations to increase the level of ambition of other major economies by 2021,” she said.
The European Green Deal roadmap (pdf), published Wednesday, covers all sectors of the economy, notably transport, energy, agriculture, buildings, as well as industries like steel, cement, ICT, textiles, and chemicals.
The deal includes an expanded EU emissions-trading system and a tax to curb the risk of “carbon leakage.”
“If this risk materializes, there will be no reduction in global emissions, and this will frustrate the efforts of the EU and its industries to meet the global climate objectives of the Paris Agreement,” the roadmap states.
One major component of the plan is a so-called “Just Transition Fund,” a mechanism of at least 35 billion euros that would support the “regions most exposed” to the “decarbonization challenge.”
The new European Commission head has also called for turning the European Investment Bank (EIB) into “Europes climate bank” that would allocate half its total financing to U.N.-led climate actions by 2025.
In a policy plan, Von der Leyen has also proposed a “Sustainable Europe Investment Plan” that would fund parts of her Green Deal—which she called “Europes hallmark”—with one trillion euros over the next ten years.
Echoes of Democrats Green New Deal
The European Green Deal appears conceived in the same spirit as the expensive and expansive Green New Deal (GND) proposed by Democrats. Both schemes are concepts for a radically new clean energy economy based on yet-to-be tested engines of economic growth.