Poland Vetoes EU Low Carbon Policy

“The Council examined draft conclusions (6837/12) on a roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050, which aimed to establish a sustainable and cost-effective trajectory to 2050, on the basis of milestones for domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 40% by 2030, 60% by 2040 and 80% by 2050 compared to 1990, as proposed in the Commission’s communication “A roadmap for moving to a competitive a low-carbon economy in 2050″(7505/12).  Although 26 member states could agree on the Presidency’s final compromise text, it was not possible to reach the necessary consensus on the text. One member state could not accept the provisions regarding in particular the milestones for EU domestic emission reductions and further work on the 2030 milestone.  Commissioner Heidegaard recalled that the European Council had in the last year called several times for progress on the roadmap and underlined that milestones are not targets but that the EU should give a political sign that it is willing to move forward on climate issues at national and  international level.  The Presidency concluded that it will have to consider this new situation and report to the European council on it.”   —The Environmental Council Statement

It was by all accounts a shocking decision. But in an EU structure that requires unanimous consent on major policy issues things like this happen.  Poland cast a lone NO vote at the Council of Ministers of the Environment thus vetoing the intermediate (2030) CO2 emission reduction targets and voted against a new policy of withdrawing surplus CO2 emission allowances to firm up prices for CO2 permits to meet the 2020 emissions reduction targeted needed to rescue the failing EU emissions trading scheme.

At least for now, Europe’s low carbon policy regime has stalled out.

The practical problems are many and obvious.  Poland is heavily dependent upon coal for a large share of its power generation and a sizable part of its employment base. While it sees a need to transition to cleaner fuels, it is adamantly opposed to gas fired power generation that would make it even more dependent upon Russia.  The result is a policy prescription that includes a large dose of both new nuclear power generation and renewable energy.  The Germans are opposed to new nuclear so near their borders just as Germany begins to phase out its own nuclear plants.  While Poland can certainly add more wind and solar energy they are hardly substitutes for its baseload coal for all the obvious intermittency reasons and gas dependency for backup.

The rest of Europe expected Poland to ‘go along’, but the Poles fear Russia more than they do Germany and they see the problems that feed in tariffs have caused in other EU nations.  The Poles also accuse Germany of unilaterally deciding to shut down its nuclear baseload generation without regard to the transition needs of Poland.

There are shale gas deposits in Poland that could be developed but it lacks the technology and the French, in particular, have been opposed to hydraulic fracturing.  Plans for natural gas pipelines to bring more secure supply from vendors other than Russia are languishing as politics favors Russian supported pipeline projects.

So the Poles find few friends and fewer options for a more secure energy policy than sticking with coal and telling the rest of Europe that it cannot have its low carbon future with a more secure energy future for Poland.

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