Brussels, Belgium – Poland, joined at the last minute by the governments of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia, blocked an ambitious EU plan to end carbon emissions by 2050 during a European Council summit on Thursday.
The obstruction deals a blow to German chancellor Angela Merkel, who spearheaded efforts to build consensus around the EU’s target of ending greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The final statement issued at the end of the two-hour-long heated debate, and which needed the unanimous approval of all governments, made no mention of the 2050 deadline and only indicated that the move was backed by a “large majority” of EU member states.
“We were very firmly defending our interests”, said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki after the summit. “Poland is one of those countries that must first have a very detailed compensation packages [and] know how much we can get for modernization” before agreeing to move to zero net carbon emissions.
Poland, a country that still strongly relies on coal for energy, has long been at odds with other Western European countries over the bloc’s climate and energy policy for the years and decades to come.
For Poland and other mainly Central and Eastern European states, the goals set by countries like Germany, France or Sweden, are too ambitious and fast-paced and threaten to hurt their energy industry and undermine their competitiveness.
Miguel Arias Cañete, Spain’s European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, had been touring EU capitals for months to persuade all member states to back an ambitious climate policy and support the plan put forward by the EU Commission last November.
Although managing to rally a total of 24 EU member states, the last-minute derailing of the ambitious climate plan represents a significant failure and was met with obvious frustration by EU officials and leaders.
The watered down final statement only made a reference to finalizing the EU’s long-term strategy’s “guidance” by the end of 2019 and adopting it early next year.