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EU climate deal in balance as row simmers over 40% CO2 target

Poland remains opposed to new goals, saying it would leave poorer nations compensating for over-ambition

Pic: Europa/Flickr

Pic: Europa/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo in Bonn

An internal dispute over the fairness of the EU’s new climate policies is continuing to divide nations, five months before the bloc’s new greenhouse gas reductions target must be finalised.

Both the European Commission and Parliament support a 40% target on 1990 levels, but it must be approved by Council before becoming law. This decision is due in October.

But according to Marcin Korolec, Poland’s State Secretary for Environment, this target will unfairly penalise Europe’s poorer nations in eastern and central Europe, who will struggle to cope with the west’s level of ambition.

“Europe needs first a fair and frank – particularly frank – discussion,” he told RTCC in an interview in Bonn. “Until now, there has been an approach that some have an ambition and some others have to deliver.”

He said that Poland, which is the second largest coal producer in Europe, remains opposed to a 40% target. The goal, he said, should be based upon the individual “readiness” of countries across the 28-state bloc.

“The proposal of the Commission is only half of the job,” he said, since it was designed to be cost-effective on a European, rather than a country, level.

“If it is cost effective on European level, that means those reductions theoretically will take place in poorer countries of Europe, which again is not such a very good idea, but we need some instruments to address this fact and to assist those countries.”

Burden sharing

He added that the countries who were allowed to increase their emissions under the Kyoto Protocol “may be more eager” to take on a greater burden in the new agreement.

While the Kyoto agreement collectively bound the EU to reduce emissions by 8% on 1990 levels by 2012, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden were permitted to raise their emissions, for which other countries compensated by taking on deeper cuts.

Korolec spoke to RTCC on the sidelines of the latest round of UN climate negotiations, taking place this week in Bonn. The UN has set a deadline of March 2015 for countries to submit their contributions to a new deal to stop dangerous climate change, which is due to be signed off by December next year.

The EU intends to submit its 2030 climate and energy package as its contribution to this deal, which makes it vital that it is finalised as soon as possible. The region is currently responsible for around 10% of global emissions.

Its intention to secure a 40% greenhouse gas reduction target is also likely to form the basis of its pledge at a landmark climate summit being held in September by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, which will determine how the world views the EU’s current levels of ambition.

How the burden of the 40% target will be divided between countries is still the “big question” of the EU’s 2030 climate package, said EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, speaking in Bonn today.

She said that the EU is still working on ways to overcome the obstacle, and that the solution would not simply depend on the level of emissions reductions each country has to take on, but on financial aid delivered through European investment banks and co-finance.

“Burden sharing is not just about who’s doing what. It’s about who could help make it possible to invest in what is needed.”

It also depended on enabling countries to “harvest the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency”, she said, particularly since many of the poorest countries, which remain dependent on imported Russian gas, are some of the least efficient.

“The dilemma is that some of our member states that are not among the richest member states will have huge potential in efficiency, for instance, but they are not the ones with highest GDP per capita,” she said.

Denmark’s climate and energy minister, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, told RTCC that the debate remained “political”, but was hopeful that a 40% target would prevail in October.

“Everyone has their version of fair, but we are in the same room. We are going to hammer something out,” he said.

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