Europe risks failing on a deal to fight climate change this year because richer nations refuse to budge in a battle with poorer states over the costs, Poland’s EU affairs minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz said on Thursday.
An EU deal next month is seen as vital to catalyze global talks on cutting greenhouse gases from other big emitters such as Russia, China, India and the United States. “There is no guarantee of success -- we are very far,” Dowgielewicz told reporters. “The number of outstanding issues is enormous.” “It is really difficult to understand why especially the most affluent member states are not really moving a centimeter,” he added. “I’m talking about Scandinavian countries, I’m talking about the Netherlands, about the UK, about Germany.”
Poland’s main objection to the climate proposals concerns plans to force power stations to buy permits to pollute from 2013 under the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). That could create heavy costs for Poland’s power sector, which is about 95% dependent on coal -- the most polluting source of energy. “We have to find solutions that will give us a guarantee that the cost of carbon will not have a disastrous effect on fue poverty,” Dowgielewicz said. He cited research predicting carbon prices could rise to €80 ($103) per ton by 2020, and said at just €39 per ton the number of Polish households classified as in “fuel poverty”, when households spend an unacceptable level of income on gas and electricity bills, would rise to 14% from 11.
Proposals from the European Commission aim to make heavily polluting coal plants economically unviable in the long term. To balance the pain for former communist nations that rely heavily on coal, 10% of ETS proceeds will be handed to them. But Dowgielewicz said new “double benefit” measures proposed by Germany to protect manufacturers from the cost of carbon permits were eroding that benefit. “We are not really going towards meeting the concerns of the group of nine less affluent member states, but we are actually going in the opposite direction,” he said. (Reuters)