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EU eastern states fear carbon plan empowers Russia

  Eastern members of the European Union said on Friday its tough plans to tackle global warming could force them to rely more on Russian gas and the bloc should be equally ambitious in ensuring their energy security.

 

The EU is pushing through measures aimed at cutting CO2 emissions by a fifth by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, in hopes of averting the worst effects of climate change. But ex-communist EU members such as Warsaw fear such targets will increase their reliance on imports from their former overlord Russia of natural gas, which produces much less carbon dioxide than coal, a resource Poland has in abundance.

“The (EU’s) climate and energy package will significantly increase the demand for imported natural gas in some member states, enhancing their dependence on external sources of energy,” senior officials of five ex-communist EU states said in a joint statement after talks in Warsaw. “The European Commission should act ambitiously in the field of secure supplies of energy resources and should propose solutions equally challenging as those proposed in the climate and energy package,” they said.

Officials from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania signed the statement. A Czech representative who attended Friday’s talks did not sign as Prague takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in January and wants to remain neutral. Moscow’s war with ex-Soviet Georgia in August has reignited regional fears of becoming too dependent on Russian energy.

But EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, a Latvian, told Reuters in an interview this week the 27-nation bloc should build up its energy ties with Russia. Piebalgs expressed support for both the Nord Stream pipeline that would bring Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany -- a project opposed by Poland -- and for Nabucco, a pipeline that would transmit Caspian gas via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Austria.

The five eastern EU states also reiterated their worries about the high costs of the bloc’s climate change plans. “Each EU member state’s situation should be fully taken into account... A gradual approach to the auctioning in the energy generation sector should be adopted,” their statement said.

Poland says EU plans to make power generators buy all their permits to produce carbon dioxide at auction from 2013 would increase electricity prices by up to 70%. (Reuters)