Choreography of a climate deal

(EurActiv, 18 Sep 2019) A deal with Poland on 2050 climate neutrality is in sight, writes Brook Riley.

Brook Riley is head of EU affairs at the Rockwool Group, a world leader in building insulation.

Six years ago I was part of the NGO team discussing what level of greenhouse gas cuts to recommend for 2030. We agreed on a 55% target, which seemed a big ask at the time. But it’s now the number Ursula von der Leyen has tasked Frans Timmermans to deliver.

It shows how much has changed. Not so long ago, it was a struggle to persuade the European Commission to align climate and energy legislation with the Paris Agreement. Now Von der Leyen’s mission letter to Timmermans reads like a paean of praise for green policies. Now the Commission’s overworked climate action department – it reportedly has a record burnout rate – has a seat at the top table, reporting directly to Timmermans.

One thing hasn’t changed, however: Poland’s reluctance to sign up to higher climate and energy ambition. And here is the rub. If Von der Leyen is championing climate action, it is thanks to the outgoing Commission’s campaign for a climate neutral Europe by 2050. This is what is behind the plans for a Green New Deal, Climate Law and the 55% goal. But for these policies to properly get going, EU leaders need to sign off climate neutrality – and Poland is still holding out. In June, despite overwhelming support from other heads of state, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki blocked a deal.

This is déjà-vu for Council watchers. Poland vetoed the first attempt for a 2050 climate strategy, eight years ago. But I’m optimistic. It’s a different Poland this time, and it’s a different kind of ‘no’. There is room to negotiate.

What has changed? Polish coal production peaked in 2012. Coal imports have more than doubled over the past two years and – embarrassingly for the ruling PiS party – Russia is the main provider. Meanwhile, Poles are increasingly fed up with their country’s grim record on air quality: 44,000 premature deaths every year, 33 of the 50 dirtiest cities in Europe. And Poland’s energy infrastructure is worn down by lack of investment.

External link

EurActiv, 18 Sep 2019: Choreography of a climate deal