EU Climate Goals Under Attack by Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and UK
The European Union’s climate goals, recently bolstered, are under attack from east and west, according to diplomatic documents reviewed and released by a variety of sources.
Initiatives being quietly promoted by several of its eastern member states are designed to weaken the European Union’s goal of “shav[ing] 40% off its emissions by 2030,” Climate Home reports. That goal has been under attack, even though the EU reached an earlier target for 2020 six years early.
Like this story? Subscribe to The Energy Mix and never miss an edition of our free e-digest.
Most of the changes being promoted in the EU’s climate program are technical, but could have far-reaching consequences, the news outlet notes. The Czech Republic, for example, has proposed tweaks that “could cut energy-saving obligations from a headline 1.5%-a-year figure, to just 0.35% in practice.” For its part, Poland is attempting to line up support from enough other member states to block most of the EU’s latest climate initiatives from coming into effect at all.
“It is clear that the east European countries are only thinking of cheap energy and nothing else,” said one Climate Home source. “That applies to Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, all of them.”
Poland’s role in the campaign of policy sabotage is especially troubling: that country will hold the chair for next year’s UN climate conference, where delegates are meant to discuss increasing the stringency of national emission reduction targets originally set in Paris in late 2015—not weaken them.
Britain, meanwhile, may be on its way out the door of the European Union, but its Conservative government is trying to impose its pro-fossil energy policy on its 27 soon-to-be-former continental partners, even after it goes. That, at least is the import of leaked documents reported in the Guardian.
“On the day [British Prime Minister] Theresa May triggered Article 50” of the treaty uniting Europe, initiating Britain’s exit from the group, “government officials asked the European commission to weaken or drop elements of its flagship energy efficiency law.”
The law would impose an EU-wide binding target of “improving energy efficiency 30% by 2030, compared with business-as-usual.” Large energy providers would be required “to achieve energy savings of 1.5% a year until 2030, using energy efficiency measures.”
Those changes would not likely take effect until after the effective date of any Brexit. But documents first obtained by Greenpeace show that May’s government urged its European counterparts to drop the efficiency mandate on large energy suppliers, and make the wider efficiency target voluntary, while reducing it to 27%. “A more recent version [of the memo], dated 22 May and seen by the Guardian, shows the UK has maintained its stance,” the paper notes.
“The government is trying to lock the rest of the EU into weaker energy policies, just as we are leaving,” said Greenpeace UK’s Hannah Martin. “The message is that Brexit could trigger a race to the bottom and be used as cover for getting rid of key environmental safeguards.”
David Symons, a sustainability director at Britain’s WSP consultants, found it “surprising that the [UK] government is lobbying against a measure that is expected to deliver €70 billion of additional gross domestic product and 400,000 jobs across Europe by 2030.”