Positive Environment News

Polish elections complicate EU quest for Paris climate stance

Date: 18-Sep-15
Country: BELGIUM
Author: Barbara Lewis

Polish elections complicate EU quest for Paris climate stancePhoto: Kacper Pempel

The flags of Poland and European Union flutter in front of the Polish parliament in Warsaw June 29, 2011.
Photo: Kacper Pempel

Looming parliamentary elections in coal-dependent Poland will bedevil European Union efforts on Friday to agree a strong position for a global deal to tackle climate change.

EU environment ministers meet in Brussels on Friday to finalize the bloc's negotiating position for a U.N. climate summit in Paris starting at the end of November.

"We're going to have lots of trouble tomorrow (Friday). The election is a problem," one EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Many EU nations are eager to retain the leading role the bloc has taken in moving to lower carbon energy, but Poland, whose economy relies on coal, says the cost of shifting from fossil fuels will undermine EU competitiveness unless the rest of the world is in step.

Warsaw has support from other east European nations, diplomats said.

Parliamentary elections in Poland in October could see victory for the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has campaigned on a promise to defend the nation's coal industry and resist EU environment policy.

The major sticking points on Friday include the issue of five-year reviews that would allow more ambitious pledges on climate action coupled with wording there must be "no backsliding" from promises already made.

Nations could also haggle over the setting of longer term goals and demands for the Paris agreement to be "legally binding", an issue that will also be fraught at U.N. talks.

"There is no doubt for us the Paris agreement must be legally binding," Carole Dieschbourg, environment minister for Luxembourg, current holder of the EU rotating presidency, told a debate in Brussels on Thursday.

France, as the host of the Paris talks, is particularly keen for an ambitious position on Friday.

The EU in March was the first major bloc to submit its formal climate promise to the United Nations, with an undertaking to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent, versus 1990 levels, by 2030.

These national pledges, known as INDCs or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, will fall short of the action needed, which is why many EU nations and the European Commission are keen for regular reviews.

U.N. Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said in Brussels this week they would probably result in global warming of around 3 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times, which is above the 2 degree limit scientists say is needed to prevent the most damaging consequences in the form of droughts and floods.

(Editing by Mark Potter)

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