Poland is unlikely to ultimately block the EU’s Green Deal, but needs more money from Brussels to help it in its energy transition away from coal, and may need more time than other member states to reach climate neutrality, Piotr Arak, head of the Polish Economic Institute told Recharge.
When the European Commission in early March said it wants to make a 2050 target for net zero greenhouse gas emissions binding, the Eastern European country was the only EU member state to explicitly state it won’t commit to net zero by 2050 unless the EU pays it a large-enough share of the cost of exiting coal.
The threat of a Polish opt-out or even blockade of the EU’s €1trn ($1.1trn) Green Deal is a major headache for the new EU Commission under President Ursula von der Leyen (who came into power in part due to Eastern European backing).
“I wouldn’t say [the Polish government] will block the green deal. There is a firm commitment from the current government to mitigate climate change effects,” Arak said, however.
The head of the Warsaw-based think tank says the Polish government has shown more climate friendliness in the last months, and even dropped the idea of developing new coal-fired plants.
The “policy leadership supports climate neutrality. It doesn’t agree about the tool box that will be available.”
According to European Commission estimates, the implementation of climate goals only up to 2030 would cost heavily coal-dependent Poland some €240bn, Arak said.
The executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said that the so-called ‘just transition mechanism’ to help poorer and fossil-dependent EU member states with financial and practical support would be worth at least €100bn in the 2021-27 period.
But much of that money would come from already existing funds, while the EU admits that only €7.5bn out of its €1trn plan is slated to be fresh investment from the upcoming EU budget.
According to calculations by the Polish Economic Institute, fresh EU funds should have a size of some €20bn per year instead.
“Probably Poland would be one of the countries that would receive the highest amount of funds. This means that it takes a lot more than approx. €16-20bn that Poland would receive within the framework proposed by the European Commission,” Arak said.
Also, getting climate neutral with the energy mix Poland currently has is almost impossible, he adds.
“We are estimating the year in which the country could achieve climate neutrality, and we are estimating that closer to 2060 in Poland. Even with most optimistic goal setting it is very difficult to say that by 2050 we are going to achieve the target given by the European Commission.