UK energy minister sketches Polish compromise for 2030 climate deal


EXCLUSIVE / The UK energy minister, Ed Davey, says that any agreement with Poland over the EU’s proposed 2030 energy and climate change package must focus on “burden-sharing, fairness, and cost-effectiveness”.

Davey, a Liberal Democrat, was speaking to EurActiv on the fringes of a Green Growth summit of 13 EU ministers to mobilise support for the EU’s 2030 objectives of a 40% emissions cut, a voluntary 27% target for renewables, and carbon market reform. 

“Nobody is asking everyone to move at the same pace,” he said, a few hours before the 4 March Energy Council began. “What was in 2008 [when the last climate package was agreed] will not be the deal in March. We’ve got to take account of where people are and where they have been historically and that is accepted. I don’t think that’s controversial. The question is the details beneath that. We have to consider energy security, affordability and competitiveness."

"That is exactly what we expect the final deal to focus on," he added.

Merging these themes would reassure east European states, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania that their interests were being catered for, Davey argued. 

Poland is seen as a climate renegade in many EU quarters for its coal dependency, use of a veto to prevent the other 27 members signing off on 2050 decarbonisation objectives, and a reluctance to implement the bloc’s clean energy directives.

Last month, the Polish prime minister Donald Tusk launched a €2.7 billion twin 900 MW coal plant project in Opole, in apparent defiance of the EU’s CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) directive.   

But Davey swiftly dispatched environmentalists’ hopes that the Warsaw veto could be evaded by taking a vote on a qualified majority basis.

 “We are not trying to get around anyone,” he said, adding that it would be in the interests of all to get a climate deal the whole bloc could sign enthusiastically at the forthcoming 21 March heads of state summit.

 Poland ‘traumatized’ by climate change package

In press statements though, Polish diplomats continue to rule out any deal, which could be taken to a UN climate change summit in Lima this September. In 2015, a global climate pact is due to be agreed in Paris.

 Katarzyna Reiter an analyst at Poland’s Centre for International Relations and member of the Polish environment ministry team during Warsaw’s EU presidency said that the country’s government was still “traumatised” by having signed up to the 2020 climate and energy package.  

Reiter is part of a Polish foreign ministry-funded public outreach project called #climate4growth. “We want to postpone the debate,” she told EurActiv over the phone from Warsaw.

“We want no legislated proposal from the Commission for as long as we there is no decision on burden sharing,” she said.  Non-binding emissions targets for 2030 would be a “sexy” and popular option for the Polish government, according to Reiter.

Peter Lilley, Lord Lawson: ‘Shut it!”

While he was accommodating to Polish concerns though, Davey was evidently frustrated by climate-sceptic Conservative MPs and lords, who he advised to keep their counsel in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change.  

He also said that he believed the environment secretary, Owen Patterson, who has argued that global warming can be positive was changing his views in the wake of unprecedented UK floods, which the country’s Met Office has linked to climate change.

The Green Growth Group, which was initiated by the UK, had “strong support” from Number 10 Downing St, Davey said, but he cited a contingent of sceptics, including the MP Peter Lilley and Lord Lawson “who attack this agenda every day if they can.”

“My recommendation to most politicians who want to talk about the climate is to listen to the scientists and listen to the evidence,” he said. “Of course you can question it, but when there is overwhelming evidence you should tend to shut it.”

Political commentary in the UK has often focused on differences between Davey and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. But Davey insisted that “I actually work very well with the Chancellor.”

Flood defences

With Patterson too, Davey said that he had been “incredibly supportive of Owen’s calls for extra investment in flood defences and I do think that’s important.”

“There are both the mitigation and adaptation sides of climate change and Owen, with the brief he has, realizes increasingly the impact of climate change on the UK, whether it’s through flooding or extreme weather events and so on and the damage that it can cause.”

Climate-indifferent arguments have contributed to a consensus against binding national renewable energy targets in any EU 2030 package. But Davey said that a sole 40% emissions cutting goal would deliver the growth of wind, solar and tidal energies most cost-effectively. 

“It is inconceivable that you would agree that target and not see huge amounts of investments flowing in to renewables,” he said, “inconceivable.”

The scenario was, however, envisaged by Greenpeace’s EU energy policy adviser Fredric Thoma who commented on the Council meeting: “A carbon target without a renewables and an energy efficiency target would be like a bicycle with no pedals: It will move but it won’t take you very far.”

  • March 21 2014: EU summit will discuss climate and energy issues
  • May 2014: New EU Parliament to be elected
  • May 2014: EU member states must prepare schemes for their energy companies to deliver annual energy savings of 1.5% as part of the Energy Efficiency Directive
  • June 2014: Review of progress towards meeting the 2020 energy efficiency target
  • June 2014: EU Council will discuss energy and climate issues
  • September 2014: UN change summit 
  • December 2015: Paris COP summit
  • 2020: Deadline for EU states to meet binding targets for 20% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, improvements in energy efficiency, and market share for renewable energy
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Mike Parr's picture

"Non-binding emissions targets for 2030 would be a “sexy” and popular option for the Polish government, according to Reitner." - it would be a reason to do nothing. The EC has long experience with "non-binding" = voluntary targets (e.g. Euro OEMs Cars & CO2 emissions in 1998) - they don't work and never will do.

In the case of Davey, the new UK regime for renewables, "Contracts for Difference" will be a disaster for RES in the UK. As a commentator in the FT noted, it more or less nationalises decision making on power generation investment and places ministers as gate keepers (it also opens the process to giving CfDs to "favoured companies")..

I have zero confidence in either Davey or the Tory-Vermin that he works with, as evidenced by their "deal" to transfer money for 35 years from UK electricity customers to the French state to pay for the new nuclear station at Hinkley.

For those in DG Competition reading this - the £92.5/MWhr "offered" to EdF by HMG should be offered to all RES developers everywhere - I can promise you that on-shore wind developers would be delighted with £92.5/MWhr for 35 years & with inflation built in. Yes Mr Davey - EdF certainly had your measure when the Hinkley contract was "negotiated" - they must have been almost wetting themselves with laughter at your naivety.

John Benton's picture

What people have to realise is that Ed Davey, a Lib Dem, is a complete dimwit. He is known throughout Britain as the least able politician in the cabinet, someone who has been promoted way beyond his abilities. Whatever he says it will rightly be ignored and he will lose his job as soon as there is an election such is the unpopularity of the Lib Dems, who are only minor coalition partners for now.

Poland has the support of the vast majority of the British people to scupper any agreement.

John Benton's picture

Mike Parr

I agree that Davey was naïve in agreeing that price when Ineos has just agreed a price of just over one third of that figure to buy nuclear. But then what do you expect from a dimwit like Davey.

Your suggestion to hand more subsidy to useless renewables like wind and solar simply shows that you are equally foolish. These technologies are not nearly market ready, and I have little faith that they will ever become so. Without storage capacity they are just a distraction. If private investors want to sink their own money into these technologies fine, but without any subsidy.

Mike Parr's picture

Mr Benton - in common with others that dislike renewables, you make assertions - but of course numbers are always missing.

Nuclear looks expensive @ £92.5/MWhr - having run a discounted cash flow I came to the same conclusions as DG Comp - NPV of £30bn and an IRR well north of 18%. Gas is cheap: but you then have a choice, Russian mafia or the Gulf slave states - take your pick. Of course you could frack - but that has not worked out well so far in the UK.

The UK is well placed for wind generation, were it not for the rapacious land owners (ah - tory supporters) it would be cheap (think LCOEs of 4.5p/kWhr). Interconnections to mainland Europe would provide a partial solution to the variability problem - which in any case at the head of Nat Grid networks noted last year - is not a problem. In terms of constraint payments, NG paid £3m in January = peanuts compared to other payments.

by the way - your money, i.e. your elec bill pays for renewables - you may not like them - but you certainly pay for them.

Heber Rizzo's picture

The "climate change" scam was born from political dogmas, not from real science. Its proponents used a 30 years correlation to impulse it, but there is no hard evidence to support it (correlation is not causation, and models do not constitute evidence).

Now, with 17+ years of not warming, and a slight cooling since 2001, still with no empirical evidence of it, with model predictions failing and with more data stablishing that climate change is natural, as it always has been for the last 4500 million years, the hypothesis is crumbling.

So, comprimising the european economies for the lunatic vagacies of a dogmatic ecologist party is just pure madness.