The Czech Republic said it was ready to back the EU’s proposed 2030 target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55%, provided that the objective is a collective one and that EU state aid rules do not hamper its nuclear ambitions.
EU heads of states prepare to meet in Brussels for a two-day summit starting on Thursday (15 October), with the EU’s 2030 climate target plan high on the agenda.
Today’s summit will be the first meeting of EU leaders since the European Commission tabled proposals last month to upgrade the bloc’s climate target for 2030 – aiming for a 55% cut in emissions compared to 1990 levels. The current objective is a 40% cut.
The Commission’s climate proposal enjoys broad support from a majority of member states, except Eastern EU countries which have expressed doubts over the plan and wrote a letter to the Commission in July to highlight the “social, environmental and economic costs” of the move to clean energy.
Poland in particular has called for greater financial support from the EU to back its energy transition, and has so far refused to commit itself to an EU-wide objective of cutting emissions down to net-zero by 2050.
But Prague said it was now ready to back the EU’s 2030 climate target provided that the objective applies collectively to the whole EU and not to countries individually.
“We have no problem with the (55%) target if it is an average for the whole EU,” said Czech Prime minister Andrej Babiš, adding however that “it is necessary to consider the specificities of the member states” when it comes to their energy mix.
“The Czech Republic understands that the majority of EU states are ready to back a 55% target,” said Milena Hrdinková, Czech State Secretary for European Affairs. “However, it is unrealistic for the Czech Republic itself,” she told EURACTIV.cz.
EU support for nuclear expansion in the Czech Republic will also be crucial to ensure the country’s contribution to the EU climate effort, she added, calling on the European Commission to clear planned state aid for the construction of a new nuclear block in Dukovany.
Industry Minister Karel Havlíček has repeatedly said that the Czech Republic “has no other choice than nuclear energy” in order to meet EU climate goals.
Today’s EU summit is not expected to yield a deal on the EU’s new climate target for 2030, but rather pave the way for an agreement in December. EU leaders will “return to the issue” to seek agreement on the goal by year-end, according to draft summit conclusions, seen by EURACTIV.
“The October European Council is the right moment to establish a process before reaching a final decision on the 2030 target in December,” said a Polish official quoted by Reuters.
The European Council of EU heads of states usually tries to reach conclusions by unanimity, even though a qualified majority would be sufficient to pass the 2030 target plan.
Ahead of the summit, a group of eleven countries signed a joint statement backing the Commission’s proposal, saying it provides “a solid foundation” for reaching a decision on the bloc’s updated climate goal.
“We need to agree on increasing the 2030 climate target to ‘at least 55%,'” said the statement, signed by the environment ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
“This increased target should be included in the EU’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution to be submitted to the UNFCCC before the end of this year and followed up by legislative proposals by June 2021, to make sure the target is delivered on,” the statement said.
When EU member states eventually reach an agreement, they will then have to find common ground with the European Parliament, whose approval is necessary to pass the 2030 climate target plan.
Earlier this month, MEPs voted to back a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, setting the Parliament on a collision course with the EU Council of Ministers which represents the EU’s 27 member states.
Peter Liese, a German centre-right MEP from Angela Merkel’s CDU party, said he was “very confident” that a majority will be found in the Council in favour of the 55% target plan, even without the support of Germany.
The German MEP also remarked that unanimous agreement was not necessary to pass the EU’s 2030 climate plan, saying the decision could be taken by a qualified majority in the Council to circumvent a potential Polish veto.
Prague, for its part, said it was convinced that climate goals have to be approved by EU leaders unanimously and not by qualified majority.