Poland says virus fallout makes it ‘even more difficult’ to hit EU climate goal

Poland's Belchatow coal power plant was revealed to be the biggest polluter in 2017. [Shutterstock]

Poland, which relies heavily on coal-fired power stations, will find it even tougher to achieve the European Union’s climate goals because of the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the economy and companies, the government said on Wednesday (25 March).

Poland is the only EU nation that has yet to commit to the bloc’s target of driving down net emissions of greenhouse gases to zero by 2050, the centrepiece of the European Commission’s Green Deal.

The EU executive proposed laws to achieve the net zero goal this month but, since then, the rapidly spreading coronavirus has prompted sweeping measures across the bloc that have upended businesses and hammered the economic outlook.

“As a consequence of this crisis our economies will be weaker, companies will not have enough funds to invest, completion of some important energy projects may be delayed or even suspended,” Poland’s climate ministry told Reuters.

“These are real problems that we will be facing soon and achievement of our climate goals will be even more difficult because of them,” it said in a written response to questions.

Poland has already said the EU should scrap its emissions trading scheme or exempt Poland from the scheme.

EU should scrap emissions trading scheme, Polish official says

The European Union should scrap its Emissions Trading System or exempt Poland from the scheme, which helps combat global warming, to free up funds for Warsaw to fight the effects of the coronavirus, a senior Polish official said.

Some diplomats in Brussels have signalled the need to rethink climate plans because of the economic turmoil.

“We simply don’t have the money to do everything,” an EU diplomat said, referring to the risk that the bloc’s Green Deal was at risk because of the economic impact of the virus.

Poland, which employs roughly half of the 237,000 people who work in the coal industry across the EU, could face a big bill from efforts to decarbonise, European Commission data indicates.

The bloc has offered to set aside €7.5 billion from its next long-term budget to help emissions-intensive regions make the shift, with Poland offered the biggest share.

Green Deal facing delays due to coronavirus, EU admits

The European Commission is having to re-order its priorities in the face of the coronavirus crisis, with “non-essential” initiatives like the biodiversity strategy and the farm-to-fork strategy likely to be delayed by several weeks, EURACTIV understands.

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