Poland continues to gamble with the EU’s climate policy

 By Anders Lorenzen

Since our 25th January report on the lowest carbon price ever recorded in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) of €2.81 per ton, the price has stabilised a little at around €5 per ton. This is still far too low achieve the EU’s main carbon pricing objectives of making CO2 pollution uneconomical and stimulating green economy investments; analysts are saying that a carbon price of at least €30 per ton is needed to meet these. 

Backloading challenges 
The policy of ‘backloading’, is something EU climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard had seen as a quick fix to the problem which would eventually lead to a reform of the (ETS), is being blocked by EU ‘climate villain number one’ Poland. Due to it’s heavy reliance on carbon intensive coal, Poland consistently blocks EU carbon and environmental initiatives. Hedegaard’s rationale is that backloading would temporarily remove some of the surplus permits that have pushed prices far below the levels needed to make low carbon investment profitable as part of efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. At a vote this Tuesday of the Environment Committee in the European Parliament, 38 members voted for and 25 voted against this proposal, whilst two abstained.

Wider EU stance
 Despite being in favour of the proposal, the Environment Committee said they wanted time to decide on a mandate indicating that the quick fix Connie Hedegaard had in mind seems far off. The options are opening up for either a proposal that would go to plenary discussions in the European Parliament, or a legal haggle about backloading between the Parliament, Commission and Member States before then. Aside from Poland, European industrial powerhouse Germany has yet to take a stand on the proposal; due to it’s power and dominance in the EU, the German stance could be crucial. Despite Germany receiving worldwide praise for it’s green energy policy, large parts of east Germany still rely heavily on coal and the country’s nuclear switch-off in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has actually resulted in an increase in domestic coal consumption.

The views of the member states will be sought at a Committee meeting on the 27th of February.

On Twitter, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec, expressed views that were distinctively different:

Connie Hedegaard@CHedegaardEU
Clear positive vote in @EP_Environment. Congrats to @Groote and others working diligently for this convincing result. #ETS#backloading

Marcin Korolec@MarcinKorolec
1:1 in #backloading debate in EUParliament. Common position still far away. Will be important to bring the issue to plenary for final vote.
Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt

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