Poland rejects IPCC target of zero emissions by 2100

IPCC recommendation to phase out fossil fuels by end of century to avoid dangerous global warming is categorically rejected by Poland and other eastern European countries.

Poland and other eastern Europe countries have categorically rejected the target put forward by the world’s top climate scientists to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100 to avoid dangerous global warming, leaked documents show.

On Sunday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that fossil fuels must be entirely phased out by the end of the century to keep temperatures from rising as high as 5C above pre-industrial levels, a level that would have catastrophic impacts worldwide.

On 28 October, a few days before the IPCC synthesis report was published, EU environment and energy ministers meeting in Brussels were presented with a proposal by states including Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany to incorporate the IPCC target into EU policy. 

However, it was judged not to have “sufficient support” because of opposition from Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Latvia who “categorically rejected” it, according to a internal briefing note seen by the Guardian.

Poland has vetoed past EU attempts to set climate objectives, and invested political capital in positioning itself as a leader of the Visegrad countries in the run up to the EU’s decision on climate targets for 2030.

The European commission (EC), represented by the outgoing climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, gave only lukewarm support to the zero emissions idea, saying it was “all in favour of having a direction in which we should be going but it might be a bit premature to state it so directly – not all member states will probably be ready to do so”.

Detlef van Vuuren, a lead author on the IPCC report, told the Guardian: “I’m quite surprised that this would be an important thing for the Visegrad countries to be worried about, because for them the question has been more about near-term reductions.”

“To reach the 2C target, being at or below zero emissions is a requirement,” he added. “It is not possible to have any form of stabilisation of the climate by 2100 without that.”

“I really find this a disgrace,” the Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout said. “After the IPCC report, everyone again said it was shocking, the science is clear, we should no longer delay action. And then as soon as it comes to political decisions, they step back from that. It just seems to be empty words every time. This is one of the key reasons why people don’t trust politics anymore.”

Ministers at the summit, which was attended by the UK energy secretary, Ed Davey, also agreed not to insist on an assessment of countries’ carbon-cutting pledges ahead of next year’s climate summit in Paris, after opposition from France, Poland and the Czech Republic.

An assessment had been supported by powerful EU players including the UK, Germany and the EC, mindful of failure at the Copenhagen summit in 2009, when climate pledges were not telegraphed beforehand. But the final text said only that contributions would be “properly considered and analysed in advance of the Paris conference”.

The EU ministers also agreed to leave the question of binding resource efficiency targets off a review agenda for the rest of the decade, after opposition from around half of the bloc’s nations.

The argument that waste recycling, management and prevention goals would ‘dilute’ Europe’s focus on other 2020 targets was made by countries such as Britain, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania.

Poland led other states arguing that it would be premature to adopt such goals without a more robust set of indicators.

The outgoing environment commissioner Janez Potocnik responded that far from being premature, “we were already too late and needed to catch up; the world has changed since the Europe 2020 targets were set in 2010”.

A consensus was finally reached to ask the commission to integrate resource efficiency into the EU’s 2020 strategy by “the introduction of an EU non-binding aspirational target”.

Arthur Nelsen 

This article first appeared in the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network

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