Poland seeks EU climate policy rethink amid high energy prices

FILE PHOTO: Smoke and steam billows from Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant operated by PGE Group, near Belchatow, Poland November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Poland on Monday called for the European Union to cancel or delay parts of its plan to tackle climate change ahead of a summit at which EU leaders will wrangle over their response to surging gas and electricity prices.

EU country leaders, who meet on Thursday and Friday, are divided over whether short-term national measures like tax cuts are sufficient to address the recent energy price spike, or whether deeper reforms of EU energy regulation are needed.

In a paper circulated to other countries ahead of the EU summit, Poland said Brussels should change or delay parts of its planned climate policies, warning that if an “excessive burden” is put on consumers, they may reject the EU’s climate aims.

“We should analyse in detail all elements of the Fit for 55 package that can have a negative impact on the energy price and consider their revision or postponement,” the paper said.

“Fit for 55” refers to the EU policy package to cut emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030.

The paper, seen by Reuters, singled out the EU’s plan to launch a carbon market for transport and buildings, which has faced resistance from some countries over concerns it could increase consumer bills. The European Commission has said a new multi-billion-euro EU fund would shield vulnerable consumers from any price increase.

Poland also said the EU should maintain its current minimum energy tax rates. Brussels wants to overhaul the system to end tax exemptions for kerosene – a move supported by countries including the Netherlands and France – and increase rates on other polluting fuels.

EU tax changes require unanimous approval, meaning one country can block them.

While other states have warned that high energy prices could erode support for ambitious climate policies, Poland’s demands are likely to face opposition from countries which say the recent gas price spike should encourage Europe to accelerate its green shift away from volatile fossil fuel prices.

Meeting the EU’s legally binding climate targets will require huge investments. Brussels says this will create jobs and economic growth in green industries, while the cost of not tackling climate change would be far higher, in the form of devastating floods, droughts and wildfires.

Poland also called for the EU to create new financial mechanisms to reduce energy poverty, limit speculators’ participation in the EU carbon market and introduce a gas storage obligation for each EU country.

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