Poland’s surging opposition seeks talks on EU emission opt-out

Published 12:14 on June 22, 2015  /  Last updated at 21:28 on June 22, 2015  /  EMEA, EU ETS  /  No Comments

Poland’s opposition wants to negotiate exemptions from the EU’s binding GHG emission curbs, Bloomberg reported on Monday, in the clearest sign yet that the poll-leading Law & Justice (PiS) party would adopt an even tougher line against the bloc’s climate policy than the current government.
  • Opposition seeks climate opt-out talks, prepares for Oct. election
  • Current government won concessions on EU climate policy, did not veto
  • EU treaty changes dilute Poland’s negotiating power

Poland’s opposition wants to negotiate exemptions from the EU’s binding GHG emission curbs, Bloomberg reported on Monday, in the clearest sign yet that the poll-leading Law & Justice (PiS) party would adopt an even tougher line against the bloc’s climate policy than the current government.

Such an opt-out would involve withdrawing companies from the bloc’s third biggest emitter from the EU ETS, viewed by lawmakers as the cornerstone of EU climate policy.

“The strategy that we’re planning for the economy rejects the dogma of de-carbonization,” Piotr Naimski, in charge of preparing energy policy at Law & Justice, said in an interview last week. “The role of coal in Poland’s economy fully deserves to receive special treatment.”

“Nobody is thinking of leaving the EU, but there is an idea to again look at Poland’s unique situation,” he said, referring to a strategy of bolstering Poland’s loss-making domestic coal miners to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian gas imports.

PiS wants to ease the burden on miners in the short-term by forcing more profitable state-owned power generators to shoulder more of their costs via long-term supply contracts or capital ties but admits it must eventually cut coal output and related jobs in the longer term.

According to opinion polls, the surprise victory of PiS candidate Andrzej Duda in presidential elections in May has paved the way for the party to win October parliamentary elections.

It comes at a turbulent time for European affairs as Greece battles austerity measures to keep its place in the eurozone, while Britain is seeking its own EU reforms ahead of a promised referendum on the country’s continued membership.

CONCESSIONS WON

Poland’s incumbent Civic Platform party (PO), the main governing party since 2007, has led opposition to tougher EU climate policies since the bloc agreed to cut total greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 in late 2008.

It didn’t veto an EU leaders’ deal to extend the goal to a 40% cut by 2030 last October, but it secured the continuation of several concessions that could divert more than €30 billion for itself and its eastern EU neighbours from the coffers of richer western member states.

These include continuing to be allowed to give EUAs to its power generators for free and a big share of proceeds from a ‘solidarity fund’ created from auctioning allowances.

More recently, Poland opposed strengthening the EU ETS’s Market Stability Reserve. While the country ultimately lacked the necessary support to block the measure, it will receive the lion’s share of €845 million in extra revenues because richer governments effectively agreed to withhold more of their own EUAs from auction in a further concession to clinch the deal.

WEAKER HAND

However, Poland’s ability to influence EU climate policy could be weakened from Mar. 2017, when transitional EU rule changes expire and states require more support to defeat EU laws under Qualified Majority Voting.

Poland temporarily scraped together enough support for a blocking minority to changes to the MSR, but under the new rule it wouldn’t have met the required threshold of votes at all.

And with less influence on EU climate policy, it may become more tempting for Polish governments try to opt out of the laws altogether.

By Ben Garside – ben@carbon-pulse.com

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