Pressure rises to cut Poland off from billions in EU green cash

Bełchatów power station, Poland. Credit: Wikipedia

Pressure is mounting on Poland to either get on board with European Union plans to become carbon neutral in the next three decades or potentially forfeit billions of euros in aid from Brussels.

The demands on Poland highlight growing tension over the bloc’s trillion-euro budget and climate ambitions. Just two days ahead of an emergency summit called by EU governments to discuss the issues, environmental activists want to restrict the country’s access to a 7.5 billion-euro ($8.1 billion) transition fund. EU President Charles Michel said he also wants to limit aid to countries that fail to respect the 2050 deadline for eradicating emissions.

Poland still relies on coal for more than 80% of power generation

“Only countries that really have committed to climate neutrality before or by 2050 should be able to get the funding,” Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network Europe, told a press conference on Tuesday in Brussels. “It should be clear that the money is going where it has the biggest value, not necessarily to those countries that create the biggest problems in the decision-making of Europe.”

Poland still relies on coal for more than 80% of power generation. And though eastern Europe’s biggest economy supports the EU’s goal of becoming carbon neutral, Poland is alone among the bloc’s 27 nations in refusing to accept the deadline, citing the effort and expense of dramatically cutting emissions by mid-century.

The EU wants to spend a quarter of its 2021-2027 budget on green activities, enacting the far-reaching Green Deal strategy to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent. That green funding will impact everything from agriculture and energy, to urban design and trade.

The Green Deal includes a transition mechanism to help heavily-impacted regions adjust to the shift, along with the 7.5 billion-euro Just Transition Fund to support their economies. Altogether, some 100 billion euros could be mobilized via funding from the EU’s common budget, along with co-financing from national governments and contributions from the European Investment Bank and private sector.

Poland could be the biggest beneficiary of the mechanism, getting around 27 billion euros, including 2 billion from the Just Transition Fund, according to commission estimates. Germany could count on 13.4 billion euros, Romania with 10.1 billion euros and the Czech Republic with 7.8 billion euros.

Michel, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, proposed last week that for member states that haven’t yet committed to climate neutrality by 2050, access to the Just Transition Fund be limited to 50% of their national allocation, with the other half being made available after the deadline is agreed.

While the EU heads of government are due to focus on budget issues when they meet on Thursday, they’ll return to the issue of climate neutrality by June. A senior Polish government official said earlier this week that the country isn’t ready to resume talks about the mid-century goal and wants time to figure out its investment needs and future energy mix.

(By Ewa Krukowska)

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