Brussels, 13 December 2019 (dpa/MIA) – EU member states agreed on a goal of achieving carbon neutrality in the European Union by 2050 after marathon talks ended early Friday, though Poland secured itself temporary reprieve.
EU leaders settled on the goal “in the light of the latest available science and of the need to step up global climate action,” although one member state could not yet commit itself, a statement read.
Warsaw, which is heavily reliant on coal as an energy source, doubts it can implement the goal and now has until June to decide.
Poland will reach the EU goal of achieving climate neutrality at its “own pace,” Polish ambassadors to the EU tweeted.
“There is no division of Europe into different parts, but there is a member state that still needs a bit more time,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
Scientists warn that drastic action is needed to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as laid out in the Paris Agreement climate pact.
Meeting the 2050 neutrality target will entail slashing the EU’s carbon emissions generated by fossil fuels as well as finding ways of capturing or offsetting the remaining emissions.
It was the second time this year that EU states had debated the goal. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic blocked the move last time round.
One bone of contention at Thursday’s talks is whether nuclear power projects would be eligible for EU funds – something that Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest claim is necessary, but several other member states, including Germany, view skeptically.
The joint statement contained a reference to respect states’ right to use nuclear as part of their energy mix.
There are also extensive references to EU assistance for the transition to a cleaner economy included in the draft conclusions, including the European Commission’s goal to mobilize 100 billion euros (111 billion dollars) of investment.
Finnish leader Sanna Marin—the world’s youngest prime minister—said ahead of the meeting that EU leaders must meet the expectations of young people.
“The new generation is expecting us to act, and we have to fulfill the expectations of the people,” Marin said earlier Thursday.
Early Thursday, activists from Greenpeace Belgium unfurled a banner reading “climate emergency” on the building where EU leaders were due to meet and set it ablaze.
“Climate neutrality in 2050 is not enough,” the environmental group tweeted later. “What counts is what they do now, while they are in power.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who took office this month, is pushing states to adopt an ambitious climate agenda.
On Wednesday, she unveiled her flagship “European green deal” environmental plan to overhaul the EU economy and achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
EU member states also agreed on Friday to task European Council President Charles Michel with moving on negotiations on the bloc’s next long-term budget, after discussing a proposal put forward by Finland.
Helsinki, which currently holds the EU presidency, suggested member states pay in 1.07 percent of their gross national income (GNI) to the shared EU funds for 2021-2027.
The European Commission wants to see a 1.11-per-cent contribution, but Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands insist on capping contributions to 1 percent of GNI.
Wrangling over the budget is likely to continue well into the new year.
The EU premiers also agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for its role in Ukraine and condemned the maritime boundary agreement struck by Turkey and Libya as illegal.