European Union energy ministers have been unable to agree a common position on an energy roadmap to 2050 because of opposition from Poland.
It is the second time this year that Poland has wielded its veto on energy matters.
The energy roadmap, unveiled by the Commission in December, lays out possible options for Europe’s energy mix over the next few decades. These include several options designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions (dubbed ‘no regrets’ options). Poland wanted to change the wording of these options to make them more friendly to coal and gas.
Poland asked that the term ‘decarbonisation’ be re-defined so it would not exclude all fossil fuels, for example by including coal-fired power plants that use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. Poland also wanted the implementation of ‘no regrets’ options to be made conditional on a binding international agreement by non-EU countries to lower emissions to an equivalent level. It also asked that a section on financial support for renewables be changed to support for “low-carbon technologies”, so that nuclear and CCS could also receive support.
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Other member states were prepared to change the definition of decarbonisation, but several of them refused to accept the second two changes. As a result, Poland refused to back the roadmap.
The 26 other member states signed up to the roadmap, but no formal conclusions were issued because to do so requires a unanimous vote.
In March, Poland vetoed the European Commission’s low-carbon roadmap for 2050, which sets out a general strategy for reducing emissions. Poland objected to the fact that the roadmap identified interim emission-reduction milestones between already-agreed targets for 2020 and 2050.
Failure to agree conclusions is unusual, but it will not have an impact on the roadmaps themselves. It is, however, a signal that the Commission will face resistance to any proposals put forward to implement the goals of the roadmaps.
Speaking after the meeting, Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, said that legislation setting energy or emissions targets in the future will only require a majority vote, which means that it cannot be vetoed by Poland.
“Maybe some member states are more engaged, more positive – and others are more defensive – but at the end of the day we need a majority in the Parliament and the Council,” he told reporters. “I’m sure for a new generation of targets, there can be developed a majority next year.”
Environmental campaigners criticised Poland’s actions but said they cannot stop the roadmap. “Poland has isolated itself again, but its lack of support does not hold up Europe,” said Jason Anderson of campaign group WWF. “The no-regrets options that the Commission has laid out will still be pursued. The development of a new energy and climate package can continue.”
The energy ministers also backed an agreement reached on Wednesday night (13 June) with MEPs on the energy efficiency directive. MEPs are expected to rubber-stamp the deal in July.
The Danish presidency of the Council presented progress reports to the ministers on discussions on a Commission proposal to revise guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure and its proposal to revise rules on offshore oil and gas activities.
Energy ministers also discussed the final report on nuclear stress tests, which was published on 6 June. That report will be presented to EU leaders at the European Council on 28-29 June.