The nationalist and Eurosceptic governments of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia have blocked a European Union (EU) proposal to slash the bloc’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. At a council summit on June 20, leaders of the EU’s 28 member states agreed instead to start working on “a transition to a climate-neutral EU.”
Though the majority of the EU nations wanted a much more robust version of the plan, where earlier proposals envisioned a strict road map of how to reach net zero emissions and a hard 2050 deadline, such deal would have impacted the lives of more than 500 million people living in the EU. The nationalist governments are wary of such a plan’s negative impact on jobs, industries, and quality of life. These central and eastern European states are particularly dependent on nuclear power and coal for energy.
A weakened version of the plan was also too strict for the group of Eastern European countries. The veto votes from Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Estonia meant the proposed 2050 emissions target became a mere footnote. Sending a message to investors and business, 24 of the EU leaders agreed to the statement: “For a large majority of member states, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050."
EU leaders called on the European Investment Bank (EIB) to increase climate funding and acknowledged vast differences in the continent’s energy mix. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pushed back to say, “We need concrete things on the table. What additional money could be allotted to Poland so that we do not end up in an offside trap?”
France and Germany, who are imposing high carbon taxes on their respective countries – resulting in weekly Yellow Vest protests for the past eight months in France – had led the push for the EU to set the ambitious new climate goal for 2050, ahead of United Nations (UN) climate talks in September, which American President Donald Trump will not be attending.