French President Nicolas Sarkozy will seek a deal in Poland today with EU newcomers skeptical about the bloc’s climate change plans to show European unity at a UN global warming conference.
Sarkozy and the prime ministers of nine ex-communist states will meet in the Baltic coast city of Gdansk to discuss a, EU climate change package that the coal-dependent eastern countries fear would hurt their industries.
At the same time, 300km south, 10,000 delegates from around the world are meeting in Poznan for a UN climate conference ending on Friday to set the stage for a new global climate pact next year.
While negotiations in the two Polish cities are not strictly dependent on each other, the EU could show the way ahead if it can reach a deal on its own measures to curb carbon emissions in the 27-nation bloc.
The EU hopes to seal a deal on its climate package during a summit of bloc leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, which could serve as a blueprint for an international pact in Copenhagen in December next year.
“Europe is a little laboratory. If our 27 [countries], with our differences in development, history and totally different [energy] constraints, can agree, it will be a message of hope for Poznan,” a French negotiator said on condition of anonymity.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has underscored the importance of the EU taking a leading role on climate change.
“The EU must lead the way. If it doesn’t, I’m afraid that all the attempts to address the issue of climate change will fail,” Pachauri warned in July, when France took over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency.
Sarkozy wants to reach an EU climate deal before France hands over the union’s presidency to the Czech Republic on Jan. 1.
“There is no question of playing for extra time between Christmas and New Year,” a French presidential official said. “This is exactly why he [Sarkozy] wants to wrap it up when he is in Gdansk.”
The Gdansk meeting will bring together Sarkozy and the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Romania.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has also voiced concerns and heads, along with Poland, opposition to the scheme under which rights to pollute would have to be bought.
EU nations last year agreed a broad plan including cutting carbon dioxide levels by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990, 20 percent cuts in energy use through efficiency measures and 20 percent of energy needs coming from wind, water, solar and other renewable sources, again by 2020.
But they have since sought to protect their own industries and economies, with some fearing the scheme poses too big a burden amid the global financial crisis.
Poland and other EU newcomers have opposed the original proposal to begin full auctioning of carbon dioxide emission quotas for industry in 2013, arguing it would see energy prices skyrocket and growth in their emerging economies nosedive.
Relying on carbon dioxide-belching coal-fired plants for 94 percent of its electricity, Poland threatened to veto the entire EU environmental package if a compromise on the cost of carbon dioxide emission quotas is not found.
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