- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 14, 2012

WARSAW, POLAND (AP) - Frustrations with Poland are growing in the European Union after the coal-powered nation for a second time blocked the EU’s long-term plans for cutting carbon emissions.

As the lone dissenting voice, Poland last week vetoed the EU’s road map for emissions reductions beyond 2020, drawing sharp criticism from environmental groups and EU officials.

Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the EU’s executive commission would press ahead with plans for a low-carbon economy despite Poland’s objections.

“They cannot set the pace for all of Europe,” Hedegaard told The Associated Press.

The EU’s road map reflects the stated goal by European governments to reduce emissions by 85-90 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

While Warsaw hasn’t objected to that far-off goal, it has resisted intermediate targets. Last year it vetoed the road map over a reference to raising the EU’s reduction target to 25 percent by 2020, from the current target of 20 percent.

When that part was scratched in the latest plan, put before environment ministers on Friday, Poland objected instead to midterm targets of 40 percent emissions cuts by 2030 and 60 percent by 2040, said Danish Climate Minister Martin Lidegaard, who chaired the talks.

Poland’s objections, he noted, appear to be a “moving target.”

“You could get that feeling. But on the other hand Poland has agreed to the 2050 target and they don’t question that one. So to me it is open question what is the driving force here,” he told AP.

It’s unclear how the EU’s executive commission will proceed now because the EU’s carbon targets require unanimous approval.

Thomas Spencer, a research fellow in climate and energy economics at the Paris-based think tank IDDRI, said Poland’s veto could mean that Europe runs out of time in pinning down its post-2020 emissions targets in time for 2015, the deadline set for a new global climate pact.

“If the EU doesn’t get its act together it’s going to be rather hamstrung in those discussions,” he said.

Poland is resisting the EU’s 2050 carbon roadmap because it relies heavily on its natural coal deposits and believes that moves to a low-carbon economy would hurt economic development in this ex-communist country.

“You have to take into account our specific circumstances, mainly that coal is an indigenous resource here,” Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec told AP. “We have the privilege to have this coal at home and this is also part of our starting point and an important element of our energy security.”

Korolec said that Poland relies on coal for 93 percent of its electricity and that adopting the 2050 roadmap would cause Poland’s economy 1 percent of GDP growth per year through 2030, if not longer.

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