East-West Split Over EU’s Long-Term Climate Goals
Member states from western Europe are pushing for tougher EU climate targets, but there is resistance from further east.
When leaders of the European Union’s member states meet today and tomorrow (20-21 March) in Brussels, they hope to reach consensus on the EU’s long-term climate goals. But agreement appears unlikely because of deep divisions between east and west.
Ahead of the summit, ministers from 13 member states signed a declaration supporting a European Commission proposal for an EU commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030 – up from a 20% target set for 2020. This ‘green growth group’ includes France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
But Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are wary of the target and the timeline, and are resisting any such commitment. Climate ministers from these six member states held their own meeting earlier this month, at which they insisted they would need guarantees that burden-sharing between member states would be fair. Only then would they be prepared to agree to a target, which would be based on national impact assessments.
The western European leaders, along with the Commission, are putting pressure on their counterparts from central and eastern Europe to back the 2030 target quickly, so the EU can present its commitment at a United Nations summit in September, in the hope of spurring early commitments from global partners ahead of an international climate summit in December 2015 in Paris. At worst, the western member states are hoping for a deal in time for the European Council in June.
Ed Davey, the UK’s climate minister, has been one of the most vocal proponents of a quick endorsement. At a green-growth group event earlier this month, he said he believes that progress can be made. “The Poles, Slovaks, Czechs and Bulgarians have voiced some concerns, and we need to listen to them, we need to find a way to meet their realistic asks,” he said.
But the central and eastern European group continue to insist on a more measured approach. “The EU should present a provisional goal, which will be finally accepted only if the new  agreement will be understood by the EU as a universal one [applying to all large global players],” said Marcin Korolec, the Polish climate envoy, earlier this month.