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Thursday, February 29, 2024

EU summit goes through night as Poland holds out on climate deal

European Union leaders haggled through the night for a deal on the bloc’s new climate target at a summit in Brussels, but were still deadlocked on Friday morning as Poland pressed for specific conditions to be attached to the emissions cut goal.

The tussle among the bloc’s 27 nations is over a plan to cut net greenhouse gas emissions at least 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels, upgrading an existing target to cut by 40% this decade.

The new target aims to put the EU on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050, a deadline scientists say the world must meet to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

For Brussels, the deal also offers a chance to assert its climate leadership on the global stage. The EU will present its target at a United Nations virtual summit of world leaders on Saturday.

While a majority of countries support the new target, states splintered down familiar lines over how it should be delivered, with poorer central and eastern European states seeking further guarantees of EU support to help them make the mammoth investments needed to slash emissions.

As dawn broke on Friday, three EU diplomats said major coal user Poland was still holding out alone.

“Talks are continuing. Intensive consultations are underway to find a solution,” said one diplomat.

Warsaw was refusing to drop two key demands.

First, that the deal would guarantee promised funding from the EU carbon market for poorer countries would not be reduced. Second, that it would confirm future national emissions-cutting targets, set by Brussels for certain sectors, would be based on GDP – meaning that less prosperous states would cut less.

A Polish diplomat said both issues were “too important to drop.”

A majority of countries opposed these demands, officials said, on grounds that they would pre-empt detailed policy proposals the EU’s executive Commission will make to deliver the target.

In a bid to strike a compromise, the EU produced a draft deal late on Thursday that would have confirmed the 2030 target, but left some finer details for a summit next year.

The stand-off was an echo of a leaders’ meeting one year ago that also went into the night. Poland, seeking more funds for economic transition from coal – on which it depends for most of its power needs – was the only country that didn’t commit to the 2050 climate neutrality agreement at that summit.

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