Poland Casts Doubt on Fast-Track EU Approval of Paris Agreement

  • Environment Ministry says Polish emissions case is specific
  • Government wants national interests secured before EU approval

Fast-track ratification of the global climate deal by the European Union can only occur if Poland’s national interests are secured, the eastern EU member announced a week before an extraordinary meeting of the bloc’s environment ministers called to accelerate the approval of the Paris agreement.

Environment chiefs from the EU’s 28 nations are set to gather in Brussels on Sept. 30 to decide whether to endorse an accelerated ratification at the union level, which would allow the 28-country bloc to join the Paris accord before many member states finalize their domestic procedures. Poland, which relies on the most polluting fossil fuel for about 90 percent of its electricity production, said on Friday that it was advancing its national ratification procedure.

“We will want the domestic process in Poland to run quickly,” special climate envoy Pawel Salek told reporters in Warsaw. “If the European Union wants to ratify separately, environment ministers must take a unanimous decision on the Paris agreement at their next meeting. That will be possible if Poland can secure its national interests.”

The EU, which wants to lead the global fight against climate change, is under increasing pressure to formally join the deal after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping ratified it on Sept. 3.

Under a scenario sketched by the Slovak presidency of the EU, the bloc could finalize the union-level approval by Oct. 7. The date is important because the climate deal will be enacted 30 days after its ratification requirements have been met. If they are reached at the beginning of next month, the first meeting of the parties to the agreement, known in the climate jargon as CMA, could take place during the next annual United Nations climate conference, scheduled to start in Morocco on Nov. 7.

The most sweeping agreement to combat global warming to date needs to be ratified by at least 55 parties accounting for 55 percent of global emissions to take effect. So far 60 parties responsible for almost 48 percent of pollution have approved the accord, according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The ratification by the EU, which accounts for around 12 percent of pollution, could meet the 55 percent threshold.

Poland expects the agreement to come into force "before the end of this year," according to Environment Minister Jan Szyszko. He highlighted Poland’s over-achievement of emissions targets under the Kyoto greenhouse-gas reduction treaty in 2008-2012, stressing that those bigger-than-targeted cuts it should be taken into account in the future. He also highlighted the role of geothermal energy and forestry in the country.

“We will put all our effort into domestic ratification,” Szyszko said. “A common EU ratification is a different issue, but here we want our specific situation to be taken into account.”

The EU’s headline climate goal, submitted under the Paris agreement, is to cut carbon dioxide by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. The target is to be met through caps imposed on companies in the EU Emissions Trading System and differing goals for individual member states for sectors outside the carbon cap-and-trade program.

Draft rules on those two policy tools for the post-2020 period are currently being discussed by national governments and the European Parliament. Poland would need to slash its non-ETS emissions by 7 percent in 2030 compared with a 38 percent goal for Germany and a 40 percent target for Sweden, under the commission proposal.

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