Signs of progress as EU leaders meet to haggle over climate target

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

By Kate Abnett and Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Signs of progress towards agreeing a new European Union climate target emerged ahead of a summit on Thursday, as leaders drafted a plan to bring Poland on board and the Czech Republic said it could consider the new goal under certain conditions.

The leaders’ discussion in Brussels will be their first talks on upgrading the existing EU target of a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Their two-day summit is not expected to yield a deal, likely pushing a decision to December.

The EU’s executive, the European Commission, has said the bloc needs a cut of at least 55% by 2030, against 1990 levels, to achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 that all 27 nations bar coal-dependent Poland have committed to.

The Czech Republic, which is home to an energy-intensive automotive industry, has said a national 55% emissions cut is unrealistic this decade.

But a Czech official said on Thursday the country did not have a problem with a 55% emissions cut, as long as the goal was an EU-wide average, rather than a binding target at national level.

Separately, 11 EU countries – among them, France, Estonia, the Netherlands and Sweden – on Wednesday published a joint statement supporting the “at least 55%” goal.

EU member states, which take decisions by unanimity, need to agree a common position on the 2030 target and then strike a deal with the European Parliament, which wants a 60% cut.

Draft conclusions for the two-day summit, seen by Reuters, do not endorse a specific 2030 climate target but say EU leaders will “return to the issue” at a meeting in December, with the aim to strike a deal by year-end.

The conclusions, dated Wednesday, offer some concessions to Poland, which has said it cannot agree to any new climate target without further analysis of how the goal would affect individual countries.

“[The Council of EU leaders] invites the Commission to conduct in-depth consultations with member states to assess the specific situations and to provide more information about the impact at member states’ level,” the draft said.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is self-isolating after contact with a person infected with COVID-19 and will be represented at the summit by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, a Polish government spokesman said on Twitter on Thursday.

“Without Poland, no decisions will be made,” the spokesman said.

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