European leaders haggled through the night to clinch a deal on the bloc’s updated climate target on Friday morning, agreeing an EU-wide goal of cutting net greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2030.
“Europe is the leader in the fight against climate change,” said Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, who chaired the EU summit.
“Europe will reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030. It puts us on a clear path towards climate neutrality in 2050,” added Ursula Von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.
The EU’s updated climate goal will now be written down into a draft European Climate Law and transmitted to the United Nations as the bloc’s formal commitment under the Paris Agreement.
The climate talks lasted for eight hours, dragging a summit that started the day before until Friday morning.
Poland, backed by some other coal-dependent central European countries fought through the night to obtain assurances that their economies will not suffer disproportionate costs from the transition to a net-zero economy.
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic asked for more EU money to finance the green transition and requested greater detail about the “enabling framework” that the European Commission will propose next year to reach the new 2030 goals.
Budapest and Warsaw also pushed for assurances that EU leaders will be consulted in deciding future climate legislation, a move aimed at ensuring that key decisions will be taken by unanimity.
At the heart of their concerns are fears that poorer EU countries will end up carrying a disproportionate share of the burden to meet the 2030 climate goal.
To finance the transition, eastern EU countries called for national targets on EU spending linked to GDP, a move that would ensure a bigger portion of the money is channelled to finance the energy transition in poorer member states.
Poland in particular is 80% reliant on coal for its electricity and has repeatedly voiced concerns that not enough EU funding was available to finance the modernisation of its electricity system.
The Polish electricity association, PKEE, estimates that meeting the EU’s updated 2030 climate goals will cost €68.5 billion by 2030.
To finance this, it called on the European Commission “to substantially increase the number of allowances dedicated to the Modernisation Fund and the ‘solidarity pool’” set up to support 10 lower-income EU countries in their transition to climate neutrality.
Western EU countries, who were pushing for greater ambition on climate change, argued that EU funding was already available, and pointed to the EU’s seven-year budget and recovery fund, worth €1.8 trillion in total, which was agreed earlier on Thursday.
“An overall climate target of at least 30% will apply to the total amount of expenditure” under the €1.8 trillion package, draft summit conclusions said.
The concerns of eastern EU states are not unfounded. According to trade unions, 11 million jobs in Europe are at risk from the transition to a net-zero economy, most of them located in Eastern EU countries.
The green transition “will be much easier in Nordic or western European countries” than in poorer EU member states like Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, where employment in some regions can be entirely dependent on a single, heavily-polluting industry, said Luc Triangle, secretary-general of IndustriAll, a federation of trade unions.
Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania also called for “technology neutrality” to achieve the higher climate target.
“What they mean by this is to allow for investments into gas and nuclear energy to be classified as ‘green’. Bulgaria and Hungary are most explicit about this,” explained Sebastian Mang, climate and energy policy adviser at Greenpeace.
This story was originally published by CHN’s media partner Euractiv.