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Michał Kurtyka: transition goals must be not only ambitious but above all realistic

Back in September, the European Commission announced new, higher than ever climate targets, making the case for a 55 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared with 1990’s level. The question is of course: how do we get there?

The latest vote in the European Parliament in favour of increasing the target to 60 per cent brings an even bigger challenge for those Member States with higher greenhouse gas emissions and lower GDP per capita. Therefore it is important to identify what measures are needed to reach those targets, also taking into account the electricity sector, still responsible for a big share of emissions in Europe and especially in countries like Poland, which heavily rely on coal.

“We do not know what an increased target means for the Member States, for regions, for sectors,” noted Michał Kurtyka (pictured above), Poland’s Minister of Climate and Environment during a debate organised by Euractiv in cooperation with the Polish Electricity Association (PKEE). “We do not want to enforce sweeping radical changes without the full view of the consequences. We rather want to introduce changes in a gradual, systematic manner, while taking into account their impact on society as a whole. We want to jump on this bandwagon, be a part of the change and, in fact, in Poland, we are already doing a lot in this regard. However, we need to take into account the existing structure of the national energy system and the share of individual energy sources.”

“Poland advocates for a just transition that takes into account the particular nature of our economy and the needs of our coal regions,” he added. “The green transition cannot see people and societies left behind. Transition goals must be not only ambitious but above all realistic and socially acceptable and the effects of the reforms must not burden the poorest.”

It was highlighted that there is a very sharp fall in the prices of renewables and at the same time, a subsidising can be seen in connection with coal and fossils, so there is something wrong with the price-mechanisms that the EU and its Member States have at the moment. But market signals like market prices are proving that renewables are also the right path to go.

“The EU needs a budget, to listen to these price signals as well and to show that there is a way through in this green transition,” said Morten Petersen, Vice Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.

Another important opinion is that the main investment stream should be dedicated to the energy transition. Therefore in December, the European Council’s conclusions should provide clear guidance for the forthcoming EU ETS revision. The overall impact of the 2030 target on the sectoral measures depends on the enabling framework. In this regard, the PKEE strongly believes that the distributional effects of the new targets should be addressed with the forthcoming EU ETS revision.

Representatives of the European Commission declared that the pandemic crisis is not changing the direction, but reinforcing the role of the Green Deal as a growth strategy. And if the EU does not raise ambition to 55 per cent for 2030, it will not reach the target in 2050. It is technologically possible and from an economical point of view, it does make sense.

However, Minister Kurtyka warned that if the EU wants to make climate policy a real and feasible goal, it needs to raise the issue of a fair distribution of commitments.

“It is the way to make sure that everyone is on board and no one is left behind,” he concluded.

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