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A successful decarbonisation for the V4 – interview with Matúš Mišík from the Slovak Foreign Policy Association

The European Union has set high and ambitious targets to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Member States are now preparing their 2050 Decarbonisation Plans, laying out the sectoral targets and the measures which might ensure the successful completion of the full decarbonisation.

However, many challenges remain, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, where countries have a different starting point compared to Western Member States and still heavily rely on coal.

CEENERGYNEWS spoke with Matúš Mišík, Associate Research Fellow at the Slovak Foreign Policy Association and one of the speakers of the online workshop organised by REKK entitled ‘2050 Decarbonisation Pathways: Three key aspects in the Visegrád Region’, about how the V4 can meet their decarbonisation goals.

“There are significant differences between the V4 countries when it comes to decarbonisation and the challenges they have to face in the process,” he says. “But one thing that seems to be crucial – and not only for the V4 – is energy efficiency. There is a lot of potential in several segments of the economy to increase energy efficiency or decrease the consumption of energy.”

“Housing and industry are two very important sectors in this regard with a huge potential to contribute to decreasing energy consumption. Lower energy consumption contributes not only to decarbonisation but also has a very positive effect on energy security, an issue that is still very much present within the V4.”

Indeed, the European Commission’s modelling for the proposed 2030 targets suggests that massive emission reduction in the buildings sector is expected over the next ten years. And, when it comes to the long-term, the EU expects to reduce its emissions by 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels. An ambitious target that is part of the just transition concept: nobody can be left behind.

“The decarbonisation goals have been adopted by the Member States and individual contributions by Member States are not known yet,” states Mr Mišík. “However, they will probably reflect individual countries’ possibilities. Poland, for example, managed to secure support by the EU funds in this process. Moreover, 1990 as a reference year for the emission decrease is a rather favourable one for the whole region of Central and Eastern Europe as this year pre-dates reforms connected to the transformation of their economies that meant a sharp decrease of emissions (as well economic performance).”

Therefore, for him, while the emission reduction will be a difficult process, the reference year gives the region a favourable starting point.

“Improvement in energy efficiency area would help to achieve also goals in emission reduction area,” he adds.

A great help could come from the 750 billion euros post-pandemic recovery fund (Next Generation EU) approved by the EU at the end of last year. In order to get access to this fund, each country must submit a national plan that needs to be consistent with the country-specific recommendations and contribute to green and digital transitions. In other words, 37 per cent of the fund must be allocated to climate change-related challenges.

Mr Mišík reminds us that the discussions on this are still ongoing as the national plans are still being developed.

“However, there are indicators that finances from the whole Next Generation fund will be spent not only on long-term investment projects but also for everyday spending,” he explains. “The latter will be much less desirable from the perspective of decarbonisation goals as the region needs to invest a lot into areas connected to decarbonisation goals – for example, insulation and refurbishment of public (but also private) buildings, replacement of fossil fuels in industry, developing low-carbon transport systems and so on.” 

As all the V4 countries, Slovakia’s climate plan is very ambitious and the Ministry of Environment has just announced that from the EU recovery fund, one billion euro will specifically target the environment and the wellbeing of Slovakians with three priorities highlighted: green renovation of buildings, adaptation to climate change and decarbonisation of the industry.

“Each V4 country has its own specificities so it is difficult to say which of the plans is the most ambitious one,” underlines Mr Mišík. “Decarbonisation will be a very difficult task for all four countries as the easy – and cheap – tools have been in most cases already employed.”

“Now it is time to engage in more ambitious solutions that will manage to push the production of emission further down.”

He goes on to mention that for Poland and the Czech Republic this will mean finding a replacement of coal in electricity production while Slovakia and Hungary will have to face other challenges. Eventually, all four countries should focus on increasing energy efficiency.

Photo credit: Mino Debnár.

The V4 Energy Think Tank Platform (V4ETTP) is a permanent think tank cooperation platform focusing on energy, operating since 2018. The online workshop 2050 Decarbonisation Pathways: Three key aspects in the Visegrád Region organised by REKK on 18 March is part of this initiative.

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