The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Poland have delayed an essential decision for the EU to be climate neutral by 2050, casting doubts on Europe’s role as a leader in the upcoming UN climate talks.

The EU was expected to formally agree on achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at a meeting of heads of state in the European Council last Friday.

The vast majority of governments have now committed to supporting the target, with the UK becoming the first major economy in the G7 to enshrine this commitment in law.  But the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Poland refused to back the explicit inclusion of the 2050 deadline.

“Poland must first have very detailed compensation packages. We must know how much we can get for modernisation,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters.


The EU is expected to submit its long-term strategy to the UN in September, as agreed under the Paris Agreement. However, it’s likely that the bloc will now go to the negotiations without a consolidated position.

NGOs strongly denounced the position of those four governments. Roland Joebstl, an expert on climate action and clean energy with the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said that the delays threaten the future for the next generations. “The clock is ticking and yet some leaders act as if we had another planet to live on,” he said.

Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, found it “hard to believe that these four governments, driven by the narrow interests of their polluting industries, succeeded in their opposition to a widely-supported and badly needed increase of the EU’s climate ambition.”

The EU needs to reach net zero emissions by 2040 at the latest and reduce emissions by 65% by 2030 in order to keep temperature rise to safe levels, CAN Europe concluded.

The stalling of the discussions also meant that governments failed to make progress on the revision of the EU budget, or Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), which will set out how much money the EU should allocate to avert climate breakdown.

The Commission wants to increase the money available for climate-neutral energy and business models from the current 20% to 25% of the new budget – that means from €206 billion in previous years to €320 billion for 2021-2027.

The European Parliament and NGOs have proposed respectively a 30% and 40% minimum spending and the exclusion of funds supporting fossil fuels. EU governments are expected to reach an agreement on this by the end of the year.

Commenting on the EU budget, Joebstl said: “Our lawmakers must redirect investments towards cleaner energy, transport, agriculture and business models. This means no more gifts to industries that are literally destroying the climate and killing people, and more investments in clean solutions as well as financial support for those regions that still rely on fossil fuels.”

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