Scrap deadline for climate deal, Poland tells EU

Poland will veto an EU declaration on climate change if it includes a commitment to reaching a deal before the end of the year, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorksi said at an EU summit Wednesday, reported dpa.

"Poland is ready to veto if there are attempts to force us to accept the climate-change packet in the next months," Sikorski said at the opening of the summit of EU heads of state and government.

Ahead of the meeting, the French government, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, had proposed a summit declaration calling for "reaching an agreement in December" on proposed EU climate-change laws.

That clause would not be legally binding, but it would put strong political pressure on member states to reach a deal in December.

That is not acceptable to Poland, as it pressures member states to reach an agreement on a major piece of legislation in very short time, diplomats said.

Sikorski was speaking minutes after the leaders of Poland, the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia issued a joint statement demanding that the EU pay more attention to their economic situation in drawing up a comprehensive plan on climate change.

The prime ministers of the eight EU newcomers, which are also among its poorest states, "consider that climate change is a vital global issue" and "remain committed" to an EU deal on fighting climate change, the statement said.

However, the EU should "refrain from adopting measures that do not respect the differences of the member states' potential," especially in a time of "serious economic and financial difficulties," it said.

"The vast majority of the EU's greenhouse gas emission reductions have been achieved by less affluent member states at a very high social and economic cost, and it should be recognized," it said.

In March 2007, EU leaders pledged to cut the bloc's emissions of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The EU's executive, the European Commission, proposed laws to put that pledge into effect in January, giving each country a target for cutting emissions based on its CO2 output in 2005.

But the eight newcomers from Central and Eastern Europe protested that the proposals did not give them enough credit for cutting their CO2 emissions in the 1990s. Poland, in particular, also argued that the scheme would massively boost costs for its highly-polluting coal-fired power stations.

The eight initially demanded reductions targets based on their emissions in 1990. However, following stiff resistance from Western European states, they largely abandoned that demand, instead calling for "recognition" such as a larger share of the revenues from auctions of permits to emit CO2.

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