European Union leaders commit to carbon neutrality by 2050

Clay Curtis
December 13, 2019

European Union leaders broke a deadlock early Friday and claimed a deal over a key climate target by committing to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, sidestepping the objections of Poland, one of the bloc's biggest economies.

For the Czech Republic, which pushed for a verbatim mention of nuclear energy as an admissible energy source, the decision spells out that some member states may include nuclear in their energy mix, the sources said. But Poland remained against.

European heads of state and government chose to come back to the topic at a summit in June 2020.

With floods, fires and droughts wrecking millions of lives around the world, the EU's new executive cast the plan as the bloc's "man on the moon moment", kindling hopes among campaigners that other big emitters may follow suit.

The agreement will be a relief for new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"We will adjust the pace to the condition of our economy, to what we can afford and to what the Just Transition Fund will be and how much Poland will get from this fund".

At a news conference, Mr Michel acknowledged that the transition would be more hard for some member states.

"We took this decision with respect for many concerns of different countries because we know that it is important to take into consideration the different national circumstances, and also different starting points", Michel told reporters.

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"This was a very hard negotiation but the conclusions include this exemption, this rule that must also be included in the legislative process, the rule that Poland would be reaching climate neutrality at its own pace", Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters. "And so we decided that we will return to it in June of next year (2020)", explained German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"There is no splitting of Europe into separate parts but one member state needing more time to see how it will be implemented", she said.

The future of nuclear energy, another aspect of the issues, will also be discussed, he said.

The neighbouring Czech Republic and Hungary want to invest in nuclear energy and won a line in the European Union leaders' tortured decision specifically recognizing their right to do that, despite opposition from Austria, Luxembourg and Germany.

"It was a long and hard struggle", said Austrian chancellor Brigitte Bierlein. "Every country can decide about its national energy mix".

However, Poland had tried to postpone the date to 2070 earlier on Thursday.

Before reaching carbon neutrality, Von der Leyen wants the bloc to reduce carbon emission by at least 50% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, more than the current goal of 40 percent.

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