In reality, Poland had no choice but to veto the proposal. Poland relies on coal-fired power plants to produce nearly 95 percent of all its electricity. If the EU were to adopt more stringent CO2 reduction goals, Poland would be faced with the monumental task of revamping its entire power sector in order to achieve the more ambitious CO2 reduction targets. No other EU member state relies on coal to the extent Poland does to produce its electricity. If Poland were forced to reduce its CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent, it would have to shutter many of its existing power plants, as well as shelve its current plans to construct not fewer than 12 new coal-fired power plants within the next 10 years.
While Poland is taking steps to develop alternative sources of energy, such as nuclear, wind and natural gas, most experts agree that alternative energy sources together will not come close to satisfying Poland's energy needs. For the foreseeable future, therefore, Poland has no choice but to use coal to satisfy domestic demand for energy.
In fairness, Poland is on track to achieve a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Beginning next year energy costs are expected to jump as Poland begins to gradually reduce the number of emission allowances currently given to the power sector for free under Poland's National Allocation Plan. In anticipation of the increase in the cost for such emission allowances, Polish industry and power plants have begun to invest in newer technologies to reduce CO2 emissions; however, even the newest technology will not enable Poland to achieve the more ambitious CO2 reductions sought by the EU.
If the EU expects Poland to agree to further CO2 reductions beyond the current 20 percent threshold, the EU will need to commit substantial financial resources to Poland beyond what is currently available to modernize its power sector. Until the EU agrees to provide Poland with such financial assistance, Poland will have no choice but to continue to veto each and every future EU proposal to impose mandatory CO2 reductions beyond the current 20 percent threshold.
Paul Fogo is a senior attorney with Miller, Canfield, W. Babicki, A. Chelchowski & Partners.