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Environment

Poland close to blocking minority on CO2: officials

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland has moved closer to assembling a blocking minority among the European Union members, enabling them to seek changes to Brussels’ proposed climate package, Polish officials said.

A cooling tower is seen at the Laziska Power Plant in Silesia, Poland, in this picture taken July 10, 2008. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

Polish Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki said on Monday he had reached a common view with Greece last week that more debate was needed on the EU’s package of climate measures.

Poland had earlier signed an accord to present a common stance on the issue with fellow ex-communist EU nations of Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

“We have reached a far-reaching convergence of views (with Greece) on a number of issues regarding the climate package,” Nowicki told Reuters in a brief interview. “Among them on the gradual introduction of the full CO2 auctioning.”

GREECE DENIAL

But later on Monday Athens denied any kind of agreement with Warsaw had been clinched.

“I state categorically that the meeting (between the Greek and the Polish Environment Ministers) which took place last week was a discussion over general environment issues,” Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kalogiannis said in a statement.

“We are absolutely committed to the EU proposed package on climate changes,” he said.

The European Commission -- EU’s executive arm -- aims, among others, to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by a fifth by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. An emergence of a blocking minority would now force it to seek a compromise on the plan.

Under the EU’s voting rules, some decisions may be blocked by a certain number of member states representing enough voting power. Those six countries would have enough votes to do so.

Nowicki said Poland did want to jeopardize the deal at the EU’s environment meeting on October 20-21.

He said Poland recognized the need to reduce CO2 emissions by a fifth by 2020 but said the final details of how to achieve the target should be worked out later on.

“Poland fully accepts the necessity of reducing CO2 emissions by 2020 but not in the formula now presented by the European Commission,” he said.

“This would lead to the worsening of the situation of the Polish industry and the living standard of the people.”

The EC’s proposal sets full auctioning of the CO2 emission permits as of 2013. France wants to conclude the EU’s climate negotiations by the end its presidency of the 27-nation bloc in December.

Poland and others want to delay this, arguing their power plants will not have enough cash to compete with giants like the Germany’s E.ON on the free-market auctions.

“According to the Polish proposal, 80 percent of emission permits should be granted to the energy sector free of charge and only 20 percent bought on the market,” Nowicki said.

“Then, the number of free emissions should shrink by 10 percentage points every year. So full auctioning as of 2020, not 2013.”

At present, industry get some permits for free and companies have to buy additional ones only if they exceed their granted quotas.

A Polish source responsible for the negotiations told Reuters the EC would now try to lure particular countries away from the group around Poland, the biggest ex-communist nation in the EU.

“It’s not the biggest success when you build up a blocking minority. It’s when the minority sticks together to the very end,” the source said.

Additional reporting by Athens bureau; editing by James Jukwey

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