Poland and Germany to be top beneficiaries of 100 bln euro EU climate fund

BRUSSELS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Poland and Germany will be the biggest beneficiaries of a new 100-billion-euro ($112 billion) EU fund designed to help coal-dependent regions move towards a greener economy, European Commission data showed on Thursday.

All EU countries, except Poland, agreed last month they should transform their economies over the next 30 years to combat climate change and ensure they do not emit more carbon dioxide than they absorb.

Europeans see irreversible climate change as the biggest challenge they are facing, more so than terrorism, access to healthcare or unemployment, a survey by the European Investment Bank suggested on Tuesday.

Poland did not sign up to the 2050 neutral-emissions goal, arguing its energy systems and economy were too dependent on coal and lignite to make the transition in that time.

In a attempt to get Warsaw on board, the European Commission - the EU executive - announced the details of the Just Transition Fund earlier this week.

The aim is to generate 100 billion euros for investment in regions with the highest CO2 emissions and the most jobs linked to fossil fuels.

Poland and Germany will receive about 40% of that total, Commission documents released on Thursday showed. The two countries are the biggest industrial emitters and have the highest number of such jobs.

The transition fund’s 100 billion euros, over seven years, is to come from leveraging a small amount of public money from the EU budget, 7.5 billion euros, to attract much bigger sums of private investment by covering the riskiest parts of projects.

Poland will be by far the biggest beneficiary of the fund with a maximum allocation of 2 billion euros out of the 7.5 billion, the documents showed. Germany will be second with 877 million.

Once boosted by cash from the EU’s Regional Development Fund and Social Fund, and money national governments are obliged to contribute under EU rules, the Polish amount will rise to about 7.7 billion euros and the German total to 4.6 billion.

These will then jump to 27.3 billion euros for Poland and 13.4 billion for Germany once private investors join.

Germany plans to end its use of lignite, or brown coal, in power plants by 2038. It said on Thursday that it had agreed to about 40 billion euros of compensation for affected regions, workers and companies.

$1 = 0.8963 euros Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Pravin Char