POZNAN, Poland (Reuters) - The European Union is “very close” to a deal on a new climate package meant to be agreed at a summit next week, Poland’s Prime Minster Donald Tusk said on Monday.
Poland relies heavily on high-carbon coal and has been seeking concessions ahead of a December 11-12 summit of EU leaders meant to agree details of a plan to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
“We are very close to attaining an agreement,” Tusk said when asked about the EU climate negotiations on the opening day of a two-week U.N. climate conference in Poznan, Poland.
Poland backs the goal to cut greenhouse gases by a fifth, provided this does not impose such high costs on coal plants that these either go out of business or pass on crippling electricity price rises to Polish consumers.
“We feel that in the first stage we should invest maximum resources and energy in limiting the carbon emissions (from) coal power plants, but without the risk of closing those plants,” Tusk said. “We are not able and we will not agree to exclude coal from energy sources.”
The EU emissions trading scheme caps carbon emissions from heavy industry by distributing a fixed quota of carbon permits, most of which are given to companies for free at present.
Poland disagrees with some planned revisions to the scheme. It wants to continue to give power plants some free permits from 2013 and to cap carbon prices using a defined “price corridor.”
“We feel full auctioning could harm, especially in the times of (economic) crisis. That’s why we propose the price corridor, at least for some time,” added Tusk.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen — who hosts the corresponding U.N. climate meet next year — told reporters at the same briefing that he felt the EU Commission had already offered Poland enough concessions, with phased-in auctioning for coal-dependent countries, adding he was hopeful of a deal.
The coalition of the new EU member states has already said the proposal was not sufficient. Their representatives meet in Gdansk, northern Poland, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy this weekend to try and hammer out a deal before the EU summit.
“That’s why the December 6 meeting is tailored for the package’s approval during the European Union mid-December summit. Not for its rejection or delay,” Tusk also said.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Gerard Wynn, Editing by William Hardy