January 16, 2020 / 12:26 PM / 8 days ago

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

BRUSSELS (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.

FILE PHOTO: A scarecrow stands in a corn field in front of the Neurath coal power plant of German utility RWE in Neurath, west of Cologne, Germany, June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

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 rank irreversible climate change as the biggest challenge they are facing, 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 are 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, which are the EU’s biggest industrial emitters and have the highest number of such jobs, will receive about 40% of the total fund, Commission documents released on Thursday showed.

Poland has welcomed the fund and said the EU proposal on its distribution showed the EU recognised its special situation.

“...This understanding for our position is ... very good news for Poland,” Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told news conference in Prague on Thursday.

Poland’s climate ministry said that the fact the country has not signed up to 2050 climate neutrality goal does not mean that Warsaw will give up on transforming towards low emission. It said Poland will be achieving the neutrality in its own pace.

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

Of the 7.5 billion euros, Poland will get the maximum allocation of 2 billion euros, 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.

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko in Warsaw; Editing by Pravin Char and Frances Kerry

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