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Talking Europe

'We all want to strike a compromise' on EU budget, Polish climate minister says

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

In this edition of Talking Europe, we speak to Poland's first ever minister for climate. Warsaw is the only EU capital that has still not formally signed up to the EU's target of achieving "climate neutrality" by the year 2050. That means having a net of zero greenhouse gas emissions by that date. Michał Kurtyka is an economist, who chaired the COP24 climate summit in Katowice in 2018. He's also currently one of ten candidates for the role of next Secretary-General of the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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We speak as the Polish and Hungarian prime ministers double down on their refusal to validate the next seven-year EU budget: a €1.8 trillion package which includes much-needed funds earmarked for financing the pandemic recovery effort.

Poland is slated to be the fourth-biggest recipient of that recovery funding – and 72 percent of Polish people want their government to drop its veto and allow the cash to flow.

Kurtyka tells FRANCE 24 his government is open to finding a compromise: "I think we all want to strike a compromise around this budget. This is money that is extremely necessary right now for the recovery process. We know how challenging it is for heads of state to get a compromise around such a vital issue. But I do hope that we can reach such a consensus and that we can move forward."

On Poland's refusal to sign up to the EU's 2050 "climate neutrality" goal, the minister says that Poland is committed to helping the European Union as a whole achieve this aim – but not as an individual member state: "We are part of the European Union and as a European Union we decided in December last year that we will push for this goal of achieving climate neutrality for the whole European Union by 2050."

Kurtyka cited Poland's current coal-dependent electricity sector as a reason for not signing up to the 2050 pledge: "[Poland] has a starting point which is very different from other member states, and this has also been recognised by the other member states."

A recent report from over 100 experts – commissioned by the WWF – found that Poland could indeed achieve climate neutrality with positive economic outcomes in the process, such as the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.

But the minister tells FRANCE 24 that there is already "momentum", saying: "We have the momentum here in Poland, since the beginning of the year 100,000 houses equipped their roofs with photovoltaic panels [...] the International Energy Agency foresees that by 2024 we will add 65 percent more renewable capacity in Poland."

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