Czech PM claims success as EU states agree on plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050

Andrej Babiš (Foto: ČTK/Petr Kupec)

After a night of negotiations in Brussels, EU leaders, with the exception of Poland, have agreed to the European Commission’s Green Deal plan, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. One of those who can celebrate is Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who succeeded in having a provision under which some countries can add nuclear power to their energy mix added to the treaty.

Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, photo: ČTK/AP/Virginia Mayo
EU leaders gathered in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a new joint plan seeking to make the union carbon neutral by 2050. The core of the proposal was outlined by the European Commission a day before, with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen describing the challenge as Europe’s “man on the moon moment”.

“Our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet. To reconcile the way we produce and consume [on] our planet and to make it work for our people. Therefore the European Green Deal on one hand is about cutting emissions, but on the other hand also about creating jobs and boosting innovation. We do not have all the answers yet, but this is the start of the journey.”

But the plan needed to be approved by the European Council and going into the Thursday summit Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were all asking for amendments to the treaty that would accommodate their reliance on fossil fuels. This despite a pledge by President Von der Leyen that EUR 100bn would be used to help coal dependent states finance the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Ahead of the council meeting the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, explained his government’s position, saying that without adding nuclear energy development into the mix it was not possible for the Czech Republic to meet the green deal plan.

Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK/Petr Kupec
“If we really want to reach carbon neutrality, we have to understand that each member state has a different energy mix and that the costs of reaching carbon neutrality are different for each state as well. It will cost the Czech Republic probably more than 30 to 40 billion euros. That is why we need to discuss it and not just say ‘ok, let’s do it’ and make promises without any analysis.”

One of those whom Mr Babiš was hoping to get on his side was France, which he highlighted is still a major consumer of nuclear power itself.

Despite resistance from Luxemburg and Austria, who don’t accept nuclear as environmentally friendly, it was this “energy mix” formulation which Mr Babiš managed to get into the final treaty.

Meanwhile, Poland, which is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, was the only member state which abstained from committing to the agreement immediately. Its position will be debated again during the next meeting in June 2020.