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Eastern Europe Big Three demand funding to back EU Green Deal

By Amanda Cooper

Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary demand more detail on scope of EU’s Green Deal plan to cut greenhouse emissions before offering support

Andrej Babi, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic API

Eastern Europe’s three largest economies set out demands on Thursday that could block agreement on the EU’s new push for climate neutrality by 2050, according to a Reuters report.

Talks will take place at an EU summit in Brussels at which the majority will offer financial incentives to the eastern member states to win their support for the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

The plan was heralded on Wednesday by Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, the new head of the EU’s executive commission, as Europe’s “man on the moon” moment. It is seen as her biggest initiative since taking office.

But Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have said they require more detail on exactly how any funding would be deployed and for what purposes. They also want more clarity on the role of nuclear power, which emits no carbon but which Germany and other major economies are aiming to phase out.

“It is important to have certainty that nobody will stop us in the construction of nuclear power units,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis was quoted by Reuters as having told reporters before leaving for Brussels.

“We have to have electricity for people, for firms, and heating.”

Hungary said it wants EU guarantees that a climate deal would not lead to price hikes in the energy and food sectors, and that costs would be borne by big polluters.

“Hungary agrees with the ambitious goals set by the EU but we cannot sign a blank cheque,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said.

The EU’s “Green Deal” will provide €100bn (£84.6bn, $111.3bn) in investment to halve emissions by the end of the next decade compared with a 1990 baseline. This would put Europe on track for net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Czech Republic derives about half of its electricity from coal and wants to phase most of it out over the next 20 years, replacing part of it with new nuclear power plants. Poland relies on coal for around 80 per cent of its power needs.

Coal makes up less than 15 per cent of Hungary’s energy mix, but it has said it wants to abolish it by 2030. It would switch to a mix of nuclear, gas, renewables and energy imports. Around a third of Hungary’s power comes from nuclear energy.

FURTHER READING: Funding feud amid EU's plans to phase out fossil fuel investment

FURTHER READING: Goldman Sachs: climate change an "opportunity to unlock economic growth"

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