At a press conference organised by Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe together with members from Central and Eastern Europe today, climate and environment NGOs have urged the prime ministers from the region to back the much-needed increase of the EU’s 2030 climate target at the upcoming European Council, on 10-11 December.
Never has there been so much public support for bold action against climate change in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). As shown by the briefing “An ambitious 2030 Climate Target: Opportunities and benefits for CEE countries” published today, over the past six months, citizens, experts, businesses, civil society actors, and local authorities from CEE countries have called for economic and social renewal, including climate awareness.
More than 80% of respondents to recent national studies and polls in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic say they are either incredibly worried about climate change impacts or that they expect their governments to increase their clean energy targets.
As late adapters, CEE countries have even better opportunities for market expansion using the most recent, innovative, and cost-effective technologies. In the region, there are vast untapped potentials namely in making buildings energy efficient, in boosting renewable energy and mobility services.
By seizing these opportunities, CEE governments could improve public health, quality of life, and economic prosperity for their citizens, as well as deliver positive climate outcomes. The briefing also shows that investing in renewables has much more job creation potential than investing in fossil fuels in the CEE’s coal regions.
CEE countries are set to receive unprecedented financial support to accelerate the just transition to climate neutrality. This contrasts with their governments’ claims that they would lack adequate resources to ramp up the clean energy transition. The sum of all available EU funds over 2021-2027 makes up between 25% and 42% of the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. If invested well, these funds can be a key pillar for a successful and fair transition.
Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said: “The only barrier to higher climate ambition in Central and Eastern Europe is not the financial support nor the lack of citizens’ interests, but the political will. These governments have shown how rapidly they were able to exit from the communist legacy, now it is time to move from polluting fossil fuels to sustainable, climate-proof economies.”
Quotes from members:
Alexa Botar, climate & energy programme coordinator at Friends of the Earth Hungary said: “The Hungarian public supports national climate neutrality by 2050 and the government did commit to it in a national climate law. Our economic development, climate action and recovery are interconnected and all rely heavily on EU funds. Thus the Hungarian government must urgently support the minimum 55% EU climate target and align EU Funds and national policy planning with a higher EU climate target.”
Oskar Kulik, climate and energy policy officer at WWF Poland said: “We expect that Poland will support the ‘at least 55%’ EU target for 2030. While this remains insufficient and not in line with scientific targets, this is the very least that Poland could do in order to become part of the climate policy mainstream. To implement the enhanced target, Poland will need to face a tremendous challenge in the next decade: phasing out coal and intensifying actions in other sectors of the economy.”
Michaela Pixova, communications coordinator at Climate Coalition, Czechia said: “Czech government is under the assumption that our public opposes ambitious climate action. But the polls speak differently. A large majority of Czech citizens are afraid of climate change and believe that we cannot protect Czech nature without reducing emissions. On the contrary, a growing body of the Czech civil society is increasingly concerned with our government’s climate inaction. Thanks to the EU’s financial support, we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to abandon coal and switch to renewable energy in a socially just and economically viable way. Our prime minister should support the green transition and vote for the highest 2030 climate target. Science says we need at least 65% cuts. Supporting 55 % is thus the bare minimum we need our prime minister to endorse.”
Genady Kondarev, campaigner “Public Funds For Sustainability” at Za Zemiata, Friends of the Earth Bulgaria said: “We are at the beginning of a crucial decade that will be decisive on how we tackle climate change and preserve the foundations of our civilisation. Climate neutrality in 2050 does not happen overnight. Doing our best to decrease emissions as much as possible until 2030 is key for the success of our long-term goal. With all the funds available in the coming years, with the technical solutions either available or just around the corner the Bulgarian government has to realise that approving an ambitious target is in the common interest of all EU citizens. We have to align with the progressive voices in the EU and send a message that we will invest in a livable future that will not require last minute U-turns which would be inevitable if we waste more time with superficial targets. Everyone has to be on board and there is now a mandate for it. No more excuses!”
Nicolas Derobert, Head of communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 483 62 18 88
Notes to editors:
The recording of today’s press conference is accessible here: https://transcripts.gotomeeting.com/#/s/0922f95e0acd8cfd5909136500ece17ff083c095e76aebfd113354033efe8b28
The briefing “An ambitious 2030 Climate Target: Opportunities and benefits for CEE countries” is accessible here: https://caneurope.org/content/uploads/2021/01/CEE-Media-Briefing.pdf