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EU climate deal unlikely without breakthrough on budget, envoy says

by Reuters
Monday, 7 December 2020 12:17 GMT

Hungarian Parliament bulilding is seen as ice floes float on the Danube river in Budapest, Hungary, January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

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Eastern European nations are threatening to hold a climate target deal to ransom in spat over funding and other conditions

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - European Union leaders are unlikely to strike a deal on a new emissions-cutting target for 2030 at a summit this week if they cannot also clinch an agreement on the bloc's next budget, a senior EU diplomat said on Monday.

Leaders will discuss a more ambitious 2030 EU climate target when they meet in Brussels on Thursday, but hopes of agreeing the goal have become mired in a dispute over the bloc's budget for 2021-2027, known as the MFF, which Poland and Hungary are threatening to veto over upholding democratic standards.

"It will not be possible ... (it is) difficult to see that it's going to happen if there is no agreement on MFF," the senior diplomat said. If leaders resolve the budget spat, then there is a "fair chance" they will reach a deal on the climate target, the diplomat said.

The climate and budget issues are interlinked. The EU has agreed that hundreds of billions of euros from its 1.8-billion-euro budget and attached COVID-19 recovery fund will be spent on helping countries cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The financial package also includes a "Just Transition Fund", aiming to mobilise 100 billion euros to help wean poorer states off fossil fuels. Poland is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of that support.

The European Commission wants the EU to commit to cut net emissions at least 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels. The bloc's current 2030 target is a 40% emissions cut.

But the new goal requires unanimous support from the EU's 27 countries. They are wrangling over the "enabling framework" attached to the target, which will sketch out a plan to deliver the goal.

A group of mostly Eastern European countries - including Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - want clearer guarantees on funding and other conditions before they support the target.

An official from a country already on board with the climate goal said other states were unlikely to put up extra cash. "There's ample EU funds available," the official said. (Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Robin Emmott and Bernadette Baum)

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