'Three central and eastern European countries blocked a new EU climate change target on Thursday night, undermining global action to cut carbon emissions.
EU leaders had hoped to commit all the union’s member states to going carbon neutral by 2050 at a summit in Brussels, but in the end only 25 out of 28 countries were on-board.
Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic all refused to support writing the target into the EU’s strategic programme for 2019-24. The plan was supported by Brussels and had gathered significant momentum in recent weeks.
A planned reference to the 2050 target to reduce emissions to net zero was removed from the summit’s draft conclusions following the meeting. Instead, a footnote was added, with an explanation that “for a large majority of member states, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050”.
The rejection of the target is a blow to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which aims keep the global temperature increase to well below 2C and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5C.
Efforts to meet the EU target could make a comeback at a later date: the rotating EU presidency, which set the agenda at summits like this week’s is passing to Finland later this month. Finland’s government is keen on fighting climate change, and recently committed itself to an even more ambitious target of decarbonising its economy by an earlier date, 2035. However, the chance to include it in the EU’s strategic agenda has been missed.
Environmental groups reacted angrily to the news, and called on EU leaders to hold an emergency summit to agree the policy ahead of a key UN climate change meeting in the autumn.
“Hollow words can’t rebuild a house flattened in a mudslide or repay a farmer who’s lost their harvest to drought,” Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser Sebastian Mang said.'
Read more: Eastern European states block bid for EU climate change 2050 decarbonisation target