Pin It

In February this year the European Commission presented new EU targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. How do the Visegrad Group countries assess the Commission's proposal?

By Rudolf Berkes, Political Capital, Irena Jenčová,, Aneta Zachová,, Krzysztof Ryncarz,

In early February this year, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson and Commissioners Wopke Hoekstra and Maroš Šefčovič, who are responsible for implementing the Green Deal after Frans Timmermans left the European Commission, announced a proposal for a new climate target for 2040. According to it, the European Union should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent relative to 1990.

How do politicians from the Visegrad Group countries view the new EU climate targets?


One of the election pledges by Donald Tusk's Civic Coalition was 75% reduction of greenhouse gases emission until 2030. The share of renewables in the overall energy production was supposed to reach 68% and became a basis for the whole system.

The Third Way, the block including centrist Poland 2050 (Renew) and Polish People's Party (PSL, EPP) pledged to abandon coal by 2040, and the New Left (S&D) even spoke of 2035.

Now, the most concrete about the EU 2040 climate target are the Greens, who, however, have a pretty weak position in Polish politics, as well as the opposition Law and Justice (PiS, ECR) and Confederation parties.

It was expected that the European Commission would propose something like this, but this goal is impossible for us to achieve. Already the 2030 55% target is unfeasible. The social costs of this climate policy will hit the consumers," Anna Bryłka director for EU policy in the Confederation party, told

She stressed that the Commission's proposals are revolutionary as until now reduction targets have mainly concerned the energy sector and energy-intensive industries. 

Now the climate policies are starting to affect areas such as transport, construction and agriculture,” she noted. Bryłka believes that after the European elections the Commission will soften its position on the issue.

PiS, which has always been insisting the need for just transition in its approach to the climate policies, does not negate the need for green transition, but points to its pace.

There are a number of factors suggesting that life is going to verify the EUs ambitious climate goals,” PiSIreneusz Zyska, former Deputy Climate and Environment Minister, told

He did not state clearly whether the 90% goal is needed or not, which, however, is not that matters the most at the moment.

First and foremost, people must have their basic needs met. Environment protection does not necessarily mean meeting reduction targets,” he said.

For him, a priority should be ensuring the energy security, meaning a situation in which each person and each institution have an access to is provided with continuous energy supplies,” sold at an acceptable price.” This also includes preventing the so-called capacity gap, that is a decrease in energy production capacity relative to demand.

We may not have a nuclear power plant before 2030 or 2035, while coal is an emission-intensive and obsolete technology, and renewables are unstable. The question is whether we have to import energy, and if so, from where and at what price,” Zyska said.

The updated National Energy and Climate Plan for the years 2021-2030, the key document on the Poland's green transition, includes a target to reduce the overall greenhouse gases emission by 35% until 2030, compared to the 1990 levels.

The share of renewables should amount to 29.8%. The targets got more ambitious compared to the previous version of the document, but way less ambitious than promised in the campaign to last year's national elections.

Even before the EU has officially proposed its reduction target for 2040, there was a double voice from the Polish government. Urszula Zielińska, Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment from the Green Party, fully supported the idea at the Council of the EU, a position which the ministry later corrected, speaking of little space” for further climate commitments.

In early March, Climate and Environment Minister Paulina Hennig-Kloska admitted that while the EUs 2030 targets would be difficult for Poland to meet, the 2040 target seem impossible to achieve.

The efforts to make the Green Deal revised were also announced by Donald Tusk. The Ministry of Climate and Environment has not yet responded to a question by for comment.

The difficulties in meeting the 2040 target, especially for farmers, were also brought upon by the traditionally agrarian Polish Peoples Party (PSL, EPP) that belongs to the ruling coalition.

The climate target set for 2040 is very ambitious and achieving it today will be very difficult,” PSL spokesman Miłosz Motyka told

Poland must launch investments in practically every sector. The transition would embrace energy, including developing nuclear and renewables, as well as energy storaging, but also industry, including investing in CO2 capture methods, developing biogas plants and subsidying replacing heating systems for households,” he listed.

We need to create a system of incentives with the use of the EU funds that would allow us to avoid the restrictions that would hit the Polish familiesbudgets.”

The New Left (S&D) is the most favourable of the EU targets among the ruling coalition parties. The energy transition involves costs, which are still lower than the costs of upholding the current energy mix,” the party told

It believes that the green transition will improve the quality of the citizen's lives and prompt creating jobs, while the costs will be spread over time and partially covered with the EU funds.

Yet it does not look like the Left could guide the governments climate and energy policies, especially in the face of the farmersprotests and the ongoing negotiations with the agricultural sector.

The only party that gives its unconditional approval to the European Commissions plans are the Greens.

It is not only about halting the climate catastrophe, but about Poland's security above all,” the party said in a statement sent to

The green transition will benefit everyone, not only from the environment, but also from the financial and health points of view,” it added.


Slovakia's ruling leftist SMER party is against the EUs 2040 climate target arguing for a 90% cut in emissions compared to 1990.

Slovak MEP Monika Beňová from SMER considers this goal blind and unrealistic” and says that it could result in mobilization of anti-system parties. She stressed that by setting a new goal, European Commission has completely failed to understand the changing situation in the world. Achieving a 90% emissions reduction by 2040 would depend on global cooperation and the efforts of other major emitters such as China, the United States and India.

On the other hand, the SMER party is in favour of reducing emissions and supports the modernization of Slovak Republics economy, as well as specific innovations in the field of energy, such as renewable sources.

Slovakia must support its industry, but at the same time,needs to adopt reforms to lower the polarization in its society in the long term, Beňová argues. In terms of emissions reduction, SMER supports further development of nuclear energy in the country, emphasizing the importance of improving energy efficiency measures in all sectors, as they can reduce Slovakia's consumption without negative impacts on economic growth.

Opposition parties generally support the 2040 target. Progressive Slovakia (PS) party agrees with the EC that the target will have minimal impact on EUs GDP by the middle of the century. PS stressed that a more ambitious plan for reduction cut would help EU prevent further climate-related economic losses and lower the net cost of importing fossil fuels by EUR 2.8 trillion.

When creating climate policies, it is necessary to approach people with low and medium-high incomes sensitively, and to help entrepreneurs - especially in sectors where climate-friendly technologies are still expensive,”PS communication department said.

Slovak government must also prioritize decarbonization of the steel factory in Košice, as its emissions make up approximately 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. At the same time, it is important to ensure the competitiveness and safeguarding thousands of jobs in the steel sector.

In the energy sector, according to PS, the unnecessary administrative, legislative, and technical obstacles should be removed, as it will improve renewables uptake and upscaling. The key is to use available EU financial resources effectively to accelerate decarbonization of Slovak industry and use more money from emission allowances for the green transformation of the economy.

Opposition Christian Democrats support the green transformation of the economy and the reduction of emissions, pointing out that Slovakia is already reducing emissions faster than expected. Slovak MEP Miriam Lexmann form Christian Democrats stresses that green goals must not compromise the economic competitiveness and food security. It is the reason why the Christian Democrat are demanding a revision of the ban on the sale of cars with an internal combustion engine. Reducing emissions must be done in cooperation with our industry and agricultural sector, not at their expense," says Lexmann.

Another opposition party, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), is accepting the broad scientific consensus that climate change must be fought, but says the key is to reduce CO2 effectively. We would support the updating of the goal if a cost-benefit analysis would be made , which is not happening now,” says the MEP Eugen Jurzyca from SaS. The way to make emissions targets sustainable, is to make them data based and honestly communicated to the public. The 2040 target was not such a case, which can be seen on the protests of farmers and a great decline in the popularity of green parties, says MEP Jurzyca.


Czech centre-right political coalition “Spolu” (Together), formed by ODS, KDU-ČSL and TOP 09, presents diverse views on the 2040 target. While parties closer to the centre – TOP 09 and KDU-ČSL emphasize the focus on 2030 target, ODS is very critical towards new ambitions.

“The Czech Republic's fundamental goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. This is where our main focus must now be.” Czech Environment Minister and representative of KDU-ČSL party (EPP) Petr Hladík told

Hladík emphasized, that 90% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 is only preliminary proposal and it is necessary to wait for its final version which will be published after the European elections.

Czech Environment Minister also pointed out that Czechia aims to reach climate neutrality by 2050. “The 2040 target is therefore not so important in this respect,” he added.

For KDU-ČSL, social responsibility is “absolutely essential” when it comes to climate protection. “The planned measures must not adversely affect parents with young children and the elderly in particular,” Hladík said, adding that investments in house renovation are crucial.

Focus on 2030 is also emphasized by Czech MEP Luděk Niedermayer from the TOP 09 party.

“According to Commission data, it currently looks like we could achieve over 85% emission reductions in 2040 (compared to 1990) with current policy settings. The prerequisite is of course to meet the 2030 targets already adopted and then to continue to introduce new technologies,” Niedermayer told

"It is ‘sufficient’ to meet the already adopted targets by 2030 and then to continue to gradually introduce other energy-saving technologies, with hydrogen clearly playing a major role. Fully meeting the commitments by the end of the decade and kick-starting new technologies, which we have also included in the plans, is the way to go.

ODS party is much critical towards new target, comparing to its coalition partners.

“The proposal is traditionally unrealistic, non-linear to the current rate of emission reductions and contains many problematic things,” leader of ODS and the whole centre-right coalition for European elections Alexandr Vondra told, adding that the Commission’s proposal include “essence of the distortion of market principles and free choice” as it makes cars, meat or traveling much more expansive.

"I find it outrageous to bring this issue up just before the elections and I read in it the clear handwriting of the Greens, who are very afraid of losing ground across Europe in the elections because the current pace of decarbonisation is already hard for people to bear,” Vondra told

The proposal of the Commission was welcomed by the Czech Pirate Party.

“It is responsible that the Commission has begun to address the necessary changes for the next decade, even though its mandate is coming to an end and it will not be able to put its stated proposals into practice in this composition,” Czech MEP Mikuláš Peksa told

“Climate change is a real threat that will have to be addressed by the next Commission and by all Member States. Conceptual changes in energy, transport or agriculture cannot be made overnight and it is therefore right that we are already talking about the 2040 horizon,” he added.

Peksa also emphasized that European ambitions are considered as an important signal to the other signatories of the Paris Agreement.

“Europe is showing that it wants to continue to take its share of responsibility seriously,” Peksa said. also contacted other political parties represented in Czech Parliament, but they did not respond to the question.


Hungarian Minister of Energy, Csaba Lantos said in 2023 that the Hungarian government is committed to achieving the EU's common climate neutrality objective by 2050. However, it does not support the Commission’s plan to bring forward the target date for climate neutrality and the phase-out of fossil energy sources significantly compared to the original plans. According to the minister, in the current situation, it cannot be a realistic ambition to achieve complete independence from fossil fuels in the short term. In this context, the Minister reaffirmed that nuclear energy should be treated as a reliable and emission-free clean energy source which, together with renewables, can make a major contribution to achieving global decarbonisation goals.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also highlighted the role of nuclear and solar energy production, and energy storage as the two pillars of Hungary’s green transition, in his State of the Nation speech on 17 February 2024. As the prime minister rarely mentions green energy as a governmental goal, especially in his annual speeches, it came as a surprise for many commentators. However, the government experienced local unrest due to its plans to rely on support the construction of several Chinese battery manufacturing plants in the country, which apparently forced PM Orbán to put this decision into a wider framework, by emphasizing the role of energy storage solutions in the grand plan of green transition. The government also started a public „green consultation”  to ease the after effects of its unilateral decisions to overrule the will of local citizens, by agreeing with Chinese firms on the highest level, without involving any local consultation about the plans. Several opposition parties including Momentum, and LMP-Greens have vocally campaigned against Chinese battery factories as they fear the „destruction of the local environment”. 

The emphasis on „realistic objectives” is also an important issue for the government and the ruling party Fidesz, especially in the case of decisions that has potentially negative affect the competitiveness of the European economy. Fidesz argues that the Commission is destroying European industry and agriculture in the name of the Green Deal. MEP Edina Tóth (Fidesz) in her comments about the recent farmers’ protest in Brussels and Germany, said that the „farmers reject the measures of the Brussels bureaucracy's green deal as they are already an unacceptable burden on agriculture. What is Brussels' response? The Commission proposes new targets for 2040 without prior impact assessments, despite the war and the poor economic outlook.”

Related to the European Commission’s new recommendation for the 2024 emission targets, Tóth, in her answer to our questions, argued that „the 2040 climate target should be ambitious but realistic and achievable, keeping us on track for climate neutrality by 2050, while respecting the principle of technological neutrality.” She thinks that the EU must support businesses with targeted funding and coherent legislation, and „not to lose sight of the competitiveness of the European economy, while we are focused on climate objectives”. Fidesz’s MEP also made the case that „the decision on the 2040 target must be taken at the highest level by the European Council (...) to ensure that Member State specificities can be adequately addressed”. She emphasized the adequate financial support from the EU is necessary „to maintain public support and avoid increasing skepticism about climate action by placing an excessive financial burden on citizens and businesses, especially the most vulnerable”.

From the opposition parties’ side, only Benedek Jávor (Párbeszéd – Dialogue), Head of the Representation of Budapest to the EU replied to our request for comments. The green former MEP believes that "a new intermediate climate target for 2040 is essential to ensure that the emissions reduction pathway between a 55% reduction by 2030 and decarbonisation by 2050 does not hang in the void, but is backed by a predictable, stable intermediate target. This will also help Member States, local authorities and economic actors to align their own action plans to this framework.” However, he is also critical about the EU’s climate policy framework as he deems it inadequate to deliver in practice. According to Jávor the main obstacle to this is „the removal of binding national targets from the system and their replacement by 'soft' instruments” which gives the Commission only limited tools to compel Member States to meet the national targets. „Without binding national targets, it is very doubtful whether it will be possible to meet the common European level targets and whether individual national efforts will deliver the EU targets overall.”

Jávor was also highly critical regarding Hungary’s National Energy and Climate Plan, which „remains outdated, grounded on unrealistic expectations” even after its recent update and „Hungarian climate action is not in any form in line with the 90% emission reduction objective until 2040”. He believes that the government’s energy and climate policy is to restrictive towards wind energy, lack proper focus on energy efficiency of residential building, and credible plans to decarbonize the agriculture and transportation sectors. In addition, Hungarian industrial policy is not in line with the climate policy, as it relies on investments into energy-intense industries without credible and sustainable energy supply. He also criticized the government overemphasis on solar energy, as overinvestment in the sector strains Hungary’s electrical grid, while reliance on expensive nuclear energy risks becoming uncompetitive in the following decades. Jávor thinks that the latter is a risk for the whole CEE region, broadening the divide between the Western and Eastern part of the EU.  

Only MEP Edina Tóth from the ruling party Fidesz, and Benedek Jávor, Head of the Representation of Budapest to the EU from the opposition party Párbeszéd (Dialogue) replied to our request for comment.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up now for latest news from

(C) 2018 EURACTIV Slovensko

Disclaimer: All rights reserved - but some wrongs are still available..