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Poland files lawsuit against key EU climate policies

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The EU’s recently adopted climate legislation was not properly assessed, exceeded Brussels’ authority and now threatens Poland’s economy as well as energy security, legal arguments published by Warsaw on Monday (28 August) contend.

The EU has approved a raft of climate laws over the past months, aiming to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 and help the bloc of 27 countries comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

But Warsaw is contesting those laws, now aiming to overthrow some of them in court – including the hard-won agreement on banning the sale of new combustion engine cars by 2035.

“We don’t agree with this and other documents from the ‘Fit for 55’ package and we’re bringing this to the European Court of Justice. I hope other countries will join,” Polish climate and environment minister Anna Moskwa said back in June.

Poland is the most sceptical EU country when it comes to climate policy. It is still heavily reliant on coal and has less financial firepower to put behind the green transition than richer western EU countries.

In addition to the new car emission rules, Warsaw wants to overturn a recently agreed law on land use and forestry (LULUCF), scrap legislation updating 2030 emission reduction targets for EU countries and another one changing the number of pollution allowances in the EU’s carbon market stability reserve.

Poland is also seeking to challenge the EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism, which introduced the world’s first-ever tariff on carbon-intensive goods entering the European Union.

“Does the EU want to make authoritarian decisions about what kind of vehicles Poles will drive and to increase energy prices in Poland? The Polish government will not allow Brussels to dictate,” Moskwa wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.


A key pillar of Poland’s argument is that EU climate policies should have been agreed by unanimity because they impact countries’ sovereign decisions about their choice of energy mix and land use, according to a document listing Poland’s legal pleas.

The adoption of the law infringes on the EU’s legal building blocks “by failing to adopt the contested decision on the basis of that Treaty provision, which requires unanimity in the Council, despite the fact that the contested decision significantly affects a Member State’s choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply,” Warsaw argues.

Poland also warns that certain laws, including changes to the carbon market reserve and country-specific emission reduction targets, threaten its energy security because they do not take into account the individual situation of EU member states.

Meanwhile, the ban on sales of new combustion engine cars risks having serious consequences on Europe’s automotive industry, the related economic sectors and wider society, Warsaw argues.

“The contested regulation imposes excessive burdens connected with the transition towards zero-emission mobility on European citizens, especially those who are less well off, as well as on the European automotive companies sector,” the argument reads.

This “risks giving rise to serious negative consequences for the European automotive industry, social exclusion, transport exclusion of poorer persons, and increased disparity between citizens as regards the standard of living,” it adds.

Moreover, the wider socio-economic impacts of these laws have not been thoroughly assessed, particularly the legislation changing the permits available in the carbon market’s stability reserve, Warsaw contends.

This was adopted “on the basis of an incomplete, out-of-date and incorrectly carried out impact assessment which was prepared using data which did not take account of Russia’s armed attack on Ukraine and the energy crisis resulting therefrom,” Poland argues.

Brussels rebuffs Poland’s arguments

A Commission spokesperson said the EU executive has taken note of Poland’s legal challenge, adding it is up for the EU Court of Justice to rule on the case.

“The Commission maintains that the measures in question are fully compliant with EU Treaties and law,” the spokesperson argued, saying the Commission proposed these pieces of legislation in order to implement the European Climate Law, “which sets legally-binding emissions reduction targets of -55% by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050”.

“The Commission is currently analysing the Polish legal actions in detail and may request to intervene in the case,” which is directed against the European Parliament and the Council, the spokesperson added.

Observers in Brussels and Warsaw previously told EURACTIV that the case had little chance of succeeding, citing a legal precedent set a few years ago in which the EU Court of Justice rejected a similar lawsuit by Poland against the EU carbon market.

“Our reading is that this is dominated by national politics, to build up a campaign narrative for the upcoming Polish elections later this year,” said Klaus R?hrig from Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, a green campaign group.

[Edited by Fr?d?ric Simon/Nathalie Weatherald]

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