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2019.06.19 10:40

Lithuanian government divided over EU's climate change plan

Erika Alonderytė, Vaidotas Beniušis, BNS2019.06.19 10:40

Members of the Lithuanian government will on Wednesday discuss whether the country should back an initiative by some Western European countries to transition to a climate-neutral economy by 2050.

The government meeting comes several days before an EU summit to discuss whether the EU should take up a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Some Lithuanian farmers and carriers are concerned that measures aimed at reducing CO2 emission could undermine their competitiveness, unless these sectors get sufficient transformation support.

Responding to these concerns, the Ministry of Economy, Agriculture and Transport oppose the country joining this initiative.

Meanwhile the Ministries of Environment and Energy suggest that Lithuania should join the proposed plan. To eliminate pollution, countries would have to invest more into technology for carbon capture and storage, electrification and alternative to fossil fuels, as well as to encourage consumers to change their habits.

Cost concerns

Lithuanian farmers and carriers agree that CO2 emission must be reduced, but warn that such changes would involve huge investment.

Raimundas Juknevičius, vice president of the Lithuanian Farmers' Union, says it will be hard to ensure that energy for land cultivation, crop maintenance and harvesting is produced without any CO2 emissions.

“I see no ways, I cannot image that happening by 2050. To replace the whole fleet of machinery usually takes more than a decade,” he told BNS, adding that there currently existed no technology to fully replace diesel fuel.

“A powerful combine uses over a ton of fuel per day. It's a huge amount of energy. There's no technology to make batteries that would allow working for a similar time,” Juknevičius said. “We do realize the need to move towards halting global warming, since the agriculture sector will suffer very much due to climate change. On the other hand, politicians have the duty to set goals, and it's not that easy to implement them.”

Representatives of the Lithuanian National Road Carriers' Association LINAVA say Lithuania needs to expand infrastructure to allow the use of natural gas – and hydrogen in the future – as vehicle fuel to reduce CO2 emissions.

“Although we have the gas terminal, we have no fueling stations where we could fill trucks. And some European cities have banned diesel trucks, so we have lost part of the market,” Tomas Garuolis, secretary for transport policy at LINAVA, told BNS.

“Hydrogen-fueled trucks would be the next step. Gas should be replaced by hydrogen. If that happens, it will be possible to reach the net-zero emission level in the heavy transport sector. As a country, we need to go in step with the changes. If we miss something, we will be left behind,” he said.

France is the biggest supporter of the new climate change plan, and Germany has recently backed it after a long period of deliberation.

Meanwhile, Eastern European countries, led by Poland, don't want to take up the commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions without support to reform their carbon-dependent economies.

Climate scientists say Lithuania is experiencing more frequent and intense heatwaves due to climate change. Extreme weather events, showers followed by periods of drought and tornadoes, are also on the rise.