Lithuania's government has decided to join an initiative by other European countries to set a goal to transition to a climate-neutral economy by 2050, despite possible challenges for the country's economy.
Lithuanian ministers made the decision on Wednesday, days before an EU summit to discuss whether the EU should take up a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Environment Minister Kęstutis Mažeika told the Cabinet meeting that the plans have already been backed by 22 European countries.
Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius warned, however, that the required changes would hit Lithuania's industrial towns like Jonava, Akmenė and Mažeikiai the hardest.
He also noted that manufacturing makes up a bigger share of the economy in Lithuania than in other European countries. Every country's development level should be taken into consideration when setting common goals, Sinkevičius insisted.
“Commitments cannot be the same and they need to be diversified and assessed depending on each member state's industrial development level,” Sinkevičius said.
Some Lithuanian farmers and carriers are concern that measures aimed at reducing CO2 emission could undermine their competitiveness, unless their sectors receive sufficient support during the transition. To eliminate pollution, countries would have to invest more into technology for carbon capture and storage, electrification and alternatives to fossil fuels, as well as to encourage consumers to change their habits.
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.