Leaked document shows that Europe’s leaders will meet on 20-21 March and delay agreement on the EU’s greenhouse gas targets to 2030, the single most important decision of our lifetimes.

The 28 leaders should agree  targets to address climate change, energy savings and renewable energies by 2030. Instead this leaked document shows that there will only be a preliminary discussion in March and by June they will ‘take stock of progress made on these issues’ with view to taking a decision towards the end of the year. The consequences of further delay will be fatal to the timeline for agreeing a new international treaty to address climate change in Paris in 2015. This is disappointing as the targets proposed by the European Commission fall short of what is required by science to avert temperature increases above 2 degrees Celsius as well as maximizing the employment, innovation, financial savings and geopolitical stability of the other two targets. These targets aren’t even mentioned in the draft document.

The reason for delay is down to Poland’s attempt to build a coalition against this agreement. In this sense it is a continuation of its attempt to scupper the global effort on climate change. The last international negotiations on climate change were held in Warsaw and witnessed spectacular promotion of the benefits of the fossil fuel industry. These efforts backfired especially in the context of Typhoon Haiyan which ravished the Philippines and changed the mood of the discussions towards serious action. Poland can veto the agreement and although this may be domestically popular in the short-term it is likely to be devastating especially as Poland will have a senior position within the new European Commission and needs the support of France who will be staring at the prospect of very public diplomatic failure at a missed ‘Paris Treaty’ to tackle climate change globally.

Delay is also a considerable slap in the face of the summit called for by Ban Ki-moon, head of the United Nations in September. Ban Ki-moon scheduled this high-level summit of the world’s leaders to inject much needed urgency and impetus towards the Paris treaty in 2015. The EU has called for the international community to come forward with targets long before negotiations start in Paris to maximize the chance of a successful outcome. Delaying it is sending out the wrong signal to the rest of the world especially as so many important countries like China, US, South Korea and even the likes of Kazakhstan are implementing almost identical legislation to address climate change and investment in clean energy.

Given the crisis in Ukraine and its link to fossil fuel dependence on Russia, it is even more surprising that the decision is being delayed. Each day of delay costs the EU immensely in terms of missed investment opportunities especially when considering that the total spend on imported fossil fuels costs citizens €440 billion a year of their hard-earned money. Imagine the improvements to schools, housing, local regeneration that could be made with this money?

There is still time to turn this around. A lot depends on the 13+ large governments like Germany, France, UK, Sweden, Slovenia, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, etc and how much they want to get the right agreement next week.