Lithuania's government on Wednesday 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.
© DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

Ministers made the decision several days before an EU summit is held to discuss whether the EU should take up a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Environment Minister Kestutis Mazeika told the Cabinet meeting today the plans has been backed by 22 European countries already.

Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevicius warned, however, that such changes would hit industrial cities, like Jonava, Akmane and Mazeikiai, the hardest. He also paid attention to the fact the manufacturing sector in Lithuania makes a higher economic contribution than in other European countries, therefore, every country's development level should be taken into consideration while seeking common goals.

"Before we set common goals, we need to take into account EU member states specific situation in the industry area, therefore, commitments cannot be the same and they need to be diversified and assessed taking into account member states industrial development levels," Sinkevicius said.

Some Lithuanian farmers and carriers are concern that measures aimed at reducing CO2 emission could undermine their competitiveness if these sectors fail to get sufficient transformation support. 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.

Costs concerns

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

Raimundas Juknevicius, vice president of the Lithuanian Farmers' Union, says it will be hard to ensure that energy for land cultivation, crop maintenance and harvesting were produced without 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 Lithuania, adding that currently there's 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," Juknevicius said. "We do realize that need to move towards halting global warming as 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 gas, and hydrogen in the future, 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 Lithuania.

"Hydrogen-fueled trucks would be the next step. Gas should be replaced by hydrogen. If that happens, it will be possible to reach that net-zero emission level in the heavy transport sector. As a state, we need to go together 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 following a long period of deliberation.

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

Climate scientists say Lithuania is experiencing more frequent and intense heatwaves due to climate change, and also the nature of precipitation is changing as well as showers are followed by periods of drought, and tornadoes form more often.

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