Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec cast the lone dissenting vote Friday as the 27-member European Council met in Brussels to adopt interim targets meant to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
It was the second time in eight months coal-dependent Poland has vetoed ambitious EU goals for a low-carbon future. Warsaw last year also was the only EU member to oppose a commitment to lower carbon emissions after 2020.
But Hedegaard vowed Saturday the European Commission will nevertheless succeed in implementing the low-carbon road map, which needs to have the unanimous approval of EU member states before continuing on its path to legally binding status.
"Poland's 'no' to the European Commission low-carbon roadmap is unfortunate but it will not stop Europe from moving on with its transition to a low-carbon economy," she said in a statement.
"The bad news was that Poland blocked council conclusions for the second time. The good and encouraging news is that Poland was the only country to block. The (Danish) presidency and the other 26 member states explicitly asked the commission to move on, and that is what we will do."
Poland specifically opposed interim carbon emissions reduction targets that were proposed to kick in before reaching the ultimate goal of reducing emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.
Those interim goals included a 40 percent cut by 2030 and 60 percent reduction by 2040. The EU has a legally binding current reduction target of 20 percent by 2020.
Hedegaard criticized Poland for invoking the doctrine of "subsidiarity" in opposing the interim targets, which in effect calls for national and local governments to be allowed to come up with their own ways to achieve EU directives.
"Let's imagine that we said the same about the economic crisis, that the EU defined the economic target for 2050 but how to reach it and whether anything happened in the next 38 years would be an exclusive matter for individual member states," she said.
"Everyone can see that this wouldn't work. This is also true when it comes to our climate policies."
Poland generates more than 90 percent of its electricity from coal-burning power plants and its government has come under tremendous pressure by the business community to oppose the road map.
The Polish Chamber of Commerce contends implementing the measures would cost the country's industry $7 billion per year after 2030, inflicting deep losses to Polish companies, the Warsaw Business Journal reported.
But the strong support from the other EU nations and the European Parliament for the road map has served to increasingly isolate Poland.
"This is the time for European leaders who designed our current system to stop Poland from dictating the terms of European climate policy," Jason Anderson, head of EU climate policy for the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement.
"One member state just can't block a decade of progress in Europe's approach to this issue."
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