Coal nation Poland continues to power fine print of Paris ratification

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The pressure felt by the EU to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change is being used by Poland to gain concessions for their coal power plants.

With France being the bedrock of the Paris climate conference (COP21) last year, the European Commission placed high importance on taking part in the follow up Marrakesh negotiations of COP22 in November. This would not have been possible without the EU ratifying the agreement.

Even though Poland agreed to the EU ratification, Representation of the Republic of Poland to the EU Spokesperson, Martyna Bildziukiewicz, highlighted this being subject to thorough discussion on the implementation.

“Every member state has the right to have it’s own energy mix, this was written in the EU conclusions,” Bildziukiewicz said.

“Our [energy mix] is based on coal, so I wouldn’t say at the moment we are talking about a transition [to renewable energy].”

Climate Action Network Europe (CAN) Director, Wendel Trio said the Brexit discussion has also placed pressure on the European Commission to be careful with pushing member states on implementing European legislation and setting targets.

“There is a certain reluctance from Europe to put too much pressure onto [countries like] Poland. So there’s a lot of friendly conversations going on between climate energy conversations, trying to convince Poland to do the right thing,” Trio said.

He went on to say the Polish government has an ideological link to coal and therefore continue to defend it “as some kind of mythical product.”

“Even though all coal mines in Poland are losing money and the government has to put enormous subsidies into them,” Trio said.

Bildziukiewicz said “from a Polish point of view” it is important to reduce the emissions “smartly.”

“We need to take into account specific conditions [of] every economy in each member state in the EU,” Martyna Bildziukiewicz said.

Even with the Polish economy being based on coal, there are many capacities to develop renewable energy, including existing companies specialised in offshore wind development. Though they have no projects in Poland itself due to the government’s renewable energy regulations.

“If Poland brought its policies in line with the rest of Europe in terms of renewable energy and energy efficiency policies, it would already drastically reduce its emissions,” Trio said.

Bildziukiewicz states there are “many ways to achieve the result” of reducing emissions.

“Our economy [is] based mainly on coal, so we need to think over the way to use this coal and, for example, use cleaner coal technologies in order to reduce emissions,” Bildziukiewicz said.

“Forests are also a source that can help reduce emissions so … if we invest more in planting forests then this should also be seen as a reduction method.”

This continued defense of coal in Poland goes against the long-term goal of the Paris agreement to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions and to phase out the use of fossil fuels worldwide by the middle of this century.

“Obviously, if we want to meet the objectives of the Paris agreement then all coal plants in Poland would have to shut down over the next decades,” Trio said.

Ratification of the agreement by the EU and the member states are two separate processes. Ordinarily, all member states are required to independently ratify the agreement before the EU.

The Paris agreement is now in the Polish parliament and the procedure to ratification has started, though may take some time.

“We will see what happens by the end of the year, I think that’s a good point in time when we can see the progress of ratification,” Bildziukiewicz said.

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