The host of this year’s UN climate summit COP24, Poland won the shameful Fossil of the Day Award from Climate Action Network International today. The dubious award was handed down to Poland for promoting coal interests and turning a blind eye to the need to ramp up climate pledges by 2020.
Representatives of the Polish government, the host of this year’s UN climate summit, have so far been completely quiet on one of the key objectives of COP24: a collective decision to revise and increase all climate pledges by 2020. They have also failed to state their support for the need to increase the EU’s climate targets, undermining the EU’s leadership role in the negotiations.
In stark contrast, they have been outspoken in promoting Poland’s coal reliance. In his opening speech, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that there was no contradiction between burning coal and climate protection and that Poland had no intention to phase out coal, claiming incorrectly that it has 200 years of coal reserves.
Commenting on the Fossil of the Day Award, Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said:
“At the moment the Polish government is lacking any ambition when it comes to reaching a decision on increasing climate targets, which is the key to success at COP24. It is disgraceful that they are promoting coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, when the window of opportunity to avoid the climate breakdown is rapidly closing. They need to step up to the mark and deliver on one of the main tasks of this critical summit, which is to urgently scale up climate action.”
10 key facts on Poland’s stance on climate change:
The government’s draft energy plan for 2040 foresees an almost complete phase-out of onshore wind energy. At the same time, the plan envisions maintaining extensive coal capacity until 2030, by replacing all old units with new ones.
The Polish Presidency has chosen the most polluting companies like Polska Grupa Energetyczna PGE (coal utility) or Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa JSW (coal mining company) as sponsors of the COP.
The coal sector still receives vast financial support from the Polish government through a number of subsidies. One of the most striking examples of funding coal with public money is through capacity mechanisms that alone are expected to provide about €14bn subsidies to the sector in Poland by 2030. They will provide subsidies for coal plants even until late 2030s, including financing for new units. The EU is now negotiating new rules for capacity mechanisms that could stop funding for coal, but Poland lobbies intensively to ensure it can continue to subsidise coal plants.
The number of jobs in the coal sector has fallen steeply to about 80 000 in 2017 from nearly 400,000 in 1990.
Poland’s dependence on coal for electricity production has become an energy security threat. In 2017 Poland faced shortages of coal because the state-owned mining company PGG failed to meet its production targets, leading to higher imports from countries such as Russia, the US, and Colombia.
Finances of the coal-fired power sector are weak. Shareholders and workers have filed a lawsuit against a utility building a new €1.2bn coal power station. This is because the project faces high financial risk from EU carbon prices and cheap renewables and can put the company in jeopardy.
The government’s continued support for the coal industry runs counter to the population’s concerns regarding air pollution. Poland has 36 of Europe’s 50 most polluted cities, leading to 44,500 premature deaths annually – the third-highest number in the EU. Health and social security is regarded by the public as the biggest issue facing Poland, and almost half of the population thinks air quality has deteriorated in the last decade. Burning of coal by households is the biggest contributor to urban air pollution, ahead of emissions from coal-fired power stations and transport.
Polish coal plants harm not only climate but also people’s health. In 2015 air pollution from Polish coal power stations caused almost 6000 premature deaths.
Support for renewable energy among Polish people is growing. More than 80% supports further development of renewables.
Renewables became cheaper than coal. Outcomes of the first onshore wind auction in Poland revealed that wind is now much cheaper than coal and nuclear power. Even coal utilities have started to look into investments in renewable energy. Private lignite utility ZEPAK has recently announced it plans to invest in photovoltaics on their post-lignite sites.
Ania Drazkiewicz, CAN Europe Head of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 494 525 738
 CAN Europe COP24 media advisory: https://caneurope.org/publications/press-releases/1698-cop24-first-deadline-for-the-paris-agreement
Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change. With over 150 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 40 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.