Some might consider it ironic that the country whose prime minister recently announced it is “going back to coal as a primary energy source” is hosting this year’s UN Climate Change conference in November, during which experts and decision-makers will discuss ways to curb carbon emissions.
Environment Minister Marcin Korolec. His ministry will be involved in both conferences
Courtesy of The Ministry of the environment
But what enraged environmentalists is the fact that the environmental conference will be held at exactly the same time as another one, the International Coal and Climate Summit, focused on the promotion of coal.
Furthermore, the pro-coal event, organized by the World Coal Association (WCA), is being endorsed by Poland’s Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of the Environment. The latter is also responsible for organizing the UN climate conference.
“The Polish government is transforming something of international importance into a lobby opportunity for coal, the very energy which destroys the climate the most,” Claude Turmes, MEP and vice-chair of the European Parliament Green group told EurActiv.
The coal summit will be promoting its “Warsaw Communique” which the WCA calls “a call to action to support the use and deployment of more efficient coal technologies to tackle climate change.”
The World Coal Association’s chief executive Milton Catelin leaves no doubt as to the fact that the place and the date of their summit is not coincidental. “We want to use our event as a platform to discuss how we can curb carbon emissions.” Mr Catelin said. “Multiplatform dialogue about the role of coal in the global economic development and the use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal technologies is necessary if we want to fight climate change,” he added.
So far Polish and Chinese mining companies have signed up for the coal conference, and some politicians, including Poland’s Deputy PM and Minister of Economy Janusz Piechociński, will speak at the event.
Some environmentalists will also participate in discussions. One of them, Yvo de Boer, current climate advisor at KPMG, said that Poland is a prominent EU member state and its voice needs to be heard.
“We need to find a way to make it part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” Mr de Boer told EurActiv. “It is better to have [Poland] inside your tent pissing out, than outside pissing in,” he added paraphrasing US President Lyndon B. Johnson.
One of the main topics of discussions at the coal summit will be carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which is a compromise between coal and renewables. It is the process of capturing waste from large emission sources and storing them underground, so they won’t enter the atmosphere. Poland is the only EU state which has failed to notify the European Commission of any measures taken to comply with the bloc’s CCS directive.
“It is important that they hear a voice strongly advocating for action on climate change and I want them to understand that if they can commercialize CCS, coal can have a future but it will have to come with tougher support mechanisms,” said Bryony Worthington, the founder of Sandbag, another environmental group that will take part in the coal conference.
It’s hard however to expect Poland to be interested in such a costly solution. Particularly, since the only CCS operation in Europe, in Mongstad, Norway, was recently scrapped due to increasing costs and delays. Meanwhile Poland’s recent decision to stick with coal was made to cut energy costs, not to increase them.
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