The awkwardness of politicians who want to defend coal should not lead to the inclusion of clean coal technologies and the atom on the index of prohibited topics. They will be fully entitled if they pass the economic test – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief of BiznesAlert.pl.
On the air of TOK FM, I said that the etiquette, or even the customary report on climate summits, should assume the promotion of zero-emission, for example by using reusable packaging or avoiding the promotion of the most emission-related energy sources, such as coal. This does not mean, however, that global climate talks should include the fight against emissions using clean coal technologies and nuclear on the index of prohibited topics. Poland, the USA and other countries intend to talk about them despite ostracism, to which one of the sides to the discussion wants to convict them. A firm statement by the Polish President in defense of coal at the opening of COP24 caused a wave of criticism in Poland. In fact, this position did not improve Poland’s position during climate negotiations, which as a host was responsible for creating a good atmosphere, including by giving an exemplary attitude. This does not mean, however, that you can no longer talk about the nuclear and coal.
The insufficiently professional promotion of the Polish point of view at COP24 will impede the promotion of rational solutions in the coal and nuclear sectors. It provoked participants of the March for the climate organized by environmentalists to criticize fossil fuels in general and to promote Renewable Energy Sources, as the only tool to combat the emission of carbon dioxide, which is necessary to achieve the objectives of global climate policy. The march took place without major incidents, but it is a harbinger of a political dispute over the Polish energy strategy in 2019, when the demands of environmentalists will be picked up by the opposition. In this way, Poland’s energy and climate policy has become a hostage of subsequent elections at the request of coal defenders in Katowice. However, the postulate of discussions on Renewable Energy Sources (RES) as the only tool to combat emissions is unauthorized. There are various ways to lower it. Only economic analysis makes us choose.
One of the solutions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are clean coal technologies. New coal blocks in Poland are less emission by about 20 percent compared to old units. Other technologies can further reduce CO2 emissions. Poland declared that after the extension of the Ostrołęka Power Plant no more coal blocks would be built. This is an achievement that may not be satisfactory for the most ambitious COP24 participants, but it is a model for other countries that, like Poland, are not able to move away from fossil fuels overnight. Replacing conventional renewable sources will accelerate the reduction of emissions in Poland, provided that it will not lead to an increase in emissions due to the need to provide additional fossil fuel-based power to ensure continuity of supply, which is not guaranteed by RES. An alternative would be an increase in energy imports from abroad, which national energy producers fear. Meanwhile, the last coal block in Ostrołęka still has no prepared financing model. It is also not known how much energy from coal-based units using “clean technologies” will be used to reduce emissions and whether it will be able to fight alternative sources on the market. One should not, therefore, prohibit talking about coal on COP24, but transfer it to the economic ground and decide what is to be defended.
Some of the COP24 participants would also like to ban nuclear energy talks. In the Internet, there is a popular meme that participants in the debate on climate change from academia, the International Energy Agency and the European Commission recognize the nuclear as one of the tools to reduce CO2 emissions. Poland, at least in the sphere of declarations, also intends to use nuclear energy for a radical reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in Poland. This is going to happen after 2033, when the first nuclear block would be created. Against the spells of the renewable energy promoters in Katowice, the nuclear is safe and clean. The problem is, however, the difficulty of implementing the nuclear project in the planned budget and time, as evidenced by the delays and increases in costs of new installations in Great Britain. Poland intends to finance the nuclear from the budget, perhaps with the support of an external partner. In the sphere of declarations, which are difficult to verify at the moment, there appeared the idea of charging some of the funds from the USA, which would probably be interested in providing technology. However, Polish declarations would become more powerful if the energy strategy that contains them was already approved and supported by a clearly defined plan for financing the atom. Discussion on the Polish nuclear project at COP24 should begin at all in order to get back into the rut of the substantive dispute without ideology.
Conventional energy sources are not immoral and will be used on a global scale for the coming decades. Whether it is the most ambitious participants in the discussion or not, participants of global talks will not include these sources on the index of prohibited topics. Radicalism showing renewable energy as the only solution from ideological positions may lead to the ostracism of ecologists who care about climate protection. In the second week of the summit, which will be devoted to political negotiations on concrete commitments of the Paris climate agreement signatories to slow down the global temperature rise, a discussion should be made about the economic viability of individual solutions, and from this point of view the demands for the development of nuclear energy or clean technologies carbon. If the solutions proposed as an alternative to RES survive the economic test and ensure the desired reduction of emissions, they should remain the legitimate topic of discussions at COP24. None of the many lobbies present in Katowice should be allowed to enter technology data on the index of prohibited topics.