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Climate Policy Environment 18 December, 2018 10:00 am   

The end of COP24 is the beginning of the fight for votes

The COP24 is over, the election campaign is starting, in which the dispute over Poland’s energy and climate policy will play an increasingly important role, which may end in changes in the government, but not necessarily a change in Polish politics – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief of BiznesAlert.pl.

COP24 in the election campaign

The agreement called the Katowice Package is technical and prepares the ground for the global system. – We did what we could to listen to your conclusions. We did what we could, so that no one would feel left behind – said Michał Kurtyka, President of the Presidency. At the climate summit in Katowice, the so-called “Rulebook”, ie a set of rules for the implementation of climate policy at the global level based on declarations of the Paris Agreement. The fact that all COP24 sides have signed up to it can be considered a success. However, it should be noted that there are low ambitions on a global scale.

Poland’s contribution to climate negotiations should be noted. Poles have pushed through the approach that complements the position of the European Union opting for a global emissions trading system that has not been implemented. The Ministry of the Environment reminds that at the initiative of the Polish Presidency, COP24 presented three declarations that were widely supported by other sides. Already on the first day of the COP24 Summit, President Andrzej Duda announced a declaration of solidarity and just transformation. Its reception was the most important point of the Summit of Heads of State and Government Chiefs. The energy transformation for decarbonisation must ensure that removing jobs from emission sectors, such as mining, will offer new ones in other sectors. The next day, a joint initiative of Poland and the United Kingdom, the Katowice Partnership for Electromobility, presented in the presence of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and President of COP24, Michał Kurtyka, was presented. It was an element of the promotion of electromobility, as a Polish solution for combating emissions, which is the reflection of the energy sector that can benefit from the growing consumption of electricity in the transport sector. In the second part of the summit, the declaration “Forests for climate” was announced. The event was attended by, among others Minister of the Environment Henryk Kowalczyk, COP24 President Michał Kurtyka and Paola Deda representing UNECE (European Economic Commission). Afforestation was another alternative to the European Union proposal.

The most spectacular contribution of Poland to the summit, however, was the promotion of coal that was badly received by the supporters of the ambitious climate policy. The statement of the Polish President Andrzej Duda that Poland has coal reserves for 200 years and will guarantee its energy sovereignty has been used to criticize Polish engagement in negotiations and to burden the Poles with the responsibility for low ambitions of the agreement with Katowice. However, the critics of the Polish government will point out that if Poland presented a more ambitious position, it could perhaps serve as an example and let it achieve more in climate policy. It should be noted that it would be difficult to get a significant impact on the critics of the global fight against climate change in Brazil or Turkey, although it would probably provide a better atmosphere of the summit, which is one of the presidency’s tasks.

A lot of noise about the minister

The COP24 summit ended with an unambitious agreement, but the discussion about the energy and climate policy is not over. Government critics use COP24 for political struggle. On Wednesday, December 19, events of the Climate Coalition and the Green Party dedicated to the climate summit will take place. During them, criticism of the government’s policy will be presented. It is to be expected that the postulate of accelerated decarbonisation will hit the banners of political rivalry in the elections to the European Parliament and the Polish Sejm. The first steps in this direction have already been made by Robert Biedroń postulating the end of coal mining until 2035. Subsequent political forces will position themselves in the dispute over Polish climate policy, and discussions will fuel disputes over rising energy prices in Poland.

– Polish policymakers did not believe that EU emission reduction targets for the period after 2020 could be so strong, renewable energy was perceived as uncompetitive, and domestic coal was considered a safe option. Today, growing coal imports resulting from the low competitiveness of Polish mines, widespread fear of smog, rising costs in conventional energy and record low prices of RES at auctions – all this indicates that our country has to move away from coal – says Aleksander Śniegocki from WiseEuropa. It sounds like a recipe for an alternative energy strategy in the election program of the opposition party. It is to be expected that the political forces in the internal and external opposition will now want to use it.

Critical articles in the main media can at least be used to promote the postulate of exchange of the minister of energy, and in the long run to the proposal of an alternative energy policy in the program of one of the political groups. However, it is not known whether this criticism may end with the presentation of a constructive alternative. The party demanding rapid decarbonisation may become a token of importance in an increasingly bipartisan political dispute in Poland, but it will not gain the essential political support necessary for the actual implementation of such a postulate. Will it end up hitting the unpopular minister of energy? Perhaps his opponents in the government and outside it count for it.



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