Climate Policy Coal Energy Environment 20 May, 2019 10:00 am   

How to quit coal? Polish political parties have a different view on changes

Politicians of all Polish political angles definitely agree that there is no turning back from the withdrawal of fossil fuels from the national energy mix. However, they differ significantly as to how this should be done. The candidates for the European Parliament elections representing all the parties participating in the election presented their vision regarding the future of the national energy and climate protection at the electoral debate on the Polish energy transformation during the Third National Congress of Civic Energy.

Zbigniew Gryglas from the Law and Justice (PiS) opined that the dark vision of climate degradation does not have to be fulfilled, but to avoid it actions at all political levels from global, through EU to domestic must be taken. In his opinion, these actions are taken also with the participation of Poland, and their expression was, among others, organization of COP 24 summit in Katowice. Gryglas reminded that first and foremost every individual can contribute a lot to the protection of the climate with their actions and behavior.

Władysław Teofil Bartoszewski PhD from the Polish People’s Party (PSL) argued that everyone agrees that our attachment to fossil fuels should change, but according to him the problem is that Europe is a very small CO2 emitter, therefore its activity will have limited result, because the most carbon dioxide is now produced in Asia and the United States. – It does not mean that we should not change our energy mix, but each country should start from itself and not dictate to others what they should do. Poland has a lot to do, because we are very backward when it comes to the implementation of RES and now we have to concentrate on that. We should also fight for EU funds to be able to implement energy transformation. We must do it quickly, because such fundamental changes last a very long time – he argued.

Urszula Kuczyńska from the leftist party Together (Razem) referred to the previous speaker’s words, stressing that she was irritated by words saying “if we do something and others do not, it will be a problem”. In her opinion, both Poland and the EU should set themselves more ambitious climate goals, and as she estimates quitting a coal in 2050 is definitely too late. – We want to increase the share of RES in the EU to 45 percent, reduce energy consumption to 40 percent. We believe that 5 percent of EU GDP should be invested in green projects. It is feasible for the EU, considering what tools it has, while all the time it allocates far too little funds to achieve climate goals – she argued.

Tomasz Terlecki from Spring of Biedroń (Wiosna) agreed with her, and warned that we were at the threshold of a climate disaster. – For me, the goal is clear. In 2050, we must be climate neutral, because otherwise our civilization will cease to exist, for now EU actions are too little ambitious so that we could dream of achieving this goal.

Danuta Hübner, who represents the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) expressed her satisfaction that today, above all, young people are fighting for the climate, such as the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. According to Hübner, in order to fight climate change effectively, European countries must take joint action and the EU should coordinate it.

Mirosława Stępień from the Green Party (Zieloni) expressed the opinion that the EU’s climate goals are far less radical. – I am an activist and I entered politics because I am frustrated that so little is happening about climate change. I believe that Poland is able to give up coal by 2030, it is possible from both an economic and technological point of view, but without political will, nothing will change. In Poland, there are already places where transformation takes place, for example in Greater Poland, from where I come. The mayors of this region have bottom-uply made a decision obliging them to move away from coal – she stressed.

The candidates for MEPs also talked about what Polish energy policy should look like and what actions should be taken by our country on the EU forum in order to get support from the EU and implement a national climate goals.

Gryglas argued that at the EU level, we can do a lot, and Poland has a chance to be a leader in changes when it comes to climate protection issues. – In the interest of our country, whose energy market has had a different structure for a long time comparing to many EU countries, because we were more dependent from fossil fuels, should be employing of every EU funds, because we face various challenges. The most important ones are emission from transport, industry and deforestation. To solve these problems, Law and Justice wants to channel EU funds, and invest in renewable energy, dispersed energy and offshore sources. Investments in climate protection at the local level are another priority – he declared.

Bartoszewski wants to allocate EU funds to increase the share of renewable energy in the Polish energy mix, he also appealed to change the law introduced by the Law and Justice, which he believes blocks onshore development. – It is important to increase energy efficiency, replace furnaces in homes, because the main problem is not the industry, but households. The industry has adequate filters, and many families cannot afford to replace the old furnaces. The third issue is the development of a combined heat and power plant, another electric public transport. It should function in all cities in Poland, because the vision of Prime Minister Morawiecki that we will drive electric cars is nonsense. As for the construction of the nuclear energy, social discussion must take place in this matter, because some people are afraid of it and it is necessary to take this into account – postulated Bartoszewski.

Urszula Kuczyńska commenting on the previous speaker’s words said that it is extremely unfortunate that high-level politicians have problems distinguishing smog from carbon dioxide emissions. Referring to the EU climate policy, she claimed that the goals set by the Paris Agreement are not ambitious enough. In her opinion, the priorities of Polish energy policy should be the development of renewable energy, prosumer energy and distributed energy at the local level. – These projects have to be developed, but let us not delude ourselves that without the mental plight of our society, we will quit a coal, we need a low-carbon, systemic source of energy, which is nuclear energy.

According to Terlecki, the most important issue for which Poland should allocate EU funds is the construction of energy storages. Danuta Hübner, in turn, emphasized that business needs to be drawn into the implementation of projects protecting the climate, financed from public money. In her opinion, the awareness and education of children from an early age is extremely important in the fight against climate change.

Mirosława Stępień pointed out that the fight against climate change is definitely not enough, because apart from that we have two huge problems, namely animal extinction and environmental pollution. – We must definitely change our lifestyle, even if we stop climate change, our world will die because the fauna will die – she argued.

The politicians also assessed during the debate when, in their opinion, Poland would be able to move away from coal. Zbigniew Gryglas siad that the postulated by some 2035 is unrealistic and it would be socially irresponsible to leave the coal until then. In turn, Urszula Kuczyńska referred to this proposal, considering that saying that it is impossible to leave coal by 2035 is irresponsible, because it threatens our children and the whole human species. Terlecki has criticized the current and previous governments saying that regardless of whether the Law and Justice rules or the Civic Platform governed, Poland continued to invest in coal, dreaming of nuclear energy. Danuta Hübner did not give a specific date for Poland’s departure from coal, considering that it must happen as soon as possible. Mirosława Stępień, as one of the previous speakers, also said that 2050 is definitely too late and it should rather happen in 2030-2035. She also criticized the current energy policy. – We are currently importing coal, it is totally against our energy security, and the nuclear energy will also have to be taken from somewhere. We buy gas from Russia. Only RES can provide us with energy security. There is no certainty as to the price increase for energy, when the current law, adopted by the Law and Justice, ceases to operate, they will go up sharply – she warned.

The discussion also concerned the topic of the heat and power plant in Bełchatów, which is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in Europe, as well as the creation of outlets that would supply coal to it.

Danuta Hübner joked that in place of the heat and power plant a national park could be created, because we have insufficient amount of green areas. Kuczyńska warned that when thinking about the shutdown of Bełchatów, we must remember the people who work there who must live off something. In her opinion, they should be offered something in return. – You can use the job for job model, engage people who are waiting for redundancies in programs related to green energy, to retrain them. And Bełchatów can be replaced by a nuclear unit – she proposed. Mirosława Stepien also postulated that in case of the heat and power plant, the transformation must be just. According to her, such a process will take several years and must be adjusted to the people working in Bełchatów. Tomasz Terlecki said that outcrops are a phantasmagoria and they will never be created, while the entire infrastructure around the power plant should be used. – One of the ideas could be building nuclear blocks – he proposed.

At the end of the debate, the audience could vote for the candidate who, in his opinion, best dealt with the discussion. The winner was Elżbieta Kuczyńska from Together party.