The dispute on climate neutrality in Polish government shows that the climate and energy policy is stuck in a dead end. This could only be resolved by a cabinet reshuffle that is to take place in the fall – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief at BiznesAlert.pl.
During the budget negotiations in Brussels, politicians from the United Poland (Solidarna Polska), a member of Poland’s coalition government, took to the papers to voice their concerns. Thus, my thesis from May is now confirmed – United Poland will want to use its own vision of climate and energy policy to differentiate itself in the eyes of voters and thus compete with other coalition members.
The Polish government agreed to the summit’s conclusions, which say that Poland has not supported the EU climate neutrality goal yet, but if it fails to do that, it will not receive half of the money for energy transition in the most affected regions such as Lower and Upper Silesia and Greater Poland, which will be deposited in the Just Transition Fund. According to the latest news acquired by BiznesAlert.pl, Poland can count on EUR 3.5 bn in comparison to the original 8 bn.
BiznesAlert.pl learned that the earlier version of the bargain pertained to the national target, which Poland did not want to accept. Achieving climate neutrality by 2050 would necessitate a revolution in the energy sector and, in fact, in the entire economy, to which Poles did not want to agree, especially that energy transition cost in the current, moderate scenario was estimated by the ministry of energy at about PLN 440 billion by 2040. The money from the JTS does look poor in comparison to the likely cost, but it needs to be stressed that its purpose wasn’t to finance the transition, but to support those post-mining regions that will need it the most.
Perhaps Poles would be more successful at negotiating if it wasn’t for the dispute in the government. The representatives of United Poland acknowledged the Prime Minister’s achievements during the summit in Brussels, and declared they trusted him; but they also warned they would question any agreements that went against Poland’s interests. During the negotiations they suggested that Poland should veto the EU budget if it forces Poles to a climate and energy policy that is too ambitious.
The gap was especially visible between the Ministry of Climate led by Michał Kurtyka, associated with Prime Minister Morawiecki but without any political backing, and Janusz Kowalski, Deputy Minister of State Assets, associated with United Poland. Perhaps ths dispute will end after the cabinet reshuffle, which according to the RMF FM radio will take place in the coming fall and during which the ministries of climate and environment will merge. This goes against United Poland’s interests, which has a lot of influence in the second ministry.
Unofficially, UP’s plan is to deprive Kurtyka of his position, as the group believes his views on climate and energy are too liberal. The upcoming conference “The European Greed Deal and Poland’s Interests” organized under the patronage of State Forests, which are managed by the Ministry of Environment, will be an opportunity to present UP’s views on the matter. The conference will host Michał Woś, the Minister of Environment and Janusz Kowalski, Deputy Minister of State Assets as well as other representatives of the government associated with United Poland.
Still, it is already apparent that replacing the energy ministry with the ministry of climate did not streamline the implementation of Poland’s climate and energy policy and instead brought about new disputes between ministries. The Ministry of Energy was free to implement this policy and did it effectively, but according to some commentators it took the wrong direction. This issue materialized in the conflict with Jadwiga Emilewicz’s Ministry of Development. Still the Energy Ministry led by Krzysztof Tchórzewski always had the last say. A new distribution of power in the government caused the return of conflicts that had earlier taken place between the state treasury and economy ministries. Will the reshuffle help to end the stalemate? At this point it’s impossible to answer this question. Poland should finally agree to the EU climate neutrality goal in exchange for satisfactory support for the transition in the most affected regions. The transition is already happening, which is visible in the strategies pursued by state-owned companies that are betting on renewables. We should not expect that someone will cover Poland’s transition costs, but we can acquire support that will cushion those consequences that are the hardest to accept. It is worth adding that new EU regulations, i.e. stricter climate goals and climate laws, will only increase regulatory pressure.