Climate Policy Environment 7 November, 2018 10:00 am   

The EU – the climate change combat leader or a lone runner? (COVERAGE)

Yesterday, the building of the European Parliament was the venue of the “COP24 – The Road to Katowice: Changing Together for a Just Energy Transition” conference organised by EurActiv and the PKEE. Should the European Union as a whole increase its climate ambitions? Will we be the global climate policy leader or will we turn into a lone runner? The panellists were attempting to answer these questions, among others.

India needs clean coal

Member of the European Parliament Zdzisław Krasnodębski had reminded that Poland already has quite an experience in organising the climate summits. “Previously, other Polish cities – Poznań and Warsaw – were playing hosts to the COP conferences. Therefore, the climate change negotiations are a Polish speciality; we hope that the ones in Katowice will be as fruitful as the prior ones” – he said. He noted that now the European Union will want to raise its CO2 reduction ambitions. “In the nearest future, the European Commission will publish the 2050 Strategy. I sometimes have the impression that we are not considering the international context of climate change combat; we are not comparing what is happening in countries such as China, Russia or India. India, for instance, needs clean coal technologies. Without changes in other big countries, our fight will be pointless. We have to do a lot, we may not forget about the decarbonisation of the mining regions” – said Mr Krasnodębski.

The spirit of solidarity in Katowice

Minister Michał Kurtyka, on the government’s behalf responsible for the organisation of the December climate summit, has assured that his thoughts are already in Katowice. – “The first sessions will take place already by the end of November. This will be the third Polish COP. We will be discussing what rules we will be following concerning the reduction of emissions and absorption of CO2. We were executing our energy transition and the fight for a clean environment in solidarity and it is the spirit of solidarity we wish to share with the world in Katowice. Surely, there is still plenty to do, I am convinced that acting together we are able to achieve more than everyone acting alone” – assured Mr Kurtyka.

The leader or a lone runner?

Jerzy Buzek at the beginning of his statement has stressed that we have only one solution in the global scale – working together. “In the fight against the climate change, getting public support will be important, and that will not be easy. People have to understand that these measures are for them, not against them” – said the former Polish Prime Minister and added that the EU has 41 coal mining regions in 12 Member States. “We will be working on establishing the funds that will support delivering the energy transition, as it is about the quality of the air we are breathing and water we are drinking. The Paris Agreement was an important accord. We, as the European Union, have a dual responsibility – for the measures on the global scale and for our own actions. We also have to be careful not to transition from the role of the climate policy leader to the role of a lone runner” – warned Mr Buzek.

Fight for the climate with a little “but…”

Monika Morawiecka, Strategy Director at the Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), said that the Polish energy industry became the European punching bag. “We are in support of the global warming dialogue, the Paris Agreement and the energy transition. The Polish power sector is changing. It is not a common knowledge that Poland has more installed RES capacity than Denmark . We are able to reach 10 GW from offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea, PGE is deeply involved in such projects” – said Ms Morawiecka. She also added that PGE supports the electrification of the national economy and the transportation sector that will contribute towards air quality improvement. She noted, however, that there is one “but…”. “I am not sure if increasing the ambitions in the region that is not the biggest emitter will yield the desired result. We do not know if others will follow suit. High prices of the CO2 emission rights are damaging to us – they take away our money we could be spending on the energy transition” – she said.

Let’s do our own thing

A completely different opinion was voiced by the Spanish MEP from the Group of the Greens, Florent Marcellesi. “There is no such thing as clean coal technologies. If we want to achieve our climate goals, we need to restructure entire industries of our economies – the power sector, transportation, agriculture. The global climate policy needs a leader and after Donald Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, we should be the leader. We should not be looking to the others, but serve as an example to them” – appealed Mr Marcellesi.