Climate Policy Environment 19 August, 2020 10:00 am   
Editorial staff

Time for a constitution for climate (INTERVIEW)

“Poland has to be able to afford to develop a Constitution for Climate! Poland’s Energy Policy and other sectoral policies have to refer to the most important document, which is sadly missing,” Stanisław Gawłowski, senator and chairman of the Climate Committee at the Polish Senate, argues. Is the energy and climate policy of the Polish government transparent and drafted in respect to social dialogue?

Stanisław Gawłowski: Have you ever seen a single document, which would include the government’s full policy on climate and energy? I cannot find such a document. It’s worse than that, even though Poland has had a climate ministry for a long time, which is a good thing, I have not found a single, comprehensive governmental document called “Poland’s Climate Policy”. A document that will clearly define the actions that need to be taken in various areas related to climate protection, the adaptation to climate change, economic transition, clean air, changes in the food and agricultural production, energy transition and, which would propose a schedule for the phase-out of coal, as well as include decisions on the new energy mix. There also doesn’t exist a coherent plan to finance these actions. We only sometimes hear about ideas to establish various funds, such as the Low-Emissions Transport Fund. It was set up in 2018 and received almost PLN 600 million. The problem is that as of today no money has been spent on supporting low-emission transport. But it cost almost a million Zloty to pay for maintaining the Fund. A good and comprehensive climate policy accepted by the Polish people should be based on a partnership between experts and the public. We need expert knowledge, but all proposed actions have to be understood and accepted by the people. Unfortunately, this is not what is happening today.

How should we include the proposed Poland’s Climate Policy in the architecture between Poland’s Energy Policy by 2040 and the National Plan for Energy and Climate together with regional documents? 

Fighting against climate change is a goal in itself. This is why all other actions need to be subjugated to that overarching goal. Poland has to be able to afford to build a Constitution for Climate! Poland’s Energy Policy and other sectoral policies have to refer to the most important document, which is sadly missing – a Constitution For Climate.

The government consults its climate policy with miners’ trade unions. Is this a good idea? Is it enough to talk to this group only?

It should talk to everybody. Including miners’ trade unions. It’s bad when the government limits its consultations to this professional group. Climate change affects all Poles. All professions, residents of towns and villages, the young and the old, men and women. Everybody. So consultations need to be as inclusive as possible. It’s bad when the government takes care of its immediate interests and disregards everyone else.

How should social partners be included in the works of the Committee?

Actually, it’s not that difficult. It is enough to invite representatives of nongovernmental organizations to participate in the Committee’s works. The list should also include interested economic organizations, representatives of local governments and experts. The Committee needs to become a place where a serious debate on one of the most important challenges facing Poland is taking place.

Is there a chance to find a political consensus on Poland’s climate policy?

It is difficult to find a consensus on this matter. The only way it could happen is to have a wide discussion on the opportunities and challenges. We need to call a spade a spade. We cannot procrastinate. We cannot talk only to those we like, or to those who vote for a certain party. This is a road to nowhere. However, I do believe that an open debate will allows us achieve a political consensus.

What topics will the Senate Climate Committee talk about?

I have already asked the Minister of Climate, Michał Kurtyka, to provide the Committee with full information on Poland’s climate policy. I think it will be the first open debate on this matter. During the upcoming meeting I will also propose a work schedule for the Committee until the end of the year. It will include, among others, learning about the EU climate policy and how it is linked with the financial perspective. We will also assess some of the government’s programs, such as “Clean Air”.

What can a committee led by the opposition contribute to the transparency of the debate on climate?

The Committee will welcome all interested parties. Not only the government and MPs, but also experts, representatives of NGOs and local governments. I hope it will become a place where real debate about such an important issue as climate change will be possible. I also think that the Committee could initiate new bills.

Would the Committee be able to help in negotiations on the climate neutrality goal and the Just Transition Fund?

I think it would. Today this discussion is happening between the government and the EU. Poles, even MPs, are not familiar with the documents drafted in the EU. The first ever Climate Committee in Poland’s Parliament may and should be a place where we openly listen to arguments from both sides.

What is your opinion on the role of the Polish Nuclear Power Programme in Poland’s climate policy? 

If I remember correctly this program was adopted by the coalition government of the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party. Since Law and Justice took over power, nothing has happened on this matter. Probably except for high salaries earned by the board members of the PGE EJ. But after 5 years we are yet to hear anything about the results of their work. Before the election, President Duda signed in the USA a letter of intent on the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Poland. This letter has not changed much either. We do not know any details. We don’t know what, where and when. I think this was about the presidential campaign and not about making real decisions on changing Poland’s energy mix. So I don’t actually know what I should be commenting on?