Poland signed an agreement to phase out coal and thus qualify for the category of developing countries. This is not true and our climate ambitions should be much greater.
During the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Poland was included in a coalition of 40 countries as well as banks and other institutions that declared a gradual withdrawal from coal-based energy production and ending support for new coal-fired power plants. The agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C. The document says that the more developed economies will do it in the 1930s, and the less developed ones in the 1940s.
Aleksander Brzózka, the press spokesman of the Ministry of Climate and Environment, assures on his twitter that in the case of Poland it is about the 1940s.
On a global scale, Poland ranks 23rd in terms of GDP. Therefore, it is hard to believe that our country is in the group of developing countries to which the government is trying to qualify us in the context of the declaration of coal phase out. The fact is, however, that Poland belongs to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) – an organization bringing together 37 highly developed and democratic countries. OECD members should phase out coal burning by the 2030s in order to leave space for developing countries in the coal budget. That is, countries that are still catching up with economically richer countries. The European Union itself, of which Poland is a part, is also one of the most developed economies, which justifies the need to establish greater climate ambitions for our country.
The answer of the spokesman for the Ministry of Climate and Environment, as well as Poland’s positioning among developing economies, aroused consternation among Polish and foreign experts in the field of climate and energy transformation. It turns out that the exact date of abandonment of coal in Poland is still unknown, because the social contract with miners provides for the end date (2049) for mining only for hard coal mines in Silesia.
Given the global trends in coal phase out and the need to counteract the climate crisis, it is imperative that Poland has to stop mining and burning coal in the 2030s. Poland cannot pretend that it cannot afford to phase out. Especially in a situation where its extraction has been highly unprofitable for many years and requires adding public money to this business. Looking miners in the eyes and admitting that such distant dates are untenable is difficult but necessary. Changing the energy system to a zero-emission one is at the moment the most rational and adequate solution. Poland should focus on creating new places for miners, in sectors corresponding to their skills and needs of a modern economy, in industries such as construction and the renewable energy sector. Seemingly effective and clever actions to postpone our phase out from coal are a road to nowhere. The climate crisis cannot be fooled. Indefinitely postponing the necessary actions will end in a disaster that will primarily affect the inhabitants of coal regions. If we miss an opportunity and fail to help them quickly create an economic alternative to coal, we run the risk of the mining regions being left to their own devices at the end of this road.