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Poland fires against climate goals

, by Alexander Steinfeldt

Already a few days after the election of the Polish Parliament (Sejm) the strong headwinds from Polish nationalists against international climate protection goals are noticeable. This could not only weaken European ambitions but also endanger the UN climate conference in Paris more generally.

Image: Bełchatów Elektrownia“ Ⓒ Greenpeace Polska - Flickr Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0) – The power station Bełchatów in Poland is the biggest thermal power plant in the EU and the world’s biggest brown coal power plant.

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  • Alexander Steinfeldt is member of JEF Berlin and works in the renewable energy sector in Berlin.

    Besides his interests for energy policy he is engaged with Central and Eastern European Countries.

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After the parliamentary elections those fears about the negative Polish attitude towards a sustainable energy and climate policy were realised. The Polish Energy Transition will feel marked resistance and now the other European states have to welcome a new-old partner sceptical of climate change at their round tables.

Even during the election campaign the PiS party’s (Law & Justice) top candidate Beata Szydło said that there will be no concrete climate protection goals in the European Council on her watch. She will not agree to a policy from Brussels that endangers the economy and jobs in her country.

New EU climate goal negotiations?

This was a campaign speech in front of workers at a coal site but shortly after the election the fighting face of PiS president Jarosław Kaczyński became visible. He repeated his demand to revoke the reduction of CO2 emissions by 40% till 2030 which were recently decided by the EU climate summit. The European climate policy would be an even bigger problem than the current refugee crisis, Kaczyński said.

The new government is still not yet established but Kaczyński the strategist has brought his influence to bear on the Polish presidential office. The president of Poland Andrzej Duda, a member of PiS himself, blocked the ratification of the UN Post-Kyoto Protocol. With that he has prevented the EU from sending out a uniform signal to the world in the run-up to the COP21 negotiations.

EU weakened at the climate conference in Paris

If there will be further tensions between the EU member states before the UN climate conference and if other EU countries also become afflicted by the nationalistic ideas that Poland has succumbed to then not only are the EU’s goals and aspirations in danger but also Europe’s position as a tough and reliable negotiating partner will be weakened.

The former government under Civic Platform made big efforts towards creating and implementing a sustainable climate and energy policy, showing how to be a trustworthy European partner. With the Polish Renewable Energy Law, the increasing capacities of renewable energies, and the financing of RES plants by the public environmental fund Poland could have initiated a change of mentality in energy policy and a greener future for the country.

But now the interests of others will be channelled by the new government: the state-owned energy utilities which bring billions in profit, the thousands of jobs in the coal sector and the energy sector which is still completely dependent on coal. A real energy transition now looks different.

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