Polish minister proposes EU formulate operational plan on climate change

Jerzy Kwieciński, the Polish Investment and Development Minister is arguing for the EU to formulate an operational plan for how to achieve an emission neutral climate change outcome.

“It is in the interests of Poland that the EU formulates an operational plan showing how the whole of the community can reach the goal of climate neutrality in emissions, to determine the costs and who should shoulder those costs,” Mr Kwieciński told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

“We are not against climate neutrality as a goal, but converting the Polish economy, which is currently 80 percent dependent on coal, to be a zero emissions economy, requires time and resources”, argued the minister. He felt that the cost of such a transformation is “hundreds of billions of PLN.”

The Polish minister reminded how the EU’s climate change strategy had until recently been based on the assumption that change would be gradual, so that neutrality (a state in which all emissions are neutralised) would be reached in the second half of the century. But the speeding up of the zero emission goal announced by Europe’s politicians has occurred without any preparatory analysis.

According to Mr Kwieciński, the weight of such rapid transition would fall disproportionately on the poorer members of the EU, who are more dependent on coal, leading to “energy exclusion”, whereas France and Scandinavia could reach such a goal with relative ease because of their energy mix. He pointed out that “Poland has taken measures to limit emissions through its clean air, energy and geothermal programmes.”

The minister felt that the danger of a two-speed Europe on this issue was very real. He argued that not only would the wealthy states have lower costs of transitioning, they would actually earn money from exporting the required technology to the poorer members of the Union.

Jerzy Kwieciński therefore argues that there is a need to design a system of compensating Poland and other members for having to absorb the necessary costs. Without that the costs for the economy and society could be unbearable.

“Climate neutrality is a worthy goal, and we all want to reach it, but without the necessary analysis and programmes it’s just a slogan,” he added.

In June, during the EU summit, the intention to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 was vetoed by Poland and other EU states. The climate strategy which is the subject of EU deliberations is to formulate new objectives and targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and on the shape of EU climate change policy for the coming decades.

Comment

The devil, as always, lies in the detail. The worthy aim of zero emissions is meaningless without a road map of how to get there.

This is why Poland is asking for the EU to analyse the costs and timing of the steps that need to be taken by individual member states. These, Poland believes, will show that there is a need for compensatory funds for countries which are most dependent on coal.

Polish dependence on coal can only be overcome by developing nuclear energy and renewables. But these are costly investments.

So EU solidarity rears its head once again. And as always it turns out that the diversity in interests and goals of individual states are very difficult to reconcile.

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