Poland Continues To Lead Resistance Against EU Climate Targets

  • Date: 28/06/11

Poland won’t stop other countries from adopting ever more ambitious carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets, but will resist others’ efforts to impose these restrictions on Poland itself, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Monday.

“When it comes to the Polish economy, we simply can’t afford it,” Mr. Tusk said in an interview with the Polish version of the Newsweek magazine, echoing other Polish policymakers voicing their frustration on the European Union’s climate change policies. “Poland produces 95% of its electricity from high [CO2] emitting coal and our European partners must remember this.”

Mr. Tusk’s comments follow a scrapped European Union initiative to revise a plan to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by more than the current agreed level of 20% versus 1990s levels.

“We must wait for comparable efforts by other world powers,” Mr. Tusk said. “Only then will it be possible to talk about higher emission reduction goals.”

Poland’s overwhelming reliance on coal for its electricity puts it in a difficult position vis-à-vis interest groups with ambitions to make Europe the world leader in renewable energy innovation and generation.

“[Poland] would certainly prefer a longer timeline to meet carbon goals and diversify its power sector,” said Will Pearson, a London-based energy analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy. “It will likely continue to lead the resistance to deeper reductions and maybe to the 20% target as well.”

Other Polish policymakers were less diplomatic in expressing annoyance with EU’s environmental policy on climate change and the 20% emissions reduction target.

“It’s such an ambitious and difficult goal for the Polish economy that every word about even higher ambitions is an irresponsible word,” Janusz Lewandowski, European Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget, told Polish daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

Mr. Lewandowski said other countries with strong industrial bases, such as Germany, are also expressing concern about the goal of becoming “world champions in green technology”, and mentioned an article in Germany daily Die Welt, whose headlines loosely translates to ‘The Greening of Europe Means Famine’.

“As a country based on coal, Poland is in a head-on collision with the EU’s overblown ambitions,” Mr. Lewandowski is quoted as saying.

“These goals are too ambitious for the Polish economy,” Mr. Lewandowski added. “There is also a view breaking through that the theory of coal-generated power as the main culprit of global warming is seriously in doubt.”

He added that increasingly frequently a question mark is being placed next to global warming itself.

Although some western European media found Mr. Lewandowski’s comments scandalous, Mr. Pearson doesn’t.

“I don’t think it’s that surprising that people would voice a dissenting opinion,” Mr. Person said. “There are a lot of questions on the future implications of global warming and… worldwide there is still debate over many aspects of the science of climate change.”

Mr. Pearson added there is a general consensus about carbon emissions from industrial sources contributing to global warming.

“Countries that have more to lose from carbon reductions will be more adamant in questioning the science and resisting the costs associated with turning over the fuel mix in the energy sector,” Mr. Pearson said.

In the U.S., areas with more industry or more coal use in the power sector are more resistant to climate change policy, Mr. Pearson said. “[You see] similar patterns among EU member states.”

The Wall Street Journal, 28 June 2011


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