Polish businesses launch offensive against EU climate policy

  

The Polish Chamber of Commerce (PCC) threw its weight behind Warsaw’s campaign against the EU’s decarbonisation goals for 2050 yesterday (26 June), launching a study which claims that Polish jobs, growth, inflation and the environment are under threat.

It argues that compliance with the measures in the EU's low carbon roadmap will cost the country €22.7 billion per year after 2050, a GDP slump of 10% by 2030, and a 400% increase in electricity prices after 2020.  

“The effects will be catastrophic for the polish economy and budget,” said Bolesław Jankowski, a PCC expert and author of Warsaw’s energy strategy between 1991 and 1995.

“The current problems in Greece, Portugal and Spain show that implementing [the same climate] policies and mechanisms in all EU countries could generate problems and risks,” he warned.

Environmentalists and some academics dismissed the study as a biased position paper, funded by Poland’s energy intensive industry.

Jankowski was speaking in the European Parliament at the launch of the PCC’s review of the EU’s Low Carbon Roadmap for 2050, written by an ex-government minister, and uncritically received by Poland’s environment and economy ministries, speakers said.

Polish representatives in Brussels contacted by EurActiv deferred comment to the environment ministry representative in Warsaw, who did not return calls.

The Polish veto

The coal-dependent east European country has repeatedly blocked attempts by the EU to ratify the goal of an 80-95% cut in carbon dioxide emissions across the continent by 2050.

The report, which has already been launched in Poland, has been cited by some as the reason for Poland’s veto of climate measures at past European Council meetings.

However, its results have been disputed by an economics professor at Cracow University, Krzysztof Berbeka, for neglecting the economic benefits of decarbonisation - which Greenpeace say could create 350,000 jobs in renewable energy by 2020 – and thus lacking credibility.

Other environmental groups such as the Polish Climate Coalition noted that the report was funded by two Polish power utilities - TAURON and PGE – which between them control most of Poland’s electricity output and distribution networks.

Isaac Valero Ladron, a spokesman for EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, told EurActiv that Poland was isolating itself and that the rest of the EU would “move on” with the Roadmap.

“We are working on further measures needed to reach the cost-efficient milestones,” he said. “It's difficult to understand why some businesses are against reduced energy bills and more competiveness and innovation.”

EU 'Communism'

But Marek Kłoczko, the PCC’s secretary-general accused the EU of behaving like Soviet-era Communists in pushing through an ideological environmentalism that could brook no disagreement.

He singled out the EU’s attempts to bring international airlines into the Emissions Trading System (ETS) for particular criticism.

“Europe cannot just announce some policy and then oblige others to not fly to Europe,” he told EurActiv. “Some European leaders have become kind of ideologists, and I think that economic life needs a bit more rationality,” he said.

Asked whether the EU’s environmentalism was comparable to Soviet-era communism he replied: “Yes, it is an ideology if the enemies of discussion and negotiations and facts are not taking into account some rational arguments.”

“We have got a bad lesson in history from that and are a bit afraid of that,” he added.

Kłoczko said that a compromise between Poland and the EU could involve a revision to the EU’s benchmarking rules for its carbon market, or Poland being given a less stringent target than 80-95% decarbonisation by 2050. 

But environmentalists argue that the PCC’s opposition to EU climate policy is often based on assumptions that have not been made public, and speculative guesses.

“The Polish Chamber of Commerce is playing a dangerous game in being openly hostile to an issue so critical to so many major donors to the EU budget, because they are also key investors in the Polish economy,” Sanjeev Kumar, a senior associate at the E3G environmental consultancy told EurActiv.

“The more Poland tries to block European climate legislation, the more of a backlash they are risking from governments which will almost certainly seek to protect their economies from fossil fuel-intensive countries,” he said.

Positions: 

Speaking at the launch of the PCC’s report, Janusz Turski, the Managing Director of the Association of Polish Paper Makers said that Poland was being made a scapegoat by the EU for the failings of its climate policies. “Someone is going to pay the cost at the end of the day and if we are going to pay the cost, then we will pass it through to the consumers,” he said.

The PCC report claims that the 2050 Roadmap will actually lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions by increasing ‘carbon leakage’ – the flight of energy intensive industry abroad to countries with less stringent environmental regulations. “We are not yelling and screaming and hammering our hands against the desk,” he said. “We are trying to appeal to high level policy makers at home and at the EU level and this will be of critical importance to energy intensive sectors, not just in our country.”

Environmentalists were not convinced. “The Chamber of Commerce's report sadly failed to mention any of the many benefits Polish society would see from a low-carbon transition, which would boost innovation and create the jobs of the future,” Julia Michalak, the EU Climate Policy Officer at Climate Action Network-Europe told EurActiv. “Today, Poland's GDP numbers may look good, but without green incentives for the modernisation of its aging energy system this prosperity may not last long.”

Ilona Jedrasik, a policy officer for the Polish Climate Coalition agreed. “This is a very biased report,” she said over the phone from Warsaw. “It just shows the position of the huge Polish industries, not the small and medium enterprises. It shuld not be seen as a credible macro-economic analysis. We have a number of reports which show the positive impact of investment in energy efficiency or renewable energy, and how beneficial that could be for Polish employment.”

Timeline: 
  • 2020: EU pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% of 199 levels, increase the share of renewables in national energy mixes to 20% - both on 1990 levels - and increase energy efficiency by 20% on 2005 levels, although this last measure is non-binding.
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