Poland urges world to plant more forests

Poland has urged the international community to plant more forests, despite being admonished by the EU for logging one of its own protected woodlands (pictured). [Shutterstock]

Poland called on Wednesday (21 November) for more forests to be planted worldwide to capture carbon emissions and so curb global warming, speaking ahead of annual UN climate talks to be held in Warsaw next month.

Poland’s hosting of the talks has been contentious given its dependence on high-polluting coal for energy and various environmental disputes Poland’s conservative nationalist government has had with the European Union, including increased logging of the ancient Białowieża Forest.

Warsaw has repeatedly said it needs time to reduce its reliance on coal and has meanwhile launched campaigns to promote the use of forests to capture carbon, as well as electric vehicles to reduce diesel pollution.

Great Expectations from COP24's Polish hosts

Poland’s turn at holding the UN’s annual climate summit is meant to be the one shot at making the Paris Agreement a reality. But the hosts also want to make sure “no-one gets left behind” by what promises to be a major societal change.

Environment Minister Henryk Kowalczyk noted on Thursday that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently determined that it was not possible to limit global warming without curbing carbon emissions.

The IPCC report said that keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius means making rapid, unprecedented changes in the way people use energy to eat, travel and live.

The report said that if average global temperature growth temporarily exceeded 1.5C, additional carbon removal techniques would be required.

“The Polish presidency draws attention to this through encouraging the world to undertake concrete measures in this field,” Kowalczyk told a news conference.

“We have drafted a ministerial declaration ‘Forests for Climate’ which sends a message regarding the undertaking of appropriate steps to maintain and to increase the CO2 capture potential by forests ecosystems and soils.”

The IPCC report said that to limit temperature rise to 1.5C, an increase of up to 9.5 million square kilometres of forests would be needed by 2050, compared to 2010 levels, among other measures. That is equivalent to the size of China.

One third of Poland’s land mass is covered by trees and the country is planting more. But the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) got into conflict with environmental groups and the EU by increasing logging in the primeval Białowieża Forest.

In April, the EU Court of Justice ruled Poland had broken the bloc’s environmental laws with the logging. The environment minister responsible for the logging was dismissed and his successor Kowalczyk said then that the logging had already been halted and Warsaw would honour the ECJ ruling.

Poland’s logging of protected forest is illegal, top EU court rules

European Court of Justice judges decided on Tuesday (17 April) that Poland’s logging activities in Białowieża Forest are against EU law and heavy fines are due to follow unless the government takes immediate action.

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