Poland was expected to use the COP26 summit to announce its climate neutrality goals as the last country in the EU to do so. But Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s speech, which focussed on problems rather than solutions, was a letdown, experts told EURACTIV.
After accusing the EU of blackmail for withholding EU funds over an ongoing rule of law spat, Morawiecki spoke of the tremendous challenges that await Poland on its way to climate neutrality. This path left various stakeholders feeling underwhelmed as no new ideas were brought to the table.
“We heard nothing new. No commitments on de-carbonisation nor ideas how Poland can join the climate-saving efforts” says Paulina Sobiesiak-Penszko from Institute of Public Affairs, quoted by Onet news service.
Speaking to EURACTIV, Anna Ogniewska from Greenpeace Poland said Morawiecki’s lack of solutions reveals the country’s absence of real climate change policy.
“He only mentioned selected plans on renewables or anti-smog actions. Speaking to numerous less-affluent countries that are more exposed to the consequences of the climate crisis, he attempted to explain the lack of ambitions with the economic situation”, she said.
Other stakeholders said that Morawiecki is not taking the Commissions’ proposals, including Fit for 55, seriously.
“PM Morawiecki was right to underline the significance of just transition in the light of the Fit for 55 package. He left unsaid, however, that the transition has to be started early enough and now Poland is trying to water down the Commission’s proposals,”Marcin Kowaczyk from WWF Poland told EURACTIV.
Should Poland go nuclear to abandon coal?
Poland’s glacial progress on coal means is one of the major barriers to the EU achieving its climate goals, says Charles Moore from Ember. “However, Poland is becoming increasingly exposed on the coal issue – both politically and economically.”
Moore points out that rising carbon prices and plummeting costs of clean energy infrastructure puts Poland on track for an expensive and uncompetitive electricity system if it sticks with coal.
“With a new German government looking likely to commit to a 2030 coal phase-out, there will be no one left for Poland to hide behind on coal,” he told EURACTIV.
Poland is one of the states that joined the new pro-nuclear alliance initiated by Czechia and France. But is nuclear the right solution?
As Charles Moore sees it, nuclear is a source of clean electricity and therefore can be part of the long term solution. The issue is it can take over ten years to get a plant up and running, so new nuclear is not likely to be a solution this decade.
Further debates on it could risk being nothing more than a distraction from implementing technologies needed right now, Moore believes.
“What should be the focus right now is a massive scale-up of wind, solar and supporting clean energy infrastructure, e.g. grids, storage, hydrogen etc., coupled with a laser-focus on energy efficiency,” says Moore.
New climate minister: will she change the game’s rules?
Another factor that can potentially influence Poland’s green transition policy is last week’s cabinet reshuffle and the new climate and environment minister.
Michał Kurtyka was replaced by Anna Moskwa, former marine economy deputy minister and former member of PKN Baltic Power company.
“The current situation in the Polish energy sector requires extraordinary competences. Kurtyka might not have been a perfect minister, but under Moskwa, we will miss him soon,” said Adam Grzeszak in Polityka news magazine.
Marcin Kowalczyk is more hopeful, saying that the experience in renewables might help the new minister remove the barriers in this area. However, he admits the general lack of experience in climate policy might turn out to be a problem.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]