Green investment plan will be an impulse for economic growth

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Michał Kurtyka, Poland's Minister of Climate. [Permanent Representation of Poland to the EU]

The coronavirus pandemic has forced decision-makers to change their perspective on the economy and adapt to the new normal. In this unprecedented moment, we propose solutions which will trigger a new impulse for development. Michał Kurtyka presents Poland’s view on the green investment plan.

Michał Kurtyka is the Minister of Climate of the Polish Republic. This opinion piece has been written exclusively for EURACTIV.com.

Poland’s ambition is to make green investments the pillar of the changes, as they are going to allow to build a modern economy of tomorrow and move closer towards the objectives of the EU climate policy.

The current pandemic has reinforced our belief that the path of transformation leading towards low and zero emissions is absolutely correct. Poland absolutely needs green investments as they are going to help drive the economy, create new jobs and strengthen the competitive advantage of our domestic businesses on the international markets.

Following that path will give us a chance to develop and is going to bring us specific economic benefits. That is why in this year alone, the Ministry of Climate will utilise, for instance, the EU, Norway and national funds, and put PLN 7.8 billion (approximately €2 billion) towards facilitating green investments.

The funds will be used to implement projects related to energy transformation, improving air quality, thermal upgrading of buildings, development of electromobility, investments in RES micro-installations or solutions related to mitigating the effects of drought.

Poland has been consequently supporting the development of renewable energy sources, i.e. in the form of an auction system. Since 2016, new capacities have been contracted – a total of 1.7 GW in photovoltaic installations and approximately 3.4 GW in wind farms.

The total value of the support amounted to over PLN 38 billion (approximately €8.7 billion), out of which PLN 37 billion (approximately €8.4 billion) has been put towards new installations.

The auctions planned for this year will result in creating a power output of over 2.4 GW coming from new, green power sources, out of which 800 MW will be generated from wind energy, while 1.5 GW will come from solar power. That fact positions Poland in the first place in the EU in terms of the total area of onshore wind farm construction.

Implementing the new investments will also accelerate the transformation. We are aware of the fact that the coronavirus did not make the problems and challenges of the energy sector disappear.

In the context of Poland, the key issue will be to replace the old coal-fired power stations with zero-emissions power sources installed in onshore and offshore wind power, photovoltaics and low-emission power sources such as natural gas or nuclear power while maintaining energy security.

The scale of the challenges facing our country is incomparable to other EU member states. We believe that climate transformation may be combined with the plan to rebuild the economy after the pandemic, but that requires involving considerable resources in order to make our ambitions become a reality.

Just several years ago, nobody would have thought that Silesia, which for centuries has been a centre of coal mining and an industrial area bringing together numerous energy-intensive industries, would become the centre of the global discussion on the climate policy and the search for the methods to counteract climate change.

The key decisions to protect our planet’s climate were taken in Katowice during the COP24 summit. What seemed impossible has now become a fact. It showed that Poland is an active participant of the global discussion on climate change and the transformation of economies towards low and zero-carbon emissions.

The concept of “Just Transition” – ensuring environmental protection without slowing down the economy and with due respect to jobs – was introduced by Poland.

Our country supports the EU’s ambitions regarding achieving climate neutrality by the entire Union until 2050. However, Poland’s acceptance of the aforementioned commitment as a national goal depends upon the availability of the funding for energy transformation, social acceptance and ensuring that the industry remains competitive.

We cannot allow for a situation in which the costs of the changes will be incumbent upon the weakest, while the industry decides to relocate manufacturing outside of the European Union in fear of additional costs.

Climate ambitions of the European Union must therefore be realistic, i.e. they must account for the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the situation in the individual countries.

Since the beginning of the discussion on climate neutrality we have been stressing that despite the fact that evolution of the economy and the energy sector is in our best interest, it must be carried out in a responsible manner with care for the poorest.

We should not begin discussions which may increase the burden and hinder the post-pandemic recovery of the economies. Each crisis involves not only challenges but also primarily opportunities for a new beginning and building a future based on new, green, low-emission investments.

Therefore, we welcome the Recovery Fund proposed by the European Commission of an estimated total value of €750 billion which aims, among others, to facilitate economic growth based on green investments.

From the perspective of the transformation of the energy sector, the key role will be played by the increase of the Just Transition Fund from €7.5 to 40 billion, as Poland will become one of its key beneficiaries.

We view the Commission’s proposal as an expression of confidence that our country will take active measures towards a low-carbon economy.

We believe that investments in the energy sector, in particular in RES, are required in Poland as well as in the entire EU, as they may significantly drive the impulse for the recovery of the economies after the coronavirus pandemic.

Today, we must think about how to take advantage of the opportunities and the possibilities to increase the pace of the economic transformation in Poland.

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