New Polish Government Opposes EU Climate Deal

Beata Szydlo, deputy chairman of the opposition Law and Justice Party and candidate for prime minister.Beata Szydlo, deputy chairman of the opposition Law and Justice Party and candidate for prime minister.Poland’s opposition Law & Justice party is on course for an election victory unprecedented in the country’s modern history after pledging a tougher stance on refugees and more state control over the economy. Tapping concerns among some of its conservative Catholic base that too many Muslims are being allowed into Europe, Law & Justice opposes German-led efforts forcing EU member states to take in more migrants. It’s against plans to curb CO2 emissions, which would hit the country’s unprofitable coal mining industry. It also seeks western support for a greater NATO presence on Polish soil. —Bloomberg, 26 October 2015

The likely winner of Poland’s Oct. 25 parliamentary election called on Tuesday for a renegotiation of a climate deal agreed last year by the European Union, saying the country needed more coal-based power stations. The European Union agreed last year, after marathon negotiations, to cut greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030, pitting heavy industry against green business. The emissions goal is also the basis of the EU position for the Paris climate change talks that start on Nov. 30. “We have to fight for this in the European Union. As to the climate package renegotiation is needed. We should not have agreed to that, it could have been vetoed,” PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said. —Reuters, 13 October 2015

One potential sticking point between an eventual PiS government and Berlin is climate policy. Germany has been at the forefront of tougher EU climate policies, but Lipi≈Ñski said Poland under PiS would “do everything it can to reverse the current policy because they believe coal remains Poland’s energy future.” Poland has huge coal reserves and depends on it for roughly 90 percent of its electricity needs. Waszczykowski said the current government made a “big mistake” last year by accepting an EU-wide target calling for a 40 percent emissions cut by 2030 because Poland needs “more time” to reach this target. PiS suggests it would want to negotiate opt-outs from EU rules on carbon emission reductions, and says the crucial role of coal for Poland’s economy deserves “special treatment.” Such a move would likely prove contentious with Berlin. —Politico, 23 October 2015

Poland’s leading opposition party is seeking to negotiate exemptions from the European Union’s rules on reducing carbon emissions because the nation’s energy security and economic development depends on coal. Law & Justice, which opinion polls show winning October’s general election, has vowed to toughen Poland’s stance on climate issues to protect the $526 billion economy, which relies on coal for about 90 percent of its electricity. While the government has been critical of EU emissions goals, it didn’t veto last year’s move toward stricter curbs on discharging heat-trapping carbon dioxide. “The strategy that we’re planning for the economy rejects the dogma of de-carbonization,” Piotr Naimski, in charge of preparing energy policy at Law & Justice, said in an interview last week. “The role of coal in Poland’s economy fully deserves to receive special treatment.” –Maciej Martewicz, Bloomberg, 22 June 2015

Whether Poland will continue to support the EU’s 2030 package or whether it will change in light of an inadequate Paris agreement will very much depend on the parliamentary elections this October. Poland’s main opposition party, the Law and Justice Party, opposes the EU’s 2030 climate package and has called it a serious blow for Poland’s economy. A victory for the opposition could spell the end of the decarbonisation consensus in Poland and the EU. Three years ago, the Law and Justice Party proposed a referendum on the EU’s 2020 climate package which the party opposed just as much. Although it was voted down by MPs in 2012, there is clearly a case for reviving the referendum proposal if the Paris climate accord fails to become legally binding. A referendum would bring a renewed focus on just how much current climate policies are costing people both in the developed and developing worlds and just how little those policies are giving in return. –Benny Peiser, Keynote address to the Solidarno≈õƒá Trade Union Climate Conference, Katowice, Poland 29 May 2015

Questions lingered about key aspects of a draft agreement on the world’s climate, as the final scheduled round of negotiations ended Friday before a the crucial summit, which opens next month in Paris. Developed countries have said that they would commit 100 billion dollars per year to a global climate fund by 2020, but did not come to a concrete proposal for funding after 2020. A bloc of developing countries, the Group of 77, which comprises 134 countries, said the financing commitments did not go far enough. Environmentalists said there had been too little progress on moving the draft forward. —Deutsche Presse Agentur, 26 October 2015

Speculation about machinery of government changes is set to reach a fever pitch this week as MPs debate a private member’s bill on the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The bill, introduced by the maverick Tory MP Peter Bone, is unlikely to pass — in its current form at least. Nevertheless, for the hundreds of civil servants at DECC, the debate will not be much fun because its dissolution remains a distinct possibility. If Mr Osborne does choose to wind up DECC, he might wait until the new year to do so — but I certainly wouldn’t rule out his doing so before then. –Robin Pagnamenta, The Times, 26 October 2015

The abolition of DECC would not be difficult to achieve. Energy policy could be transferred to the Department for Business and climate policy moved to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Many unnecessary green expenditure items could be phased out altogether. Moreover, the current political climate is favourable for such action. With green opposition deeply divided and ineffective, it is an ideal opportunity for the government to abolish this unnecessary arm of the state without much fuss (although, in practice, it is likely to happen after the Paris conference).  Such a move would be good for cost-effective energy policy, good for consumers and good for the Exchequer. –Benny Peiser & Daniel Mahoney, City A.M. 27 August 2015

Domestic electricity prices are now the highest in the Europe and 52pc more than median prices in the Continent, surpassing both Ireland and Spain for the first time, according to official figures. Expensive policies designed to slash our reliance on fossil fuels are disproportionately driving up bills compared to other countries, experts say. –Kate Palmer, The Daily Telegraph, 24 October 2015