“There is no plan today to fully give up on coal,” said Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda.
(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) Poland is proud to host the United Nations’ 24th annual climate change conference, where climate “experts” from all over the world gather to explore solutions to climate change.
But Poland is just as proud – and likely prouder – to be the home of a thriving coal industry, and the conference is being held in Katowice, in the heart of coal mining country, The New York Times reported. The location has already been causing some interesting tension.
“There is no plan today to fully give up on coal,” said Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, in his opening remarks to the conference on Monday. “Experts point out that our supplies run for another 200 years, and it would be hard not to use them.”
In Poland, coal is known as “black gold” and employs almost 100,000 of its citizens, making it the most coal-dependent country in Europe.
On Tuesday, climate delegates were even greeted with a band made up of coal miners, playing to celebrate the day of Saint Barbara. Saint Barbara is the patron saint of coal miners.
Environmentalists have long been exasperated with the policies of President Duda, just as they are constantly outraged about the rhetoric coming from U.S. President Donald Trump. At least part of the American delegation is sympathetic to Poland’s reliance on coal – some of them are planning to set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels.
It’s something they’ve done before – and it has environmentalists’ blood boiling, particularly as the United States is not as reliant on coal as Poland.
“Proportionally speaking, the U.S. is not as coal dependent as we are with over 80 percent of our energy being sourced from coal,” said Marek Jozefiak, climate and energy coordinator for Greenpeace Poland, while talking to ABC News. He called the U.S. affinity for coal “scandalous.”
The Polish government’s showcasing of its coal industry is awkward for the convention, where delegates overwhelmingly want countries to have net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. Doing so means that the burning of coal would have to be almost completely eliminated.
Until recently, climate advocates hoped they were making progress. The 2015 Paris agreement seemed to indicate that countries had at last reached a consensus on climate change and had resolved to launch a unified effort to tackle the problem.
Even though the accord lacked an enforcement mechanism, that consensus suffered a blow when President Trump pulled the United States out of the treaty. And the countries that have stuck with it have barely put a dent in their targets for reducing carbon emissions.
In fact, the goal of the United Nations meeting this month is to establish guidelines that will make the Paris agreement easier for countries to follow and to track their progress.
For its part, Poland has argued that that if large polluters like the United States do not intend to meet their carbons emissions goals, smaller countries should not be expected to comply either.
And perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the country is planning to open another coal mine. Deputy Energy Minister Grzegorz Tobiszowski said in a news conference that a decision will probably be made next year. This comes off the heels of comments he made suggesting that Poland’s growing economy is calling for more energy than renewables are capable of supplying.
And President Duda isn’t backing down, either.
“I’m not going to argue with scientists how much human activity affects natural environment, including climate,” he said recently while visiting a coal mine in southern Poland. “Please, don’t worry. As long as I am the president, I won’t allow anyone to murder the Polish mining. You are a strategic industry that is the foundation of our economy.”