Polish president vetoes Kyoto Protocol, pending new analysis

Andrzej Duda says he wants to see impact of treaty’s second phase on economy in decision that sparks anger in developing world

(Pic: Prawo i Sprawiedliwość/Flickr)

Duda (centre) and PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski (right) say they want to renegotiate the EU’s 2030 climate and energy package (Pic: Prawo i Sprawiedliwość/Flickr)

By Ed King

Poland’s president has blocked an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty, arguing it needs more time to assess its potential economic impacts.

Andrzej Duda’s intervention comes a day after the eurosceptic and conservative Law and Justice (PiS) won power on the back of promises that included protecting the country’s coal industry.

The move comes weeks before a global climate pact to replace Kyoto from 2020 is set to be finalised by nearly 200 countries in Paris.

“It’s unwelcome news at a time when we have momentum towards agreeing a long term strategy to do with climate change,” said Giza Gaspar Martins, an Angolan diplomat who represents the world’s Least Developed Countries group at UN talks.

Analysis: Don’t bet on a Polish EU climate policy revolt

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol is the world’s only legally binding climate treaty, and mandated signatories to slash CO2 emissions 5% from 2008-2012 on 1990 levels.

An extension to 2020 was agreed at the UN in December 2012, covering 15% of global emissions with only Europe and Australia mandated to make cuts.

An EU official said Poland’s move was unlikely to impact its negotiating strategy for the upcoming Paris summit, but said it could affect the EU’s wider low carbon planning.

Report: EU moves towards ratifying Kyoto Protocol extension

Still, Poland is still bound by the EU’s 2020 climate package, which covers the bloc’s Kyoto contributions and ensures Warsaw’s carbon-intensive economy is not hit hard by the targets.

Julia Michalak, a Polish climate and energy expert at Demos Europa said the announcement was “posturing” by the incoming administration.

“When you look at the content it does not decrease Poland’s emission reductions up to 2020,” she said.

Liz Gallagher, head of climate diplomacy at the E3G think tank called the move “opportunistic and rash.”

“Poland has extracted significant concessions from its European partners on the EU climate policy, and these have gone to subsidise coal rather than create a modern Polish economy,” she added.

Jan Kowalzig at Oxfam International described the move by the newly-elected party as “flexing muscles” before the Paris summit. “Yet is a very unhelpful signal,” he said by email.

Poland generates over 85% of its electricity from burning coal, and despite receiving funding from the EU to invest in cleaner forms of energy appears reluctant to diversify.

A study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released on Tuesday said the country had vast untapped wind power resources, and could cut consumption through efficiency investments.

Report: Poland can break coal chokehold, says clean power body

Earlier this month PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said his party wanted to build more coal plants and was ready for a fight with the EU over carbon targets.

“As to the climate package renegotiation is needed. We should not have agreed to that, it could have been vetoed,” he said.

The decision could be overturned by parliament by a three-fifths majority once the new analysis has been assessed, Bloomberg reported.

Yet Duda’s Law and Justice party clinched the first majority since 1989 in Poland’s lower chamber with 235 out 460 seats, providing the lawmakers to enact his agenda.

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