Poland’s green tide arrives in Brussels

While the previous Polish government tried to water down the EU’s climate action, the new one is supporting ambition

State secretary for climate Urzula Zielinska (Photos: European Union)


The new Polish government has announced its ambition to become a green player in Europe, backing a 90% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2040 and looking to pull forward the country’s coal exit.

Poland generates 70% of its electricity and two-thirds of its home heating from coal. With coal mining an essential economic activity in rural areas, maintaining state support for the brown stuff was a central part of past governments ruled by the nationalist PiS party.

But as a new centrist government took over in Warsaw, change is now underway.

“I’m coming here with a message of Poland stepping up its efforts to fight climate change,” said state secretary for climate Urszula Zielińska, who arrived in Brussels on Monday for an informal meeting of the EU’s Environment Council.

“We will step up our efforts and cooperate with European Union from now on in a much faster, much smoother, and much more confident way,” said Zielińska who was appointed three weeks ago.

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In EU matters, “we need to embrace the 90% reduction emission reduction target” that the European Commission is expected to table in the coming weeks for 2040, she said.

That means Poland will back EU Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra and ambitious countries like Denmark and Germany, which are supporting a 90% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2040, to be presented on 6 February.

But she also stuck to Poland’s long-standing policy by insisting that richer EU countries continue to support the poorer Eastern Europe in their green transition.

“If this target is agreed, we will be at the same time emphasising the need to help countries like Poland, like many countries in central Eastern Europe, look after the social part of delivering such ambitious target,” Zielińska said.

Coal exit date to be brought forward

Domestically, the new government is also reevaluating the country’s coal policy.

“We are currently in the process of reviewing policies that concern climate and transition and energy plans,” the new state secretary explained, indicating that Warsaw was looking to undertake a “very fast” update of its National Energy and Climate Plan (NCEP).

These multi-year plans must be submitted in their final form by mid-2024, leaving the new government several months to overhaul the plan submitted by its conservative predecessor.

All policies are “under revision” and the objective is “to step up the efforts,” she said.

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Could the country pull its planned coal exit forward? “I believe we must, and we must do it very soon, because only with an end date we can plan,” Zielińska said.

Last year, Poland’s state-owned power utility PGE expressed its support for a 2040 coal exit, drawing an immediate rebuke from the nationalist government, which had set a political deadline of 2049 – one year before the EU is expected to hit its net-zero emissions target.

“We will be looking to set an end date,” Zielińska confirmed, asking for “another six months” to finalise the plan.

“One thing is sure: we are accelerating and stepping up, and Poland is on board with climate efforts with the rest of Europe.”

This article was produced by Euractiv and republished under a content sharing agreement. Read the original here.

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