Poland’s Just Transition declaration is a fata morgana
Katowice – At the UN climate summit (COP 24) it is hosting, Poland has invited heads of state to adopt a ministerial Solidarity and Just Transition Declaration , calling for a fair deal to coal workers and communities affected by the energy transition. But the Polish government has no plans for any such transition – instead it remains keen to keep the country’s reliance on coal for decades to come. The Declaration is therefore nothing more than a mirage.
1 December 2018
“This Declaration is in clear contradiction with the basic position of the Polish ruling party on the future of the energy sector: over-reliance on coal for decades to come,” says Bankwatch’s Just Transition coordinator Alexandru Mustață.
In mid-November, days before the start of the COP24, the Polish government unveiled its new draft energy strategy to 2040 which provides that Poland will still produce 60% of its energy from coal in 2030 and plans for a phaseout of onshore wind power by 2035.
The text of the Declaration to be adopted on Dec. 3 in Katowice differs considerably from the draft originally proposed by Poland, which appeared to be much more in line with the government’s appetite for coal: it prioritised preserving coal jobs over protecting the climate and did not mention climate justice or developing countries at all.
In an unusual move, the Polish Ministry of Energy has even issued its own position ahead of the COP24, which echoes the Polish mining unions’ demands for a revision of global climate policy and objects to increasing the EU emissions reduction targets.
Domestically, the Polish government argues it needs to keep coal alive to protect workers. In reality, Polish coal is expensive to extract, mines are unprofitable and closing, the country is importing increasingly more coal from Russia, and coal-dependent utilities are struggling to make a profit while keeping energy prices for households within politically acceptable limits. Additionally, poor air quality in Poland has become a volatile social issue.
“The timing is right for the start of a Just Transition in Polish coal regions: the country’s low unemployment and shortage of labour present a good macroeconomic window of opportunity to smoothly transition a large workforce to other sectors,” says Izabela Zygmunt, Bankwatch’s national coordinator for Poland. “If Poland misses this opportunity now, it may face another wave of painful, unmanaged mine closures like it did in the 1990s.”
“As world leaders sign the Silesia Declaration on Solidarity and Just Transition in Katowice, they should insist that Poland, which proposed this declaration in the first place, now take it seriously,” she adds.
While central and eastern Europe used to rally around Poland in its pro-coal stance, governments in the region are giving signs of changing gears. The Hungarian government recently said its preferred coal phaseout date was 2030, Slovakia announced an earlier than planned end to coal mining subsidies for 2023, and Czechia is running a successful national programme (RE:START) to help its three coal mining regions develop away from coal.
On Wednesday, Dec. 5, CEE Bankwatch Network, together with WWF and Climate Reality Project, will hold a side event ‘Local communities prepare for a post-coal future’ presenting efforts towards Just Transition in central and eastern Europe. Speakers at the event include representatives of municipalities in CEE. Bieszczady room, 11:30 – 13:00.
During the side event, Bankwatch will launch its publication ‘Heroes of Just Transition’, featuring stories from seven coal regions in central and eastern Europe where communities try to build post-coal futures.
For additional information please contact:
Just Transition Coordinator, CEE Bankwatch Network
Never miss an update
We expose the risks of international public finance and bring critical updates from the ground – straight to your inbox.