October 25, 2016

Poland could sign climate deal amendment if EU backs new coal plants

A protester flashes a victory sign as he holds Polish and EU flags during an anti-government demonstration

Poland is willing to back EU ratification of an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions if the European Commission guarantees financing for new, cleaner coal-fired power stations, the Prime Minister’s office said.

Last October Poland’s president unexpectedly vetoed 2012’s Doha amendment which extends the protocol until 2020, arguing that the country needed more time to analyse its impact on the economy.

The EU needs unanimous backing from member states in order to ratify the amendment.

The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, obliged about 40 developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of about 5 per cent in the period 2008-2012 versus 1990 levels.

Only a handful of EU nations including Italy and Hungary have completed ratification of the Doha amendment. The EU’s target for 2020 is to cut emissions by at least 20 per cent based on 1990 levels.

Poland generates most of its electricity in outdated coal-fired power stations. The oldest and least effective ones will have to be closed in coming years under European Union regulations aimed at emission cuts.

To avert blackouts Poland’s government has accelerated its efforts to build coal-fired power plants, saying that new technology would reduce emissions.

But the plan to stick to coal, which the government says will remain Poland’s primary source of energy for years, is costly due to rising emission costs and the reluctance of banks to finance coal projects.

“As part of its negotiations with the European Commission, Poland wants to make the ratification of the Doha amendment dependent on a guarantee of financing new energy investments based on coal and emission reductions,” the PM’s office said.

It also said that Poland would like to ratify the Paris climate agreement as soon as possible. A global climate agreement reached in Paris last December aims to transform the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in order to arrest global warming.

“It is also about the renewal of biodiversity, soil regeneration, improvement in air and water quality, taking into account the CO2 absorption (also by forests) and supporting the fight against hunger and poverty in the world,” the statement said.

Some political groups in the European Parliament have called on the European Commission to prevent nations such as Poland using forests to try to escape from cutting emissions in other areas.

The Paris agreement said planet-warming needed to be capped at well below 2 degrees Celsius and set an aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees. It will take effect once 55 nations responsible for 55 per cent of man-made emissions ratify it.

China and the United States ratified the Paris agreement last week, setting the stage for other countries to follow suit.

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