Throughout the two weeks of negotiations there has been one country that we keep coming back to. Yes, there have been many called out for blocking negotiations, or for not doing enough to support implementation at home, but one stands out above all else.
Our hosts, Poland.
You see, the Polish Presidency has not created space for ambition here at COP 24, even with a complete understanding what outcome is needed. We really should accept by now that they will avoid working on support packages and revision of NDCs. However, the blame is not just on the presidency because the Polish government is making their job more difficult, it is the opposite of the support that should exist. It is difficult when the government and ministries are pushing the Presidency to consider the Polish agenda or the Presidency being understaffed, which is influencing the outcome of this COP.
So, what has the Polish Government been doing at COP? Well, the Polish Government and ministers are promoting coal or so called “clean coal” during side events, not only in the COP at the Polish Pavilion, but also at other conferences. We did try to avoid this during meetings before the COP, where the governmental officials were informed that such events would not be welcomed by the global community.
I’m sure you all remember last week as well, when the Polish president, Andrzej Duda said that Poland can use coal for the next 200 years, to which we responded by awarding them a Fossil.
Not bad enough for you? How about the Polish Minister of Energy, Krzysztof Tchórzewski, stating that the Ostrołęka C coal power plant, the construction of which was initiated one week after the announcement of the IPCC report, is uneconomic, but will be constructed anyway. What?!
But wait. Apparently, there are answers, as the Polish Minister of Environment said that the decaying trees in the primeval forest of Białowieża are responsible for air pollution. Well, that’s that solved. Our work here is done! Unfortunately, there wasn’t much hope when the COP was being planned either, as the Polish government chose several coal-sector companies to partner with to sponsor COP24. Among them we find the Polish Energy Group that is an owner of the biggest lignite power plant in Europe, Bełchatów, and one of the biggest polluters in Europe, as well as other – Tauron; JSW or PGG, the largest coal extraction companies in the EU. Also, there is PGNiG the national gas company, who was invited – there are no places at the table for green initiatives.
Last, a topic that deeply affected us all, when Polish authorities denied entry and/or deported at least 12 members of civil society groups due to attend the UN climate talks in Poland. The deportations follow the enactment of national legislation earlier this year passed by the Polish government in relation to the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC COP24. Several UN human rights experts have publicly questioned the compatibility of the law with international human rights standards and expressed today their “dismay at the actions taken by the authorities to prevent free and unfettered public participation in these critical multilateral discussions”. What is more, over the last few days, we’ve witnessed Parties cutting out references to human rights across different parts of the rulebook.
Poland, Poland, Poland. All the shame, all the blame!
Um, yeah, before we go, just a side note to the EU, this is a European COP. Why are you letting this happen? It’s hard to claim to lead when you are allowing one of your own to drag down the ambition.