Poles Apart

13 June 2013


Poland is an extraordinary country. It has overcome many years of oppression and poverty to transform itself into a significant economic powerhouse and a proactive European player on diplomacy.

But it appears the Polish government is willing to risk their status as rising international star, and allow its politics to be captured by high carbon incumbents.

If the Polish government continues to pursue this position, it is quite likely that the EU will lose patience, and a diplomatic backlash is quite possible. This will result in Poland losing its say to shape the future of Europe’s energy regime, widening the gap between its ageing and inefficient energy infrastructure and a more dynamic, smarter and innovative power system across other EU countries.

ECO wonders if the Polish government is kicking itself in deciding to put their names forward for the Presidency of COP19 later on this year. Warsaw will not be a Poznan. Back in 2008, the Poles were still only agitators as opposed to today’s outright blockers of the EU’s energy and climate ambitions. Poznan was a low-key COP, unlike Warsaw, which should agree on the outlines of an Equity Reference Framework for the post-2020 deal; outline further efforts on public finance (with the engagement of Finance Ministers); close the pre-2020 mitigation gap; affirm the political significance of the Loss and Damage debate and set in place a series of processes to deliver a 2015 agreement.

Warsaw will be a high profile event. But Poland’s diplomatic strategy is flawed – they are invisible, and there is an emerging disquiet amongst many Parties and observers if they were the right choice. Among those are established voices such as Raul Estrada-Oyuela, a legend to those of us in the climate and diplomatic arena, who unforgettably locked delegates in the room in Kyoto to hammer out the subsequent protocol, who calls Poland’s ability to host such an important event into question, based on the Polish SBI chair’s failure to resolve this issue. (Link to Estrada’s letter here http://bit.ly/estrada-oyuela)

What is needed from the Polish government is not just to be a rising star, but a sophisticated diplomatic actor that understands how to build consensus around ambitious action climate change. An actor who has a more mature and deeper understanding of its national interest. An actor who understands that a reliance on coal undermines the long term prosperity of its own people, and recognises that modernising its economy is essential if it is to compete in a globalised world.   Instead, what we have is a government that plans to build new coal fired power plants and open new lignite reserves, which recent studies state have the worst implications upon health within the EU, and that also displace 20,000 people.  Such aggressive coal expansion, and its persistent objections to greater European ambition, cannot be reconciled with its desire to be an international player in the run up to 2015.

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