Greenpeace covered the windows of the HQs of the two largest Polish parties on Tuesday with posters “Poland without coal by 2030”. A number of climbers are also hanging from the PiS HQ.
According to the protesters, both parties have failed to address climate change in their elections programmes; they accuse the government of over-reliance on coal for Poland’s energy needs. They are particularly concerned at the fact that Poland’s energy policy up to 2040 envisages no retreat from coal.
Greenpeace accuse the current government of stopping the development of renewable source of energy, importing coal from Russia, and of the over-reliance on coal leading to a rise in the price of energy.
The leader of the PO responded to Greenpeace by arguing that his party shares the same objectives as the global campaigners. He said that they share a commitment to clean air. He called the Greenpeace protesters “welcome guests”.
The reaction of the ruling PiS was rather different. The party’s press spokesperson, Beata Mazurek, said that Poland withdrawing from the use of coal would mean “drastic rises in energy prices and an economic crisis”. She accused Greenpeace of trying to turn the clock back to pre-industrial times. Ms Mazurek also accused Greenpeace of attacking the wrong party, as she argued that PiS was taking the smog crisis seriously.
Coal industry becomes focus of political debate in Poland
Robert Biedroń’s “Spring” has proposed that Poland should shut down its coal industry by 2035. The PO led European Coalition (KE) has recently come out in favour of ending coal burning by 2030. Both are attempting to find policies to tackle the problem of smog that afflicts the country.
The ruling PiS supports the coal industry and does not want to see Poland’s energy mix abandoning coal. The industry’s financial fortunes have seen a turn around in the last few years and coal miners are a group of workers which tend to support PiS over the liberal opposition.
In order to move away from coal, Poland would have to institute a programme of building nuclear power stations, as renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind are not able to produce adequate supplies. Coal is a fossil fuel Poland still has and still wants to exploit, as it provides both energy and jobs for the economy.
However, Poland’s reliance on coal is creating problems for the country in the EU and within the UN’s COP process. This is why the government is exploring the viability of moving towards nuclear power. The problem with such a move, however, would be likely protests by the environmental lobby and local communities against any chosen locations.