Diplomacy Energy Poland

Poland u-turns on COP26 pledge to phase out coal

| 2021-11-05 2 min read

Poland u-turns on COP26 pledge to phase out coal

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Polish Climate and Environment minister Anna Moskwa appeared to reverse Poland’s commitment to cutting coal power by 2030 on Thursday, just hours after her government had signed up for the policy at the COP26 climate conference.

More than 40 major fuel-burning countries including Poland and Ukraine pledged to phase out coal power at the COP26 on Thursday, according to a leaked document. The government of the UK, which is hosting the two-week climate change event in Glasgow, called the deal a “milestone moment” for global clean energy.

However, a matter of hours after Poland had signed the agreement, Moskwa tweeted “the transformation in the coming years must, above all, be planned and fair. The social contract adopted by Poland provides for a departure from hard coal by 2049. Energy security and the provision of jobs are our priorities.”

Europe Beyond Coal campaign director Kathrin Gutmann responded that “with the ink of her signature not even dry on today’s 2030’s coal phase out commitment at COP26, Polish minister Anna Moskwa has underscored that her government cannot be trusted to sign a postcard, let alone a responsible climate pledge.”

Under the agreement, which has not yet been published in full, at least two dozen nations have pledged to eliminate coal power – the greatest contributor to climate change – “in a way that benefits workers and communities”. The deadline for this phase-out is 2030 for developed countries and 2040 for the rest of the world. The signatories also committed to ending all investments in new coal power and accelerating the deployment of clean power generation.

Other countries named as having committed to phasing out coal burning included Vietnam, Egypt, Chile and Morocco. Major coal nations India, China, Japan and the US did not join the initiative, however.

More than two-thirds of Poland’s energy comes from coal, and this reliance has caused tensions with the EU. The key dispute has been over the Turow lignite mine, near Poland’s border with Czechia, which employs around 3,600 people and produces over 27 million tonnes of brown coal per year. After Poland extended the mine’s operation licence from 2026 to 2044, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ordered its temporary closure, pending a final verdict. The right-wing PiS government refused to comply, and then refused to recognise the resultant EUR 500,000 daily fine.

However Poland is said to be in advanced talks with Czechia over Turow, and has already made several commitments to greener energy sources including gas, renewables and the construction of a nuclear plant by 2033. Until Moskwa’s volte face yesterday, Poland signing the COP26 deal had looked like further evidence that it may accept the EU’s target of climate neutrality by 2050. The COP26 conference runs until 12 November.