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Welcome to Poland, the COP19... and coal country

The 19th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has just started in Warsaw, Poland. This conference is expected to design a path that should lead to a binding international treaty that will limit greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change effects. The fact that Poland is hosting a so important conference is pretty peculiar for a variety of reasons.

First, Poland generates 83% of its energy with coal and lignite; this makes Poland highly dependent from fossi fuels for its energy supply. Moreover, Poland is second largest producer of coal at European level, owning 20% of the European coal production. For these reasons, in Brussels Poland regularly opposes any European policy aimed at limiting CO2 emissions and combating climate change.

Looking into COP19 itself, we realise a couple of very controversial facts. The first one is that on November,  18th and 19th an international conference of the World Coal Association is going to be hold in Warsaw, which will focus on coal and climate change and the so-called "clean coal", a contradiction in terms that we are not sure deserves a two-day discussion.

The second is that the COP19 itself is sponsored by two giants of coal, PGE Capital Group and Arcelor Mittal Poland. PGE is the largest energy company Polish that produces 90% of the country’s energy, of which about 60% from lignite. In 2012 PGE extracted more than 50 million tons of coal from its mines. Arcelor is the largest steel producer in the world, as well as coal and iron mine owner. In 2012 Arcelor extracted about 8 million tons of coal and 56 million tons of iron.

As a hosting country, Poland should guide negotiations towards the goal of a binding treaty. But in this context, are we sure that it has the political will to do so? We doubt it, because it seems that Polish government has no intention to change course in the future. In fact, according to a recent report commissioned by the Chancellery of the Polish Prime Minister, in 2050 Poland will still produce 60-80% of its energy with coal. Which means that in 2050 Europe will still have a country with a fossil energy system coming directly from the first industrial revolution.

We hope to be wrong, but at the moment it looks like Poland is a sort of PR of coal. Once the COP19 is done, we will see what the results will be.