November 14, 2013

Un-official introduction to the host country of COP-19 :: POLAND

Bankwatch Mail - November 11, 2013

Dear Participant to the 19th UN Climate Summit, welcome to Poland!
Let us introduce you to the country hosting the climate conference this year, and provide you with a short overview of the land and its people. This is indeed information you may not find in official Polish government brochures. However, we believe that the hospitality Poland is famous for requires that you have a clear picture of what the Polish Presidency of COP19 stands for.
Poland is the second largest coal producer in Europe, after Germany. In 2012 Poland produced 158 million tons of coal, which typically accounts for around 20 percent of total coal production in Europe. Also in 2012, 83 percent of electricity produced in the country was derived from coal burning (pdf). According to recent energy mix scenarios prepared by the Chancellery of the Polish prime minister, Poland plans to continue to base its energy system on coal: even after 2050, it is currently envisaged that 60-80 percent of Polish electricity will be produced from coal.



Hard coal and lignite in currently tapped deposits are being gradually exhausted, so there are plans to prepare and realise the use of several new deposits by 2030 (pdf): the hard coal deposits of 'Bzie-Dꢩna', '歩㯷ice' and 'Brzezinka', and the lignite deposits of 'Legnica' and 'Gubin,' as well as the satellite deposits of operating mines. Poland's former chief geologist and former deputy minister of the environment has said that the Polish Energy Policy to 2030 will lock Poland into an economic model that dates from the beginning of the twentieth century. Of the EU-28, Poland is leading the way when it comes to the number of new hard coal and lignite power plants being planned. This is due to Poland’s largely outdated energy system, where two thirds of the installed generation capacity is more than 30 years old. In order to tackle this, at present 12 GW of new coal and lignite capacity is planned. According to Dr. Micha㠗ilczyᳫi, Poland's former chief geologist and former deputy minister of the environment, the new coal and nuclear power plants planned within the Polish Energy Policy to 2030 will, for at least the next 80 years, lock Poland into an economic model that dates from the beginning of the twentieth century.


International relations

Once you scratch below the rhetorical surface it emerges that Poland imports a significant share of the hard coal it uses. Large deposits of coal, it is claimed by Polish officialdom, are playing a major role in ensuring Poland’s energy security (pdf). However, on the contrary, once you scratch below the rhetorical surface it emerges that Poland imports a significant share of the hard coal it uses: in 2011, the country imported 15 million tons of hard coal, while 76.4 million tons was extracted in Polish mines. According to Dr. Wilczyᳫi, by 2030 the extraction volume of hard coal in Poland will be less than is imported. Growing imports result from the discrepancy between the price of Polish coal and coal prices on the international markets.



Polish prime minister Donald Tusk continues to insist that Poland will continue to base its energy system on coal, because lignite in particular is the cheapest source of electricity. However, of course, Tusk and his advisers – not to mention the vocal coal lobby in Poland – fail to take into account the hidden social and environmental costs racked up by producing power from lignite – huge costs being paid daily by Polish society. According to Professor Mariusz Kude, these so called external costs associated with lignite power plants, and specifically from the two planned open-pit mines Legnica and Gubin, would amount to PLN 10 billion annually. The calculation considers harm to human health, materials, farming, biodiversity and land use changes. Professor Kude has pointed out that health impacts constitute more than half of these costs (pdf).

Health care
Health specialists say that Polish coal fired power stations cause 1,000 hospital admissions and 800,000 lost working days per year, costing patients, the national health system and the economy at large nearly EUR 8 billion per year in lost productivity. This data is confirmed by a report from the Health and Environment Alliance published in June this year. The scientific evidence that air pollution causes disease is no longer in doubt, according to Dr Michal Krzyzanowski, an epidemiologist working until recently at the World Health Organisation. Krzyzanowski says: “Circulatory and respiratory diseases associated with exposure to air pollution lead to a reduction in life expectancy of 10 months in the Polish population. Coal combustion, both in the electric power plants and in individual households, is the single biggest source of this pollution in Poland.” (pdf)



And it is not as if Poland has no choice when it comes to energy sources. Dr. Maciej Bukowski, one of the authors of a recently published report 'Roadmap 2050: Low Emission Poland 2050' and president of the Institute for Structural Research, has said that the decisions that we need to take now will decide whether Poland maintains the rate at which it catches up with the leading economies in the world. Bukowski warns, however, that there exists the risk of a 'middle income trap' for Poland, similar to that observed in Spain, Portugal and Greece, after their periods of dynamic growth. He says: “We are doing too little to prevent this. We focus too much on the cost of reforms, and not enough on the potential benefits. A low-emission climate policy is no exception.”
Meanwhile, president of the Institute for Sustainable Development, Dr. Andrzej Kassenberg, believes that Poland should not hide behind others and not negotiate, but instead see a potential innovative, green economy as an opportunity, and not only for climate issues.


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