Poland to Put ‘Common Sense’ Above Faster Climate Action as COP 24 President
Poland will expect the world to put “common sense” above enhanced climate ambition when it hosts this year’s United Nations climate summit, the country’s special climate envoy, Tomasz Chruszczow, told Climate Home News correspondent Arthur Neslen in an exclusive interview last week.
Chruszczow “said a push to increase national pledges to stop the world warming more than 1.5°C should not be the focus for the world’s climate negotiators when they meet in the Polish city of Katowice in December,” Neslen writes. “Instead, Chruszczow called for other states to slow down and concentrate on agreeing the rulebook for the Paris agreement.”
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“Instead of being driven by enthusiasm, let’s be driven by responsible common sense, which is about poverty eradication, combatting hunger, and security of energy supplies,” Chruszczow said.
Since the Paris agreement in 2015, diplomats and climate hawks have been eyeing this year’s COP 24 as a significant moment to amp up greenhouse gas reductions in the crucial years before 2020 and strengthen national targets for the decade between 2020 and 2030.
But Chruszczow, who “will represent the global community and be responsible for an agenda that encourages business and civil society to take greater action on cutting carbon” during COP 24, “remains skeptical about how fast the world can go,” Neslen writes. “A UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) review of actions needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C—due out this year—would ‘probably not’ result in new action from governments, he said.”
While most nations have agreed to boost their climate ambition and hold as close as possible the 1.5°C long-term target, Chruszczow said that goal is already beyond reach. “If we want the world to stay within safe limits of temperature range, I would risk saying we are already beyond the safe limits,” he told Neslen.
He added that what Neslen calls “enthusiastic declarations” are of less value than “achievements so far” in countries like Poland—which has been out of step with EU climate targets, but saw significant carbon reductions after shutting down some of its heavy industries in the early 1990s.
In an emailed statement to Climate Home News, Poland’s environment ministry was vague about whether it acknowledges human activity as a key driver of climate change.
“We have no doubt that we must combat climate change,” the ministry stated. “Its effects cause, among other things, economic losses, and also threaten the health and lives of people. It is therefore in the interests of all of us, regardless of the disputes over the causes of this phenomenon, to work towards reducing climate change.”
Poland’s far-right Law and Justice Party government is currently trying to dial back a controversy over logging in the ancient Bialowieza forest, while connecting climate policy more closely to the country’s reliance on coal-fired electricity generation.
“Climate policy has been outsourced—or taken over—by the ministry of energy because, from the government’s perspective, it affects coal plants and power plants,” said Aleksander Sniegocki, climate project manager at Poland’s WiseEuropa think tank. “At some point in 2017, energy just became the key ministry for negotiating EU climate regulations.”
Tomaszewski said COP 24 “may veer off-green”, Neslen writes, with Poland as the host. “They are going to say decarbonization is happening. We’re planning to use more natural gas, build a Baltic pipeline, and import more from Norway,” he said. “And they will use Katowice as a platform to defend coal and say we are going to make it clean. And they will talk about forests and CO2. And everyone will be happy, the same as at COP 19, five years ago in Warsaw.”