Poland Energy Minister shrugs off net-zero “fantasy”

Poland Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski has claimed the EU push for net zero emissions by 2050 is a “fantasy”, for Poland at least, saying that the economy would need an injection of €700 to €900 billion.

This is far from the first resistance the Polish government has exhibited towards EU climate targets, with the country refusing to follow the French drive for a coal-free energy mix and for all member states to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.

With legislation in the pipeline to allow the government to open new coal mines without consulting local authorities, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland anticipates that half of the country’s energy will be generated using coal in 2050. Far from carbon-free, it is worth noting that this corresponds to a 30% decrease in coal in the Poland’s energy mix, acknowledging intentions to meet the feeble target of an increase to 21% renewables by 2030.

Tchorzewski has indicated Poland’s rigidity in not raising this 2030 target, stating the country’s demands for a strong compensation package in exchange for agreeing to meet the EU’s ambitious targets, to fund dramatic industrial changes.

In essence this is all about negotiation – Poland to the EU “if you want us to stop using coal, how much money will you give us?”

Warsaw’s firm stance to prioritise energy security and reduce the country’s dependence on Russian gas supply is more important to Poland than  meeting climate demands and all of this poses a significant threat to ambitions of EU commission president-elect Ursula von Meyer, who has pledged a “Hallmark” policy to push-through a climate neutrality within her first 100 days in office.

“Poland wants to catch up with Europe, not to perish. Each percent means huge costs” said Tchorzewski in local papers. Yet the €700 to €900 billion figure the minister stated seems remarkably high. In the USA, a nation of almost 10 times greater population and of much greater landmass, Wood Mac forecasts a $4.5 trillion cost for a full renewable take-over, suggesting that Poland should not require nearly this much, let alone as a donation from the EU.

The lack of urgency from Poland, along with countries such as the Czech Republic, in adopting the EU stance on carbon emissions, seems to be holding back the EU’s position as a global role model, especially in a time of questionable US policy.

Estonia however, one of the four countries initially blocking attempts to set a Europewide net-zero by 2050 policy, confirmed this Thursday that it is ready to join the remaining 24 in committing to the CCC targets. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas announced on Thursday that the green deal was “the EU’s most important strategic goal for the future”.

It seems inevitable that these countries will eventually buckle to Europewide pressure as they realise their bargaining position is weaker than they’d hoped. But while EU commission president Donald Tusk claims it is “a matter of little time before all EU countries subscribe to the goal”, the cost to the EU’s pocket and reputation appears to be a question of how long they are willing to wait.