climate change

Opinion: Poland, what is the UN thinking?


You just couldn’t make it up, soap made from coal is displayed at an exhibition inside COP24, the UN climate talks. Photo credit: Meghan Shea.

By Anders Lorenzen

2018 have already been a key year in the world of climate change. A series of extreme weather events have dominated the weather. A series of scary climate change reports have been released by the United Nations (UN). One of which said that if we are to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change, 2 degrees might no longer be a safe target and we should do everything in our power to prevent temperature increases above 1.5 degrees. And another one which warned that greenhouse gases are continuing to rise abated – and yet another that we are nowhere near on target to fulfil the Paris Agreement pledges.

And it was this last one that is precisely what world leaders and policymakers are meeting in Poland this week to discuss. The two weeks summit which started last week will see them at the 24th Conference of Parties, COP24, discuss how to implement the Paris targets which must enter into effect by 2020.

And having said all that, it is indeed very surprising that the UN choose to award the conference to Poland. This is the country that has been most hostile to climate progress in the EU and not only has the dirtiest energy mix in the EU, but also the dirtiest coal. Last week we learned that a Polish coal company is to be the main sponsor of the event.

And there we have it: the stage has been set for a mass coal lobbying event. We will hear about clean coal and that coal can go hand in hand with cutting emissions.

But don’t believe the hype. It is all propaganda. Of course, coal can’t be clean and clean coal is a myth. It was created by the coal industry as the world started to become serious about tackling climate change. And too many bought the PR engineered message. Obama even talked up the idea of clean coal. But the science is clear: coal has no future in a world that is serious about tackling climate change, no matter how you choose to label it.

Of course, I’m sympathetic to the idea of all countries been given the chance to host the UN climate conference. But why Poland, and why now? After all, they hosted the conference as recently as in 2013. There you also had massive coal controversy and lobbying efforts. In the meantime, Poland has elected a far-right populist government even more hostile to climate action than they were before. So the fact they thought it would be good to give them another go in probably the most crucial summit since COP21 is a mystery to me.

To look at how serious the Polish government is taking you only have to look at the fact that they could only spare their deputy environment minister, Michal Kurtyka, who will be chairing the conference. And where the conference is being held in the coal stronghold of Katowice – an industrial city suffering from huge air pollution problems.

But the danger we face is that the focus on the talks will be on Poland’s coal industry rather than the ambitious path we need to set ourselves on if we are to have any chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

Categories: climate change, energy, opinion, science

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