Poland is still refusing to sign the United Nations’ global warming deal unless the European Union lets it continue using coal power, according to a leaked letter from the country’s conservative government.
Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko wrote to his EU counterparts that coal is “the foundation” of his country’s development, according to a letter seen by The Financial Times.
Szyszko wrote that the country’s conservative government would only support formal approval of the Paris global warming agreement, “on terms that take into account the specificity of the Polish economy.”
Coal will remain Poland’s main source of electricity for “many years,” according to the government. The EU needs unanimous backing from member states, including Poland, to sign onto U.S. President Barack Obama’s global warming deal.
Poland has been blocking the deal’s ratification for over a month. “The ratification will be possible provided that Poland’s interests in relation to the European climate policy are secured,” the government said in a statement earlier this month.
Polish energy producers are investing billions in modernizing old coal plants or in building new ones. At least four new coal-fired power plants are expected to come on line by 2019 in the country. Poland got 85.2 percent of its electricity from coal power in 2013, according to The World Bank.
Protecting coal power is a bipartisan issue in Poland. “Polish energy security is based on coal, and that is our priority,” former left-wing Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz told journalists in October. The country sees attempts to transition away from coal power as a threat to its national security; coal is the only fuel Poland has large domestic reserves of, and prevents the country from being held hostage by Russian natural gas.
Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party has also stopped the construction of new wind turbines within a mile of homes and schools this March. The same government passed another bill in April that would allow it to shut down turbines for inspections and levy a tax on existing wind farms.
The government justified the decision by citing concerns about rising electricity bills, reducing costly green energy subsidies, aesthetics and health issues.
Theoretically, Poland gets about 13 percent of its electricity from wind; in practice, the number is much lower. Globally, less than 30 percent of total wind power capacity is actually utilized due to the intermittent and irregular nature. Wind power tends to generate electricity at times of the day when power is the least needed, posing an enormous safety challenge to grid operators and making power grids vastly more fragile.
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