Korolec Keeps UN Climate Role in Polish Cabinet Reshuffle

Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec will keep his post as head of the United Nations climate summit in Warsaw, avoiding disruption to the negotiations, after losing his ministerial position.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk removed Korolec as minister and nominated him as the government climate envoy for the next year as representatives of more than 190 countries entered their 10th day of negotiations. Poland holds the rotating presidency of the UN talks to tackle global warming until December 2014.

“Now I’ll be able to fully concentrate on the process of climate negotiations,” Korolec told reporters today. “We look forward to the success of the summit in Warsaw.”

Negotiators at the annual UN gathering, scheduled to end on Nov. 22, seek to prepare the ground for a global deal in 2015 to curb greenhouse gases. They plan to advance work on climate aid, overcome differences on losses and damages nations face from rising temperatures, and agree on a timetable to present emission goals as part of an international accord.

The government changes will undermine already slow progress at the international talks, according to Urszula Stefanowicz, a campaigner from the Friends of the Earth environment lobby.

“At such a crucial time this shows how little interest the Polish government has in reaching a deal at the climate talks,” Stefanowicz said in an e-mailed statement. “Korolec will have no real political power.”

U.S. Envoy

Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, said he hopes the Polish government changes won’t hurt the talks.

“Minister Korolec has done an excellent job,” Stern said today in an interview. “He is to be commended in the way he’s managed this meeting. These meetings are always very difficult and he’s been highly engaged all during the year.”

The removal of Korolec comes a day after a speech by Tusk at the UN meeting in which he focused on the role of shale gas in helping attain emissions targets. Korolec, 44, was replaced by Maciej Grabowski, until now a deputy finance minister.

He was chosen as environment minister in 2011, when Tusk was re-elected for a second term and announced that taxes on hydrocarbon output would increase. Korolec, a deputy economy minister in 2005-2011, was tasked with preparing rules guiding explorers, and state participation in shale-gas ventures. Laws haven’t yet been passed, while drilling has slowed and investors such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Talisman Energy Inc. left Poland.

The changes are effective Nov. 27, the government said.

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