Poland Ties Climate-Deal Ratification to EU Concessions on Coal

  • Government in Warsaw wants guarantees on free emission permits
  • Coal to stay main source of energy in Poland ‘for many years’

Poland said it will ratify the global climate deal that the U.S. and China joined last week only after it gets European Union assurances on investment in coal-based power plants.

The east European country, which relies on the most polluting fossil fuel for about 90 percent of its electricity production, plans to start procedures to ratify the global climate-protection Paris agreement reached in December and the United Nations deal on 2013-2020 emissions limits agreed to in Doha in 2012. The latter was blocked last year by Poland’s president, who said it needed more economic and legal analyses.

“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 on Monday, adding that it wanted the Paris agreement to be ratified as soon as possible.

The 28-nation EU, which aims to lead the global fight against climate change, is under increasing pressure to formally join the landmark Paris deal that set an ambitious goal to curb temperature increases and applies to all nations, rich and poor. To enter into force, it needs to be ratified by at least 55 parties, accounting for 55 percent of global emissions.

Ratification Rules

The European Commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, in June proposed a procedure to ratify the deal and urged member states to sign off as soon as possible. Ratification rules differ among nations and in some countries a parliamentary vote is needed. The commission’s efforts to ensure a quick ratification risk being hindered by an ongoing debate on how to share the burden of the EU emission-reduction goal among member nations.

The bloc’s headline climate goal, submitted under the Paris agreement, is to cut carbon dioxide by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. The target is to be met through caps imposed on companies in the EU Emissions Trading System and differing goals for individual member states for sectors outside the carbon cap-and-trade program. Draft rules on those two policy tools for the post-2020 period are currently being discussed by national governments and the European Parliament.

A late ratification of the Paris agreement by the EU would deal a blow to the bloc’s prestige. U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping formally joined the agreement on Sept. 3, and with the world’s two largest emitters of carbon pollution now on board the deal among more than 190 countries may enter into force this year.

Electricity Generation

In Poland, coal will remain the main source of electricity generation and the guarantor of jobs and energy security for “many years,” according to the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. Her Law & Justice party, which came to power last year, vowed to defend the coal-mining industry.

“The construction of new coal-based power units requires guarantees of investment profitability, which is affected by the obligation to buy emission permits, probably at high prices,” the government said. “That’s why the basis of Poland’s policy is to guarantee free emission permits for the nation’s power sector.”

The ratification of the deal reached in Doha will hinge on EU guarantees for financing of investments in coal-based power plants and reducing emissions in line with the Paris deal’s principle of sustainable development, the Polish government decided. The European Investment Bank, the EU’s lending arm, has a policy preventing funding for new coal plants as Europe seeks to grow renewable energy sources.

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