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Poland and CCS - a backdrop for COP19

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While the rest of the world is looking at Poland and COP19 for a climate solution, Poland is lagging behind on cleaning up its emissions.

Photo courtesy of UNclimatechange

A recent poll shows that a majority of the Polish people chooses renewable energy over coal and nuclear energy (89%), and more than two thirds want a policy that supports renewable energy. Despite this, the Polish government recently decided to go ahead with constructing two new coal power plants without incorporating CCS technology.

According to a report from Greenpeace, 90% of Poland’s electricity comes from coal. The country is also a net exporter of coal. This in itself does not mean that Poland cannot fulfill its climate obligations, but the lack of implemented CCS technology does. Poland has also failed to integrate the EU directive on CCS into its own laws, and by building new plants without CCS; they might be violating EU laws. Although Poland supports the EU's goal of a up to 95% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050, the country is unwilling to set any milestones between now and 2050, and has also blocked proposals to toughen the EU's emission goals.

90% of Poland’s electricity comes from coal

In April 2013 the developer of the Belchatow CCS project in Poland, the PGE Group, decided to pull the plug on what was on the shortlist of becoming one of the EU's flagship programs. The decision was made after the project failed to receive funding from the EU's NER300 competition. The PGE group later remarked that both Polish and EU funding mechanisms were unsatisfactory.

The World Coal Association released its Warsaw Communiqué in September 2013 together with the Polish Ministry of Finance, which outlines how the coal industry can tackle climate change and yet continue producing coal. The communiqué is a three step plan that suggests to immediately use high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies, calls for governments to support this technology for the coal industry before COP20 and for development banks to support high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies in development countries.

The Warsaw Communiqué has been criticized for barking up the wrong tree

This communiqué might sound like a step in the right direction for the coal industry and Poland, but the communiqué has been criticized for barking up the wrong tree. David Hone, climate change advisor for Shell and a strong supporter of CCS, writes in a blog post that increased efficiency actually can lead to more emissions due to a larger demand for coal, and argues that CCS is the preferred option for Poland.

In a report from 2011, Bellona confirmed that CCS is a good solution for Poland, due to the country’s high dependency on coal and fossil fuels. It is very unlikely that this dependency will the broken by 2050, which is when the EU hopes to have reduced CO2 emissions by 80-95%. But as long as the Polish policy makers like Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski oppose the EU’s plans for more ambitious goals for cutting emissions, there is little hope that Poland and its coal industry will be in the forefront of cleaner fossil fuels.


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