The Paris Agreement, which was signed 3 years ago, was rightly recognized as a great success. It was the first time when almost all states agreed on diversified commitments to reduce emissions, adopting a climate constitution on a global scale. So far it has been ratified by 179 states and in spite of the fact that the USA has opted out, it is still the most universal document in this regard.
Therefore, the 24th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice will be so crucial. Two decisions, which are to be adopted at COP, will have special importance: setting the evaluation tools of the implementation of the Paris commitments and the so-called Talanoa Dialogue, which should help to evaluate the possibility of eventual increase of commitments after 2023. The future of global climate policy will depend on the result of these negotiations.
The European Parliament is also preparing for the COP24. The EP delegation has already been appointed and I will have the honour to represent the ECR Group. Moreover, the ENVI Committee, of which I am a member, has already produced an initial draft of the resolution regarding the COP24. I was a co-author of this document. Unfortunately, during the proceedings a proposal was made to call on the European Commission to present by the end of 2018 a mid-century zero emissions strategy for the EU. This proposal does not take into consideration the economic and social realities of particular member states. And for that reason I have decided to withdrawn my support from the resolution.
The time horizon outlined in this resolution is 20 years longer than the one in the Paris Agreement and unfortunately, it repeats the same pattern of previous years. Once again the EU steps out of line trying to demonstrate its leadership in this subject. The European Parliament seeks to tighten the EU climate policy as Brussels considers that the commitments adopted in Paris not to be ambitious enough. This is why the idea of decarbonisation, which is one of the pillars of Energy Union, is being strongly promoted.
Furthermore, in order to achieve the goal of decarbonisation by 2050, ENVI Committee has proposed a change of the goal from 40% to 55%. It is another issue with which I disagree not only because of the above mentioned reasons but also because of the fact that we have just implemented the goal of 40% approved in 2014 by the then prime minister Ewa Kopacz. The negotiations regarding ETS, emissions in sectors not included in the ETS as well as renewable energy sources and energy efficiency have just ended. Reopening of this process would be a proof of a legislative recklessness.
In my opinion the aim of zero emission by 2050 is completely detached from the economic reality. This strategy does not make any sense because of the several reasons.
Firstly, the Paris Agreement was adopted only after the word “decarbonisation” had been deleted from its final wording.
Secondly, the EU unilateral tightening of the emissions has a minimal meaning on a global scale – today the European Union emits less than 10% of the world’s emissions, therefore a reduction on one side will not have any major meaning, if the non-EU states will not take concrete actions to reduce their emissions at the same time.
Lastly – and the most importantly – if the zero-emission goal was to be really adopted, the economic and social costs of such a decision will be enormous.
Poland would have to pay a particularly high price because coal has a high share in the Polish energy mix. This share has dropped from 90% in 2010 to 80% in 2017, but still only 14% of energy comes from renewables and another 6% comes from gas. Due to our energy mix we cannot follow the same path as the states of northern and western Europe, where the structure of energy mix is already based on other energy sources such as nuclear power, renewables or gas. In Germany the percentage of coal in the energy mix is two times lower than in Poland where it is only 40%, in the Netherlands – 35%, in France – 2% and in Sweden – only 1%.
The starting point to fulfil such restrictive goals is thus not comparable. In Poland coal will be the main fuel for another generation and a guarantee of energy security for many years to come. This is the context which the European Union should take into consideration when devising its climate policy.
It is worth recalling that there are some EU regulations such as the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS), which cause the price of energy production in Poland to be heavily increased by additional CO2 emission charges. At present market prices of CO2 emission allowances are about 22 EUR per tonne.
It is worth mentioning that since the beginning of the year, the prices have increased from 7-8 EUR to even 25 EUR per tonne in August. Therefore, a question arises regarding price speculation by some big companies which can buy rights ahead in order to sell them later at increased prices. In my recent question to the European Commission I demanded a clear answer whether the Commission was aware of this situation and whether it was planning preparation or usage of any existing instruments to stop this process.
When the prices reach the level desired in Brussels – 30 EUR per tonne or more – the energy prices in Poland, both for households as well as for industry will increase significantly. Consequently it will lead to energy poverty and simultaneously to a contraction of the Polish economy, which will be profitable for the northwestern states of Europe.
Following the Paris Agreement we should seek to achieve a balance between emissions and absorption. In this spirit I have suggested amendments to the Parliament’s resolution on the COP24 in Katowice. I emphasised the key role of the strategy which leads to achieving the balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the ability of absorption. Moreover, I urged the creation of fully transparent emission measurement tools, which will guarantee that the inputs established at the state level would contribute to reaching the Paris Agreement goals. The EU should go in this direction when it makes its climate policy.
In my opinion, if in Katowice we manage to reach an agreement on implementing and monitoring the Paris commitments, we will be able to speak about great success and progress in reducing emissions on the global scale.
Jadwiga Wiśniewska is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament for the Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS), Poland.