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18th Apr 2021

Poland vetoes CO2 targets on eve of Paris visit

  • Law and Justice has pledged to protect Polish coal miners despite Kyoto and EU-level accords (Photo: Frank Kehren)

Polish president Andrzej Duda has vetoed ratification of climate change laws one day before he visits Paris, in a sign of the “new political situation” in Warsaw.

The veto covers Poland’s compliance with the so-called Doha amendment to the Kyoto protocol on CO2 emissions.

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  • Duda due in Paris one month before climate change summit (Photo: Andrzej Hrechorowicz)

The Kyoto deal, from 1997, obliges signatory states to cut emissions by 5 percent between 2008 and 2012, compared to 1990 levels. The Doha accord extends the binding target to 2020.

But Duda’s office said on Tuesday (27 October) that “binding Poland to an international agreement affecting the economy and with associated social costs should be preceded by a detailed analysis of the legal and economic impact … these effects have not been sufficiently clarified”.

Kyoto underpins an EU political deal to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and by 40 percent by 2030, with the European Commission, next year, to table laws on how to divide the cuts between member states.

Kyoto also underpins plans for a climate change summit, in Paris on 30 November, designed to create a binding mechanism which covers all UN states.

Duda wielded the veto ahead of his visit, on Wednesday, to the French capital in what Polish pundits see as a sign of new assertiveness on the dossier.

He also wielded it two days after the Law and Justice party, to which he belongs, swept to power in parliamentary elections in Poland in what Duda’s spokesman, Krzysztof Szczerski, described on Tuesday as “the new political situation”.

Law and Justice has promised to protect Poland’s coal industry, which employs 100,000 people and supplies over 85 percent of its electricity.

The party, on Tuesday, officially nominated Beata Szydlo, a 52-year old coal-miner’s daughter, to be prime minister.

But the party's chief, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a former PM with a history of nasty confrontations in Brussels, is widely seen as pulling the strings on both Duda and Szydlo.

Szczerski, the Duda spokesman, listed priorities for the French visit as: migration; the Middle East security situation; next year’s Nato summit in Warsaw; the EU’s eastern neighbourhood; climate change; the economy; and energy security.

He described France as a “strategic partner” and said Duda will call for more frequent meetings in the “Weimar” format of French, German, and Polish leaders.

He said a Paris climate summit deal “will only make sense … if it doesn’t bring harmful effects to the Polish and European economies, for instance, by undermining competitiveness or reducing energy security”.

Meanwhile, Duda, during Law and Justice’s election campaign, repeated Kaczynski’s controversial claim that Syrian refugees might bring exotic diseases to Europe.

He has, in the past, criticised France and Germany for excluding Poland from Ukraine peace talks and has urged Germany to drop opposition to new Nato bases in Poland.

But for Konrad Szymanski, a Law and Justice MEP who is tipped to be Szydlo’s EU affairs minister, climate change will be the biggest irritant in future Polish-EU relations.

“I thought that migration is the most difficult issue in Europe, but now it looks like it’s going to be climate policies,” he told the Bloomberg news agency last Friday.

He said Poland has a “strategic problem” with the EU deal on CO2 targets “because even with all the things in the box [EU financial aid mechanisms] we are not in a position to compensate the Polish energy sector and industry for the losses they will have to bear.”

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