Polish climate minister distances government from deputy’s comments on more ambitious emissions plans

Poland’s climate minister said her deputy’s comments in Brussels about the new government’s more ambitious plans to cut emissions were not Warsaw’s official position.

Deputy climate minister Urszula Zielińska reportedly said at an informal meeting of EU ministers this week that “Poland is stepping up its efforts on fighting climate change” and is ready to embrace a target for the EU to cut emissions by 90% by 2040.

Her remarks were picked up by a range of international media outlets, including Reuters, Politico and Euractiv. They were welcomed by many commentators, who saw them as confirmation that the new government, which took office last month, would be more ambitious than the former Law and Justice (PiS) administration.

Poland wants Europe to know its days as the bloc’s top climate spoiler have come to an end — and it’s a vow that will ripple through Brussels. https://t.co/HfSwMUNsdM

— POLITICOEurope (@POLITICOEurope) January 15, 2024

However, Zielińska’s boss, climate minister Paulina Hennig-Kloska, quickly made her own announcement yesterday downplaying her deputy’s comments, which she said were “not an official position of the Polish government”.

The minister added that, while the new government “wants an ambitious climate policy”, it must be “implemented without harm to people and the economy; it must be a just transition, with people in mind”.

Zielińska herself appeared to backtrack on her comments, tweeting that, while “Poland wants an ambitious climate policy…this does not mean that we already have a clear declaration on the emission reduction target for 2040 at such an early stage”.

Na nieformalnej Radzie UE ds. Środowiska omówiliśmy pilne wyzwania budowania polityki adaptacji i odporności na zmiany klimatu, sprawiedliwej transformacji oraz wstępnie – cele klimatyczne na rok 2040.

Podczas spotkania z Komisarzem UE ds. polityki klimatycznej, panem
Wopke… pic.twitter.com/l3BdQvLpus

— Urszula Sara Zielińska 🌻 (@Ula_Zielinska) January 15, 2024

Hennig-Kloska also announced yesterday that work was taking on an update to the previous government’s so-called PEP2040, a plan for Poland’s energy transition between now and 2040. She said that further details would be announced this week.

According to the version of the plan announced last year, by 2040 51% of Poland’s power would be generated from renewables with a further 23% from nuclear.

Last year, a record 26% of Poland’s electricity was generated from renewables, though coal remained the largest source, accounting for 64%. There has been speculation that the new government will seek to accelerate the previous administration’s plans to move away from coal.

Renewables generated a record 26% of Poland’s electricity in 2023, up from 19% the previous year.

However, coal continued to produce most of the country’s power, accounting for almost two thirds of the energy mix https://t.co/JQqfMkOK4I

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 3, 2024

The new ruling coalition, and Hennig-Kloska in particular, have made clear that they aim to introduce stronger environmental and climate policies than under the PiS government, which was often criticised for being too slow on the withdrawal from coal and for policies such as increasing logging.

Last week, Hennig-Kloska announced that she had ordered a half to logging in what it says are some of the country’s most valuable forests. She has also unveiled plans to create more national parks.

However, legislation put forward by the new ruling coalition to loosen rules on building wind turbines was last month withdrawn amid confusion and controversy over its provisions. The government has pledged to still push ahead with an improved version of the measures.

A plan by Poland’s incoming ruling coalition to make it easier to build wind turbines has been criticised by the outgoing government and some experts.

They claim it would allow expropriation of land for turbines, which could also be built closer to homes https://t.co/rtHXQ2DuXY

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 1, 2023

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: Bogusz Bilewski/Greenpeace Polska (under CC BY-ND 2.0)

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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