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Protests against coal plants across Poland as Warsaw climate change talks open
Greenpeace activists launched protests at six coal fired power stations across Poland just before the UN climate conference - COP19 - started. Using projectors on Sunday night the activists projected anti-coal messages onto the power stations urging the world’s governments to phase out fossil fuels which cause serious environmental damage.
Messages projected included “Climate change starts here!” and “Storms start here!” and highlighted the link between greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like Super Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines.
Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, said about COP19:
“It is time governments stopped acting in the interests of the fossil fuel industries. It is time they stopped putting the interests of corporate carbon profits ahead of people and the planet.”
Indeed, Faith Birol of IEA revealed that Fossil-fuel demand is stoked by massive subsidies up to $US600 billion a year by 2020, while Renewable energy subsidies, currently $US100 billion, will reach about $US220 billion by 2035.
The message “Arctic melt starts here!” projected on the fourth largest coal power plant in the world at Bełchatów drew attention to the exploitation of the Arctic by the fossil fuel industries and the boarding and current imprisonment by Russian authorities of Greenpeace activists and journalists on board the Arctic Sunrise who protested peacefully against Arctic oil drilling and climate change and are currently jailed in Russia, for over 50 days now.
“By failing to reach agreements in the past, world leaders have left us reliant on the courage of ordinary people like the Arctic 30, who put their liberty on the line to protect our future. It is tragically ironic that they sit in a freezing Russian jail whilst the fossil fuel industry enjoys unrestricted access to governments at a conference held to protect the climate,” said Naidoo.
Greenpeace have called on governments at the Warsaw climate conference (COP19) to speed up their immediate emission cuts and commit to pledging new emission reduction targets in 2014. They want targets that are both fair and ambituous that will lead to a global agreement in 2015.
Maciej Muskat, Director of Greenpeace Poland, said: “Polish decision makers are complicit in speeding up the Arctic melt and slowing down efforts to reach a global climate deal. However Poland has an opportunity to halve its coal demand and quadruple its renewable energy, if obstacles are removed and right incentives are put in place.”
Poland in particular is heavily reliant on coal for energy. It provides 88 per cent of Polands current electricity needs.
According to an Inter Press Service report, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in September at a mining fare in the city of Katowice, “The future of Polish energy is in brown and black coal, as well as shale gas. Some wanted coal to be dispensed with, but energy independence requires not only the diversification of energy resources, but also the maximum use of one’s own resources.”
But it is not just what energy policy Poland maintains for itself, but it's influence on European energy and climate emissions policies. During 2012, Poland successfully blocked the adoption of an European low-carbon roadmap for 2050, that would have entailed the introdution across the block of countries of a 40 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030, a 60 percent cut by 2040 and an 80 percent cut by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
Recently this year, Poland announced its intentions to prevent Europe from setting 2030 climate goals. This plays a significant interference in European ambition in the advancement of global climate negotiations through the UNFCCC talks.
Alongside the UN climate conference in Warsaw, the Polish Ministry Economy is organising for November 18-19, in parallel to COP and together with the World Coal Association, an International Coal & Climate Summit. Controversially, Christine Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, has accepted an invitation to deliver a keynote address at the Coal and climate summit. while Ms Figueres is adamant that emissions from coal must be reduced, she has copped much flack from environment and youth NGOs about attending the coal conference and lending it legitimacy. Read more on this at The verb - Let's Engage Coal
The open letter to Christiana Figueres raises "the greatly expanded role of polluting business in the negotiations and the Coal and Climate summit that the Polish government is supporting". The letter is signed by directors of Greenpeace International, WWF International, ActionAid, Friends of the Earth Europe, Oxfam International and Christian Aid.
The NGOs request that Ms Figueres withdraws from the Coal and Climate summit, explaining, "We need all of our leaders to promote green jobs and a just transition towards sustainability. This requires providing a clear commitment to work closely with those governments and sustainable businesses who want to lead the world towards a zero emissions and sustainable future in the interests of all global citizens, not the polluting industries which are undermining the intergovernmental process and the ultimate objective of the Convention."
There are also signs of growing climate denialism associated with right-wing extremist groups in Poland. “Climate change denialism is becoming a new part of the identity and narrative of right-wing extremists in Poland,” Polish climate activist Michalina Golinczak told IPS. “So the Polish climate movement should start to collaborate not only with trade unions but also with other progressive social movements, anti-fascist, anti-war, LGBT, feminists etc., to push back the alarming rise of right-wing extremists.”