From time to time Polish government promises his voters that it is going to claim Germany on II World War reparations. A month ago in Euroactiv Michał Kurtyka, Polish climate Minister, recalled II World War and Soviet heritage as an impediment to energy transition of a country. Just few weeks ago Polish prime minister Morawiecki compared coronavirus crisis to the II World War. Is there still place for 70 years old sentiments? – ask Polish NGO representatives.
Before we entered a coronavirus crisis, we were trying to fight with climate catastrophe. In that fight, for over 11 years, subsequent Polish governments have not been able to develop and adopt any proper energy policies and plans to outline the country’s just and fair transition to low carbon economy. The last legal Polish energy policy stems from 2009, what is against the national law, which requires such a document to be prepared every 4 years. In addition to that, the country doesn’t have a clear long-term strategy on how to implement the EU and UNFCC climate policy and what economic, social and environmental benefits it can bring.
Country’s ‘unofficial’ energy and climate policy has been shaped in the interest of the ruling political parties, because they have fallen into the trap of securing the right number of votes from miners and energy sector workers. Due to that Polish government had enough money to subsidize coal companies, but not Just Energy Transition. In the period 2016-2018, it gave almost 1 billion Euros to coal burning companies and for the period 2013-2018 – 6,7 billion euros. It conserved the postwar and soviet heritage for another period.
Is spite of the fact, that Poland has been using EU funds for over 20 years now: firstly as a pre-accession country, and then as a Member State, since 2016 it went out from the track to achieve 15% goal of renewable energy in energy mix in 2020. This goal, back in 2008, was demanded to be lower than the EU average of 20%? Croatia, the newest member state, already overachieved 20%, Lithuania overachieved 23%, Estonia – 25%, Romania – 24%. Polish Climate minister recalled II World War to bring back credibility of Poland when begging EU for more money and time to get back on track to 15%.
Now, that climate policy became a little bit set aside by a coronavirus crisis it looks that II World War was brought back by the prime minister Morawiecki. But both coronavirus crisis and climate catastrophe has very little in common with II World War. Responses to both crises can and should also be much different, than reconstruction after 1945. War brought a clearly visible disaster. Cities, with all of the infrastructure, completely demolished with people living on streets. Families coming back home and finding all of their heritage lost. Refugees resettling to new lands as country borders were changed. Laws, constituting social and economic systems, abandoned. Nobody talking about money, because our basic needs were totally violated and environment wasted. Food from the ground, water from the rain, bricks from ashes…
Yes, climate change can bring this postwar state about, but so far it made it selectively and most of countries struggle with the vision of miserable future, rather than reality. Coronavirus crisis, even with its most serious economic consequences will probably fall short with postwar pictures. No homes demolished, infrastructure in place, people staying at home, caring for their kids, trying to work remotely, if they can work. Shops struggling to sell food as everybody is on lockdown. Empty streets, fear of meeting anyone there. Everybody talking about what the money should be spent for because economic slump. Money for healthcare, money for bankrupts, money for unemployed…
With a glimpse of an eye we see that coronavirus and climate change have more in common with 1990 post-communist transformation or 2010 financial crisis, than II World War. But Polish politicians are again stuck with their politics. Polish government won elections because it was fighting with the heritage of Polish Roundtable Agreement and Balcerowicz transformation reforms as well as with 2010 picture of Polish green economic island governed by Donald Tusk.
Every country have been or will be hit hard with coronavirus crisis. In Europe, everybody will probably be begging for more money, jobs, resources. There will be no place to bring about II World War to fight for more. But there will be plenty of space for blueprints of a better future. In this point Europe is already on the lead with European Green Deal described in details, launched and supported with most of the members. Poland is without a long term vision shared by most of its society and pinpointed to any global or European trend. Here we are as beggars again.
But Poland do not longer need to be a poor beggar without a vision for the better future. We have successes in realization of just, environmentally friendly and economically efficient development and investment. There are municipalities which are successful in building local sustainable energy systems, even based on wind farms, that were virtually banned on land in 2016. There are cities with fair and clean transport systems, although they got almost no legal support from national level in the last few years. There are Polish entrepreneurs who bet on renewable energy and invited societies to come along. There are places where fight with smog, which contributes to 45,000 premature deaths yearly, is at end. While smog is a precondition for more severe coronavirus disease cases.
There are whole regions in Poland that started to build Polish low-emission economy from the bottom. They show much more ambitious use of EU funds from 2014-2020 period for promotion of renewable energy and clean transport in the regions. In spite of the legal mess, there are regions in Poland who have spent 2-3 times more EU funds than initially planned on solar panels, efficiency of public buildings and who managed to successfully reach with funds to those who had to exchange their coal furnaces for low-emission sources of heat. Among them were renewed hospitals with solar panels.
These are the ones, that should help Polish government to stop acting as a beggar and recalling II World War damage. Polish Governmental anti-coronavirus-crisis shield plan mildly announced that public works in renewable energy and energy efficiency might be started, when the time of unemployment comes. It is a sign maybe we stop resentments and start being a “state that can” fight coronavirus and climate change crises at one time.
dr Wojciech Szymalski, dr Andrzej Kassenberg Institute for Sustainable Development Foundation
Polska wersja została opublikowana na portalu chronmyklimat.pl