Together for the climate – Poland’s initiatives and actions before COP24

The 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) will be held in Katowice on 3-14 December 2018. Poland is the only country to have been entrusted with the Presidency four times. This is a great honour and a signal that Poland is playing an increasingly important role in climate negotiations. The Polish COP24 Presidency emphasises three key themes: technology, man, nature.

As the conference host, Poland needs to fulfil many duties. First of all, it needs to ensure convenient conference conditions and play the role of the moderator, intermediary and initiator of the dialogue. To this end, the government of the host state appoints a special representative, acting as the COP President. At COP24 the position has been assigned to Michał Kurtyka, Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Environment. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also appointed Ambassador Artur Lorkowski as the Special Envoy for Climate Change. The upcoming session’s most important goal will be to finalise the Paris Agreement Work Programme and adopt a set of rules for implementing the agreement.

One of the hallmarks of a good COP Presidency is to initiate discussions and present actions that will motivate and set a good example for other countries. Poland has decided to focus on three aspects of climate protection covered by the themes of technology, man, and nature.

Poland is still regarded as an economy undergoing a transformation, but thanks to intensive efforts it has significantly reduced emissions of harmful pollutants and at the same time strengthened its international position in the context of climate action. The characteristics of the selected areas are closely related to the country’s geographical and economic-historical conditions. Some of them work for the benefit of Poland, others pose a challenge. Each of them, however, has seen concrete actions with which our country wants to inspire other Conference participants.

Solaris electric bus Technology – the use of climate-friendly solutions and the development of electromobility

The implementation of climate-friendly solutions at the level of individual households is a necessary complement to the measures focusing on the industry. In 2015, Poland announced the National Programme for Air Protection which aims to reduce the so-called low-level emissions that are created at a height of up to 40 m above the ground and originate mainly from two sources: household heating systems and transport. They chiefly contribute to the formation of smog.

As regards emissions from heating systems, the first step was to adopt relevant legislation. In recent years, regulations on the use of solid fuel boilers have been introduced and a ban has been imposed on the use of fuel that does not meet certain standards, such as flotation concentrates and coal sludge. The next stage involved the launching of the “Clean Air” programme, within the framework of which PLN 103 bn will be earmarked for co-financing the replacement of heating systems in Polish homes.

In turn, electromobility is an alternative in the area of transport. Poland has been actively supporting this sector both at the state and business levels. This includes the implementation of the Clean Air Package, which envisages the co-financing of PLN 11.7 bn until 2027 for the development of electromobility and the alternative fuels market in Poland. Established in February 2018, the PolStorEn scientific consortium aims to develop and implement innovative solutions in the field of energy storage. Polish companies, such as Solaris, Ursus, Autosan, and Pesa, manufacture low-emission road transport vehicles: buses, trolleybuses, and trams, which are recognised on global markets.

Man – the challenge of socio-economic transformation of industrial regions

Poland has almost 30 industrial districts that are well-known mainly for coal mining. Located in south-western Poland, Silesia is the country’s most industrialised region and its capital Katowice is the host city of COP24. This is not an accidental choice. Poland has been trying to create a modern hard coal mining sector by implementing innovative coal technologies, such as coal gasification. Plans are also being developed for alternative development of former mines, e.g., the project of creating a pumped-storage power plant at the liquidated Krupiński mine in Suszec, or a project related to hydrogen cells.

Recultivated coal mine Economic changes and the need to cut down CO2 emissions in mining regions strongly affect the situation of their inhabitants. Poland has been striving to support the local market and provide jobs, among others in sectors related to new technologies, and to increase the comfort of living. The ideas to transform vocational schools for miners into educational institutions preparing them to work in the “green” technology sector, as well as to reclaim and convert former mines into green areas or cultural facilities seem interesting. To support these efforts, the Śląskie Voivodeship has been included in the European Union’s “Coal Regions in Transition Platform.”

Nature – the use of forest management to reduce CO2 levels

Forests are one of Poland’s greatest assets in the campaign for improving the quality of air. They cover almost 30% of the country’s area, while the forestation rates in Poland have been systematically growing – between 1995 and 2014, the area of forests grew by 504,000 ha. The State Forests exploit this potential by implementing the Forest Coal Farms development project. Pioneering given its scale, this undertaking aim is to increase the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide through proper forest management. According to forecasts, the forest areas covered by the project will absorb an additional 1 million tons of CO2 within 30 years. The additional Carbon Dioxide Equivalents absorbed will be sold at online auctions and the buyers will indicate which project their payments will be allocated to. They can choose among the activities related to species protection, enrichment of biodiversity, tourism, and forest education. The first such auction took place in October 2018, while the project of Forest Coal Farms will be presented at COP24.