Poland

   

Environmental Policies

#32
Key Findings
As a reluctant follower within the EU, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 32) with regard to environmental policy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.7 points relative to 2014.

The PiS government has focused on coal, gas and nuclear energy as prime energy sources, with renewables accounting for only 1%. Three new coal power stations are being built, along with a new nuclear-power station. The EU has sued the country for beginning shale-gas drilling without an impact assessment.

The government began cutting down significant areas of a protected primeval forest, citing a need to protect trees from insects. The European Court of Justice blocked further logging pending a final decision in 2018.

The country has been one of the primary critics of the EU’s climate policy and emissions-trading system. It has faced increasing pressure to meet climate-protection goals, and has agreed to dialogue seeking compromises for countries with a high dependence on coal.

Environment

#36

How effectively does environmental policy protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment?

10
 9

Environmental policy effectively protects, preserves and enhances the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy largely protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy insufficiently protects and preserves the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
 2
 1

Environmental policy has largely failed to protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and quality of the environment.
Environmental Policy
4
Poland has enshrined the principle of sustainable development in Article 5 of its constitution, and has broadly adopted EU environmental standards. However, there is a broad political consensus in the country that economic growth should be given priority over protection of the environment. All governments have been especially keen on protecting the domestic coal industry, which is a large employer and reduces the country’s dependence on Russian energy, an issue that has taken on even greater prominence since the Ukrainian crisis, and have resisted attempts by the European Union to tighten targets for the reduction of carbon emission. For the PiS government, coal, gas and nuclear energy have been the prime energy sources, whereas renewables account for a meager 1%. Three new coal power stations are being built in Opole, Jaworzno and Kozienice, and the government has announced plans to erect a new nuclear-power station by 2029. It is also very eager to explore and produce shale gas. Since the drilling began without an impact assessment, the European Commission took Poland to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for breaking EU environment law in May 2017. The heavy reliance on coal has strong negative effects. According to the World Health Organization, 33 of the 50 most-polluted towns in Europe in 2016 are in Poland. On 17 January 2017, all schools in Poland were closed due to high levels of smog.

The government’s disregard for environmental issues is reflected in another ongoing conflict on the Białowieża primeval forest. This is a protected Natura 2000 site, but the government started to cut down a considerable number of trees, arguing that this was necessary because the bark beetle would otherwise destroy the whole forest. This provoked protests by environmentalists, who claimed the logging was not needed to fight the beetle but was only done for economic interests, and then mobilized the European Commission. Since the logging did not stop, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Poland in April 2016 and finally the issue went up to the European Court of Justice who also asked the Polish government to stop the cuts. In November 2016, the court said the ban on logging should be upheld until its final decision in early 2018, if it continues a fine of €100,000 per day will be demanded.

Citations:
N.N. (2018): Patriotic smog, in: Economist, January 20, 2018.

Global Environmental Protection

#32

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, fosters their advancement and initiates appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally fosters their advancement or initiates appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but neither fosters their advancement nor initiates appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
4
Poland has largely implemented EU environmental standards. However, it has been one of the primary internal critics of the European Union’s climate policy and emissions-trading system. Across the political spectrum, large parts of the Polish political elite have feared that ambitious international or European climate-protection regimes will reduce Poland’s energy independence and place too heavy a burden on the Polish economy. In line with this approach, it was also Prime Minister Szydło’s goal at the World Climate Council in Paris, held in late November 2015, to get special conditions acknowledged because of the country’s energy and economic dependence on its coal industry. This did not materialize and at the follow-up conference in Bonn in 2017 pressure to phase out coal further increased. Poland agreed in Bonn to host the World Climate Council 2018 (COP 24) in Katowice and to chair the so-called Talanoa-dialog forum, together with Fiji, that aims to find compromises to help countries fulfill their climate-protection goals. Some experts see it as a move by Poland to get more acceptance for its coal-friendly energy policy, coal accounts for 84% of the country’s energy supply. In contrast, others see a change in Poland emerging following increased pressure from NGOs, think tanks and the renewable energy sector.

Citations:
Appunn, K. (2017): Poland’s Katowice COP: Next coal country hosting UN climate talks. Clean Energy Wire, November 17, 2017 (https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/polands-katowice-cop-next-coal-country-hosting-un-climate-talks).
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