A leading proponent of carbon capture and storage last week pointed out that Poland was taking a lot of flak for its failure to implement CCS technology, when their western neighbour, lauded for its enlightened renewables policy hadn’t exactly been a paragon of virtue in that regard.

David Reiner’s assertion that it was “somewhat unfair to only focus on Poland, when both Germany and the Netherlands, which would claim to have far greater concern for climate change, are going ahead with several new unabated coal-fired plants” turned out to be even more timely given Germany announced a new generation of hard coal-fired power plants shortly after.

Marcin Koralec
Whatever about the respective positions of both these countries to CCS, their overall power energy policies are far from clear at times. But it does seem that Berlin has got better public relations savvy than Warsaw.

This week Poland hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference but also entertained the World Coal Summit at the same time. This behaviour seems to signal to the world that Poland wants to have a rational balance of coal and renewables in its energy make-up into the future. The green lobby has, of course, been calling it a cynical exercise.

The fact that the country’s environment minister Marcin Korolec was sacked at the height of climate change negotiations will be used as further evidence by Poland’s critics that it is not serious about climate change.

However, again this seems unfair. They may not be towing the line in a rapid acceleration towards renewables but several government spokespersons have come out in recent weeks to say that they are not against developing renewable energy capacity, but wish to do so at their own pace.

Germany doesn’t suffer from anything like the same negative publicity, as its energiewende is hailed around the world, yet a French minister saw fit to call the country the “biggest polluters in Europe.”

The Germans are pouring a lot if investment into renewable transition but they are using coal to secure themselves until the project is complete, however long that may take. Poland could admittedly be doing more but in their defence their economy is not as developed as their western neighbours and there must be some sympathy for that even if climate science says such arguments must now become redundant if we are to maintain the health of the planet.

Germany resembles a runner who has sped out of the blocks, before realising it hasn’t got the power to make it to the end line. Meanwhile Poland prefers a case of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. It is not a black and white issue and both these countries have environmental and energy security priorities to balance.

Finding the compromise that works for the world at large as well as within their own borders is no easy task and the confusing signals coming from both governments this week give a sense of the complexities involved.