Poland PM Morawiecki backs coal boost to offset rising fuel prices
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has backed higher production of environmentally ruinous coal to control rising energy prices because of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Morawiecki’s pledge to boost production contradicts climate obligations and commitments to reduce coal production.
Russia’s war and European Union restrictions on Russian energy sources have caused coal shortages and increased fuel prices.
Poland says it will subsidise coal for households and housing cooperatives which use the fossil fuel for heating.
Polish consumers will be able to buy up to three tonnes of coal per household at a capped price of around US$224 per tonne, climate minister Anna Moskwa said.
The coal price has doubled in a year in Poland, where around a third of homes are heated by the filthy fossil fuel.
More than 8 million tonnes of Russian coal imported to Poland last year will be replaced with imports from Colombia, the US, South Africa and Indonesia, the Warsaw government said.
As a legacy of its decades under communist state planning, Poland relies on coal for nearly 70 per cent of its energy: the highest proportion in the EU.
Poland has some of the worst air quality in the bloc, partly due to mining and burning of coal for winter heating.
This is intensified by the burning of wood and garbage to heat homes, which adds other pollutants to Polish air.
Nitrogen oxides, ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter are often named as the three pollutants that most severely harm human health, impairing the respiratory system and leading to premature death.
Morawiecki’s populist Law and Justice Party (PiS) administration has maintained support for the coal sector and provided government subsidies to preserve the industry.
PiS won power in 2015 promising to sustain the coal industry but more recently has said it would move towards renewable energy to address the growing problem of air pollution. The war in Ukraine is rapidly undermining green commitments in countries dependent on Russian fossil fuels.
“We will introduce a programme of increased coal extraction in Poland’s collieries,” Morawiecki told the media.
Warsaw hopes to reduce coal prices ahead of the winter so they return to where they “were at before the sudden rise that was linked to the embargo on Russia”, Morawiecki said.
Poland said from January to April this year around 19 million tonnes of coal were produced in Poland; a year-on-year rise of approximately 155,000 tonnes.
Coal use is largely responsible for Poland’s poor air quality. Picture credit: WallPaperFlare