Conference on climate change in Poland

December 1, 2008 at 3:30 am | Posted in Climate and economy, Climate and politics | Leave a comment
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Photo by Marcin Wichery.

Coal, cars and climate. Photo by Marcin Wichery.

This week delegates from more than 190 countries will meet in Poland to discuss climate change and a successor treaty for the expiring Kyoto Protocol.

In a sign of the challenges associated with forging any international agreement about how to act, they will find a country – and a region – that are torn by internal quibbles over climate change policies.

The Poznan meeting has been organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and takes place in preparation for a planned climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.  At the Copenhagen meeting, a new international climate change treaty may be ratified to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.  

Bridging the differences of opinion about how to respond to climate change, however, could take at least another year or longer.

On the eve of next week’s Poznan conference, The New York Times’ blog Green Inc. has reported a squabble in Poland over the economic costs of implementing an emissions permitting system proposed for the European Union.  

The tiff began with the release of a September report that argued the permitting system would curb the country’s economic growth.  

Along with Italy, Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk campaigned at a EU meeting in October against a new package of climate change policies, including the more stringent permitting platform.

This month, though, another report was released that found the proposed changes in climate policy could result in economic gains for Poland.  The new report’s findings, according to Green Inc., have been rejected by a number of Polish politicians, but embraced by The Polish Climate Coalition, an organization of environmental groups.

Meanwhile, the battle over climate policy literally spilled onto the streets of Poznan last week, as miners and Greenpeace activists scuffled near a bulldozer used for coal transport, according to Softpedia.

At the EU’s October meeting to discuss climate policies, criticism from Poland and Italy led the regional body to delay a final decision on the proposed 2020 goals for emissions reductions until the union’s next meeting in December.    

Unlike many other EU member states, Poland depends heavily on coal, using it to meet more than 90 percent of its energy needs.   

Poland, of course, is not the only EU country with industries that could lose out in a new climate change policy regime.  Greece, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria all joined Poland’s campaign against the EU’s 2020 goals at the October meeting.

And, just last week, Germany began its own dissent, demonstrating that policy arguments about climate change defy any clean split between old and new, or wealthy and less wealthy, EU members.

Although Germany has traditionally been one of the EU’s economic powerhouses, its automobile industry would be hit hard by the proposed “polluter pay” principle.  Unlike in France or Italy, which manufacture compact cars, Germany’s carmakers are saddled with production lines that are geared to build larger vehicles.

All of these different positions – between Polish report writers, miners and Greenpeace activists on the one hand and between EU members on the other – are illustrative of what awaits delegates in both Poznan and Copenhagen.

As developed and developing nations endeavor to draft a new international treaty with binding emissions commitments, they will have to confront how their differing policy positions reflect the different challenges they each face in a competitive world market.     

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