The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres on Monday advocated radical and far reaching changes in favour of clean energy, at a coal summit she addressed in Poland.
PANA reports that the strong intervention was significant because Poland is perceived to be blocking the introduction of renewable legislation as required by the European Union (EU).
Figueres, who addressed an international Coal and Climate Summit in Warsaw, three kilometres away from the National Stadium where the UN negotiation to avoid the worst impacts of global warming is holding, said “the coal industry can and must radically transform and diversify to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, generates a staggering 90 percent of Poland’s electricity, according to Greenpeace which has been calling for an end to the Polish government’s continuous support and promotion of coal-based energy mix.
The coal summit taking place on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference was organised by the Polish government and the World Coal Association.
Addressing the chief executive officers of major coal companies, Figueres said: “Let me be
clear from the outset that my joining you today is neither a tacit approval of coal use, nor is it a call for the immediate disappearance of coal. But I am here to say that coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake.”
The World Coal Summit is taking place shortly after the release of the findings of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shows that human-generated climate change is real and accelerating.
“The IPCC’s findings have been endorsed by 195 governments, including all of those in which you operate. We are at unprecedented greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere; our carbon budget is half spent. If we continue to meet energy needs as we have in the past, we will overshoot the internationally agreed goal to limit warming to less than two degree Celsius,” she told the coal summit.
Figueres said in order to make this radical transformation, further capital expenditure on coal could only go ahead if it is compatible with the 2 degree Celsius limit.
She pointed to the building groundswell of climate action and climate change-related policies at all levels of government and society, saying: “All of this tells me that the coal industry faces a business continuation risk that you cannot afford to ignore. Like any other industry, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your workforce and shareholders. And by now it is abundantly clear that further capital expenditures on coal can only go ahead if they are compatible with the 2 degree Celsius limit.”
Figueres urged the coal industry to honestly assess the financial risks of business as usual, to anticipate increasing regulation, growing finance restrictions and diminishing public acceptance and to leverage technology to reduce emissions immediately across the entire chain of coal output.
Greenpeace Poland claims that as many as 73 percent want the Polish government to be active in preventing dangerous climate change, while coal and lignite-based energy received minor support.
By 2030, Poland can halve its coal demand, quadruple its renewable energy use and create 100,000 jobs in the energy sector, equaling employment in the country’s coal industry, according to a Greenpeace study.
And Climate Action Network (CAN), a network of civil society organisations working together to promote government action to address the climate crisis, accused the Polish government of trying to use the conference to push its own agenda on coal.
It charged that the Polish Government backed the International Coal and Climate Summit in an attempt to secure a future for coal.