To add some more drama to the COP 19, news broke today that the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, fired UNFCCC COP 19 President Marcin Korolec from his day job as Poland’s Minister of the Environment. Prime Minister Tusk, in his second term, is reshuffling his cabinet, also firing the Finance Minister from his Cabinet and those heading sports, education, science and administration. The new Minister for the Environment, Maciej Grabowski, was formerly at the Finance Ministry. President Bronislaw Komorowski is expected to approve the cabinet shake-up.
Prime Minister Tusk dismissed Korolec for his role in the environment ministry’s foot-dragging on keenly anticipated regulations for exploration of shale-gas and other fossil fuels. The Polish government lost investments in the shale gas sector due to the delayed legal reforms. The Polish government wants to improve energy security through exploiting Poland’s shale gas and coal resources. However, the legislature has not approved the necessary legislation. Currently, Poland’s electricity system is 90% coal generated and the coal-miners union remains strong.
Despite the government shake-up, Korolec will continue his role as UNFCCC COP 19 president. As a reassurance, Prime Minister Tusk issued a statement supporting Korolec’s role as COP president. The change of the guard in the environment ministry is bad timing by the Polish government, as it comes during the UNFCCC negotiations. Additionally, Poland has already held a pro-coal summit this past week and permitted a pro-coal demonstration by a coal miner’s union outside the UNFCCC venue. They fear that they will lose their jobs. However, jobs in the coal-mining industry have fallen by 75% over the past 20 years. Thus, COP 19 highlights Poland at the crossroads- one side wants to be a part of the EU and the international community to find ambition to combat climate change (and reduce carbon emissions) while the other wants to continue business as usual to support a dying industry and support a carbon-intensive industry. The timing of the World Coal Association meeting and the firing of Korolec, the environment minister, undermines the purpose of Poland hosting the UNFCCC COP 19, as they are supposed to lead the way to an agreement on climate change, not undermine one through hypocrisy.