A former Polish environment minister is set to be reappointed to the role for a third time under the country’s newly-elected Law & Justice (PiS) government, local media reported this week.
Jan Szyszko, who served as Poland’s environment minister between 1997 and 1999, and then again from 2005 to 2007, will be sworn in with the rest of the new cabinet on Friday or Monday.
The eurosceptic and anti-market PiS party claimed a decisive victory in the country’s parliamentary elections last month, bringing to power a government with senior figures that have said they would push for an opt-out of EU climate policies.
While such an opt-out would mean companies in coal-reliant Poland, Europe’s third biggest emitter, are no longer regulated in the EU ETS, analysts have dismissed the threat as political posturing.
Polish President Andrej Duda, who was elected during presidential elections in May, in late October vetoed the country’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period, in a largely symbolic move showing Poland is now taking an even tougher stance towards the EU’s climate policies.
Szyszko, who replaces outgoing environment minister Maciej Grabowski, will now become the country’s top voice on environmental issues as countries convene in Paris later this month to agree a new global climate pact, and as the EU begins negotiations on post-2020 reforms to its Emissions Trading System.
And with EU carbon prices rising, Europe’s coal producers reeling due to a global supply glut, and its coal-burning utilities suffering from low power prices, there is little reason to doubt that Szyszko, as Poland’s top environmental official, will resume his combative attitude towards the 28-nation bloc’s climate policies.
During a 2012 parliamentary debate over whether Poland should hold a referendum to renegotiate the EU’s 2008 energy and climate package, Szyszko, an MP at the time and supporter of the idea, asked then Prime Minister Donald Tusk whether the deal was “high treason or indolence?”.
Under the new PiS government, Poland is considering halting coal production at several of its mines until at least 2018 in an effort to boost global prices, after the country’s outgoing government failed to rescue Polish coal miner Kompania Weglowa, the EU’s top producer.
Kompania Weglowa is currently on life support after a search for a new buyer proved unsuccessful.
The PiS government may also merge the country’s top power firms – PGE, Tauron, Enea and Energa – to help protect the industry and save jobs, Reuters reported this week, though such a move could be in breach of EU anti-monopoly rules.
Coal accounts for some 90% of the country’s energy production and 83% of its energy consumption, but the Polish mining industry remains underdeveloped compared to other first world producers.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org