Former Polish Environment Minister Szyszko passes away

Published 10:09 on October 10, 2019  /  Last updated at 13:31 on October 25, 2019  /  Bavardage, Climate Talks, EMEA, EU ETS, International

Poland’s former Environment Minister Jan Szyszko died on Wednesday at the age of 75, the government announced.

Poland’s former Environment Minister Jan Szyszko died on Wednesday at the age of 75, the government announced.

A professor for forest sciences, Szyszko entered politics in the 1990s and served as environment minister under three different governments, his latest tenure from 2015 to 2018.

“Today before noon Professor Jan Szyszko passed away, scientist and politician but primarily a good and warm-hearted person, an enthusiast of nature,” President Andrzej Duda tweeted yesterday.

He was integral in securing the 2018 COP24 UN climate summit for Poland, with the event held in the country’s coal-rich Silesia region, before he was fired in early 2018 as part of a cabinet reshuffle by new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and on recommendations from Duda.

He was replaced by Henryk Kowalczyk, who remains in the post.  Szyszko also held the environment minister position in 1997-99 and 2005-07.

An avid hunter, he made international headlines for championing logging in Poland’s ancient Bialowieza Forest, home to Europe’s largest herd of nearly extinct bison.  That prompted a legal challenge by the European Commission, which Poland eventually lost.

During his latest ministerial term, Szyszko led Poland’s criticism of the EU ETS, with the country suing the bloc over various aspects of the programme including elements of the post-2020 reform package.

He also rarely wasted an opportunity to tout his country’s case for tapping forestry and agriculture as a way of allowing it to continue burning coal, from which Poland gets most of its electricity.

Despite being dismissed, Szyszko fought for the role of COP24 president at the Katowice talks, which he claimed was rightfully his.  UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa eventually had to step in to resolve the matter and appoint the Polish government’s nominee Michal Kurtyka.

Szyszko had been campaigning for a parliamentary seat in Warsaw ahead of this Sunday’s Polish elections as a candidate for the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

By Mike Szabo –