The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC), which is one of three conventions adopted at the historic ‘Rio Earth Summit” in 1992, seeks to help countries rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. The UNFCCC, which entered into force on 21 March 1994, aims to ultimately prevent all dangerous human interferences with the climate system.
Today, the UNFCCC has near-universal membership and countries that ratified the convention are called ‘Parties to the Convention’. The Conference of the Parties (COP), which is the supreme body of the UNFCCC holds its sessions every year. This year, the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) is being held in Katowice, Poland, from 2–14 December.
The Times Kuwait recently met with the Ambassador of Poland to Kuwait, H.E. Pawel Lechowicz, to learn more about COP24 and the activities planned during Poland’s presidency of the convention.
“This is the third time that Poland holds the Presidency of the Climate Convention. Poland was selected to host this event within the framework of the Eastern European Group (EEG) at COP22 which was held in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2016,” said the ambassador in an introduction.
Elaborating on the activities planned during the Polish presidency of COP24, the ambassador said: “In each of the themes of the Polish Presidency (technology, human, nature), Poland plans to achieve a concrete result, which will be served by three declarations constituting an important contribution to the global climate protection policy. As a result, it will be enriched with three perspectives, with a broader view that considers the importance of removals, the role of agriculture and biodiversity, responding to rapidly growing transport emissions, and places the perspective of human beings and their work in the center of climate issues.
The Driving Change Together Partnership for Electromobility and Zero Emission Transport is dedicated to technological and organizational change towards zero emission transport. Maintaining the current rate of development, including the development of urban agglomerations and megacities, while keeping the current model of transport and the dominant types of propulsion and energy sources, is incompatible with the promotion of a sustainable transport model.
Declaration on fair transformation under the motto: Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration is dedicated to ensuring a fair and solidarity-based transformation that will help to protect the climate while maintaining economic development and jobs. Development should be economically, socially, environmentally and climatically responsible. That is why the path we want to follow is socially and environmentally sustainable development, with an emphasis on modernization, technological change and the implementation of innovations enabling a more efficient and environmentally friendly use of resources.
The Silesian Ministerial Declaration ‘Forests for Climate’ on the conservation and increase of carbon stocks in greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs until 2050 indicates the key role of sinks and will help to achieve the objective set out by the Paris Agreement.”
Expanding on the efforts by Poland aimed at climate neutrality and reducing CO2 levels, the envoy said: “Polish government, as a part of the implementation of the Responsible Development Strategy, has developed a series of regulations aimed at popularizing low- and zero-emission vehicles. The Package for Clean Transport includes such documents as the Plan for the Development of Electromobility in Poland, the National Framework for the Development Policy of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure and the Act on Electromobility and Alternative Fuels. Due to a number of initiatives listed in the Package, it was also decided to prepare a financial instrument that would support the implementation of the measures provided for in these documents. It is the Low-Carbon Transport Fund, which by 2027 will manage PLN 6.7 billion ($1.8 billion).
“On June 7, 2018 the Polish government launched ‘Clean Air’ program. The main goal of the program is to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings and to significantly reduce the emissions of atmospheric pollutants. The implementation will take ten years and its total budget will be PLN 103 billion. ($27 billion)
“Polish government is also trying to create favorable conditions for the construction of a profitable, effective and modern hard coal mining sector, based on cooperation, knowledge and innovation. Pure, innovative coal technologies such as coal gasification are tested in Silesia. Śląskie Voivodship was also included in the EU initiative addressed to the coal regions in the transformation period (Coal Regions in Transition). Among the projects submitted by the Poland, there are plans to create a pumped storage power plant in the liquidated Krupiński mine in Suszec or a project for hydrogen cells prepared by Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa.
“Moreover, the forest coverage of Poland is systematically increasing. From 1995 to 2014, the area of forests increased by 504 thousand hectares. This includes great merit of the State Forests supervised by the Ministry of the Environment. Forests make up almost a third part of the territory of Poland. Scientific researches show that by planting specific tree species, we can increase the ability of forests to absorb CO2. During COP24 Poland wants to present other countries the technique of absorbing CO2 by soil and forests and referred to as the ‘Forest Coal Farms’ project.”
Responding to the question on the Polish initiatives in renewable energy, alternative fuels and e-mobility, Poland’s top diplomat in Kuwait said: “Development of the renewable energy sector is one of the priorities for the Polish government – according to Directive 2009/28/EC all EU Member States should gradually increase the share of energy from renewable sources in total energy consumption and the transportation sector. The specific objectives of the Polish energy policy are as following: to increase the proportion of energy from renewable sources in final energy consumption up to 15.5 percent in 2020 (19.3% for electricity, 17% for heating and cooling, 10.2% for transportation fuels). Achieving these objectives requires investments in new generation capacities. Even after 2020 the effort to make the Polish economy greener will be continued.
“The most active foreign investors in the Polish renewable energy sector are RWE, E.ON, EDF, EDP Renewables, GDF Suez (wind farms), Dalkia (biomass combustion), Axzon (biogas plants). The Polish players are also investing in renewables e.g. Enea, Energa, Tauron, PGE.
“Poland is also gradually becoming an attractive destination for investments in manufacturing of devices used in energy generation. There are estimated to be more than 200 production companies working for the renewable energy sector (Institute for Renewable Energy data).
The Polish government also offers the following forms of support for the production of energy from renewable sources:
- Investment incentives for renewable energy producers (auction system),
- Electricity trading power companies are required by law to purchase energy from renewable sources,
- Renewable energy producers have priority access to transmission grid,
- Electricity generated from renewable sources is exempt from excise tax,
- The grid connection fee for smaller installations (< 5 MW) is reduced by 50%. Such installations are also exempt from the license fee and the annual fee paid by license holders,
- Investments in clean energy may be co-financed by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.
Clarifying on the ‘Driving change together’ proposal by Poland, the envoy said: The Driving Change Together Partnership for Electromobility and Zero Emission Transport is dedicated to technological and organizational change towards zero emission transport. Maintaining the current rate of development, including the development of urban agglomerations and megacities, while keeping the current model of transport and the dominant types of propulsion and energy sources, is incompatible with the promotion of a sustainable transport model and the reduction of dependence on fossil fuels.
The proposal aims to:
Accelerate the transition to low emission vehicles, by:
- Committing to a zero-emission future for transport.
- Driving demand through consumer incentives and setting targets for zero emission fleets.
- Collaborating internationally to promote the deployment of ZEVs on a global scale.
Enable the growth of the market, through:
- Delivering greener public transport to improve public health.
- Building a smart infrastructure network, planning for the cities of the future today, embedding zero emission infrastructure into the fabric of our urban and rural communities, and enabling provision where consumers need it.
- Driving up air quality standards in our towns and cities.
Develop innovative technological and manufacturing advances, by:
- Supporting zero emission R&D, investing to improve and develop new zero emission technologies.
- Promoting a sustainable, circular economy to drive down emissions throughout the supply chain.
- Making zero emission vehicles greener and cleaner, and moving toward cleaner generation of hydrogen and electricity to drive down emissions over the long term.
Speaking about the climate-related initiatives planned in Kuwait, the ambassador said: “There is an initiative planned between the Embassy of Poland and the Kuwaiti institutions, aiming to promote protection of the environment and more environmentally friendly lifestyle. The initiative will focus on building positive attitudes towards environment among kids and young people, as promoting certain environmental mindset in this group can have the most promising effects in the future.”
Indicating that Poland planned to persuade countries which retreated from COP21 agreement to participate, the envoy stressed, “Obviously we want to convince these countries, especially the biggest of them who significantly contribute to world’s emissions, to participate in a plan of reducing emissions. We will advocate for the initiatives proposed by Polish presidency that I have described before, being sure that they are going to encourage these countries to stick to the common plan.”
In answer as to whether it was possible that some states or municipalities in different countries that oppose the Convention can commit to the required emissions, the ambassador noted, “I think that it’s possible from the point of view of the economy. At some point, greener technologies will become more competitive. The countries that originally opposed the means of lowering the emissions will eventually commit to using them as long as we make them competitive.”
The ambassador clarified that so far 50 countries had confirmed their participation at the conference at the highest official level. He also pointed out, “The recent weather conditions in Kuwait has shown its people that the climate change is affecting their country directly and that there is a need for action in the field of neutralizing the effects of climate change. The awareness of the environmental conditions influenced by the climate change seems to be growing in the Kuwaiti society and the topic has appeared strongly in the public discussion and media. Therefore, we would expect Kuwait to participate actively and support the initiatives of COP24.”
On the subject of Poland’s successful experience in reducing gas emissions and the sharing of this experience with Kuwait, the envoy said, “That would definitely be a field in which Poland can contribute to a positive change in Kuwait. Poland is ready to provide its own expertise and experience of reducing gas emissions, thus it’s a potential field of development in bilateral relations between Poland and Kuwait.“