Poland Stands in the Way of European Global Warming Efforts
Poland is addicted to coal. That is the message the country has been sending both domestically and internationally as Warsaw prepares to host the global climate summit next year. In Europe, the Poles are isolated in their fight for looser emissions reduction goals and against fixes to the EU’s cap-and-trade system.
It is not everyday that a small legal practice receives a visit from a domestic security agency. So Tomasz Wlodarski, the director of Environmental Law Service Poland, said he was surprised when Poland’s equivalent of the FBI paid him a visit in the fall. Even stranger, the officers asked for nothing that hadn’t been previously published about the organization.
“Harassment is a big word,” said Wodarski, “But these are actions that may cause people to feel pressure.”
His organization was not the only one to have been called on. And government officials have done their part via the press. In October, Poland’s Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski criticized an anti-coal environmental organization by telling a local newspaper that the NGO “should accept that there are limits to its activities,” and that “they have exceeded their limit.” Those statements caused about two dozen NGOs to write a scathing letter to Prime Minister Donald Tusk regarding what they called an “unprecedented attack” on Polish society, according to the European news website EurActiv.
The apparent pressure on environmental groups, while concerning, does not seem inconsistent with Warsaw’s approach to issues relating to climate change. On Monday, coal-dependent Poland continued its virtually solitary opposition to a widely-supported — and badly needed — short-term fix for Europe’s carbon-trading system, the continent’s flagship policy in the fight against global warming. Such obstreperousness, however, has not led to Poland’s being internationally ostracized. On the contrary, even as the country helped block Europe’s ability to present a unified front at the recent climate change conference in Doha, Poland was chosen to host the next conference in 2013.