Last year, Qatar was proud to host the COP, even as oil and gas exports account for 85% of its export earnings.
This year, COP is hosted by Poland, and once again we are in a country heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The Polish prime minister commented that “hard coal and lignite -- and soon shale gas -- will remain our principal energy sources. That's where the future of the energy sector lies.” Flying in to Warsaw, I saw one single isolated wind turbine – quite different from the landscape of neighboring Germany, where there are over 21,000 wind turbines scattered across the country providing 10% of the energy with an installed capacity of 29,000 megawatts. Poland does have some wind farms, but they account for only 2% of the country’s energy needs, with an installed capacity of 1616 megawatts as of 2011. (http://www.ewea.org/fileadmin/ewea_documents/documents/publications/statistics/Stats_2011.pdf)
It will be hard to miss the importance of coal to Poland. The government will also be hosting the World Coal Association’s International Coal and Climate Summit November 18-19, coinciding with the last week of the UNFCCC meeting. The AP reports that over 600,000 jobs in Poland are provided by the coal industry and affiliated sectors, and that Polish labor union leaders and nationalists are hosting a panel discussion on the financial impacts of climate action. Tomorrow, opening day of the COP, the Nationalists will be marching in one of the demonstrations celebrating Polish Independence Day … it promises to be an interesting day. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/polish-government-criticized-for-hosting-coal-event-at-same-time-as-un-climate-conference/2013/11/08/0d8a3a3c-4847-11e3-95a9-3f15b5618ba8_story.html
Most interesting to me, however, is that Poland and neighboring Czech Republic have also “banned” Germany’s green energy. When Germany’s systems are maxed out because of heavy winds, they have been exporting the energy to Poland and the Czech Republic, who in turn have had to shut down coal plants! Poland and the Czech Republic have been installing switches to block the unwanted energy to prevent destabilization of their own energy systems.
On the bright side, there are voices for change in Poland. Check out the Polish Climate Coalition, an association of 23 NGOs committed to climate protection activities. Just last month, they published a report outlining how Poland can cut its coal demand by 50% by 2030. http://www.koalicjaklimatyczna.org/lang/ang/page/about_us/id/44/