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The Economist: „Green growls in Poland”

18 maja 2011

Eight of Warsaw’s most influential think tank experts have just published an open letter arguing that ahead of Poland’s EU presidency, which starts in six weeks, the government is neglecting climate-change issues. The letter matters, because its signatories directly influence planning for the six-month presidency, during which a UN climate change conference will take place in Durban.

The forgotten conference – Durban in the shadows of Poland’s Presidency

The Polish presidency must pay more attention to the UN conference on climate change (COP17) which is scheduled to take place in Durban, South Africa at the end of this year, viewing the issue not as a threat but as an opportunity to bolster its forthcoming presidency.

Unfortunately, Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski’s annual foreign policy speech to Parliament in March 2011 failed to even mention the Durban meeting. Indeed, climate change issues are absent from Poland’s presidency priorities. These omissions suggest that Poland is failing to take  climate change seriously even as negotiations on the issue have moved far beyond the confines of environmental policy and now touch on global economic, social and political relations especially between the rich and less developed countries

Climate policy is about the future of our planet. A  constructive Polish contribution to this global discussion could show that our country understands the changes taking place in the world. It  would also serve to give credibility to Minister Sikorski’s statement in Parliament that  “the idea of an europocentric world to which we have become accustomed is becoming outdated”. Climate policy should be accorded the same attention as other policies conducted by our country. It should also take into account the fact that our state is now responsible  for the quality of life of future generations. The global dimension of the climate change challenge means that the issue should be at the centre of attention of those responsible for the strategic planning of our foreign policy.   

The climate conference in Durban touches on one of the key elements of a changing world order. This is where the negotiations will take place as to what is to happen once the Kyoto protocol runs its course requiring a new worldwide  agreement on lowering CO2 emissions. In Durban, Poland will be co-responsible for coordinating a common UE position on climate. Thus our country has an important role to play in the world arena in a key global policy area. This alone means that the subject of the fight against climate change, in the context of COP 17, should be one of the more important concerns facing our administration. Meanwhile, the Polish government appears to  view proposals put forward by those who want to radically limit CO2 emissions as a threat to our economy.

But  this approach itself marks a threat. Firstly, the EU’s Presidency role is to act as an arbiter in disputes between member states. The presidency should not take sides. Those responsible for the Polish presidency would do well to remember this. Secondly, the EU is concerned to play a leading role in the fight against climate change in Durban. Were Poland  to take the role of a country which neglects the issue or indeed treats it as a threat to its well being and consequently acts as a brake on the proceedings then our position in the EU will suffer. Our presidency’s achievements in other fields will be dimmed.

A serious and constructive approach to the conference in Durban would bring Poland benefits. A Polish lead on this issue would  change the way our country is viewed by our partners in the EU which currently see us  as a member state which is ever concerned to hinder agreement on climate. Secondly, a positive approach to climate change issues would allow Poland to be seen as a fully fledged actor on the world stage who is ready to take on global duties and responsibilities.

Krzysztof Bobinski – President of Union&Poland Foundation

Malgorzata Bonikowska – Editor of THINKTANK Magazine

Zbigniew Czachor – Director, Centre of European Research and Education

Grzegorz Gromadzki – independent expert

Jacek Kucharczyk – President of the Executive Board , The Institute of Public Affairs

Bartek Nowak – Executive Director, Center for International Relations

Jan Pieklo – Director, Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation PAUCI

Pawel Swieboda – President of demosEuropa-Centre for European Strategy