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Coal-fired Poland changes stance, plans to set end date for fossil fuels

Belchatow, Poland, is Europe's largest coal power plant. Image: Fotopolska.eu/Flickr

Poland's new government plans to set an end date for generating power from coal, the country's Secretary of State for Climate Urszula Zielinska said on Monday, reversing the previous government's approach to energy.

"Only with an end date [for coal power] we can plan and only with an end date industry can plan, people can plan. So yes, absolutely, we will be looking to set an end date," she replied on a question referencing Poland's dependency on fossil fuels.

Poland depends on fossil fuels for around 70 percent of its energy. It is also heavily dependent on coal,  and is home to the 5.3 GW Belchatow power station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant. The previous government has signed pacts allowing the country's coal-fired plants would continue to operate till 2049.

Renewables have been gaining ground in Poland, albeit slowly. The country has ~18 GW of solar power generation capacity and 9 GW of onshore wind capacity. In December, Abu Dhabi's Masdar tied up with Finnish renewables developer Taaleri Energia to acquire eight hybrid renewable energy projects under development having a combined capacity of 1 GW.  

Source: IEA

Zielinska said the new government would increase environmental efforts, including a phase-out date for coal power, and urge the European Union to "embrace" a plan seeking to slash the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent by 2040.

"We cannot go on like this, Europe or the rest of the world," Zielinska told reporters in Brussels. "We're not meeting the safe climate targets now, so we have to step up ... we're in it together. The rest of Europe can count on Poland to step up our efforts on this."

The European Commission will publish a roadmap for the bloc's next climate target on February 6, and the EU's Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change has recommended emissions be reduced 90-95 percent by 2040, compared to 1990 levels. 

Experts have warned that the world is transitioning too slowly into clean energy and risks missing targets set in the Paris climate agreement.

Zielińska said she would seek to convince her government to formally endorse climate neutrality by 2050, an EU target endorsed by every EU member except Poland. 

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