Mr. Kurtyka, you are heading the newly established Ministry of Climate. What is the vision you bring on board and plan to pursue throughout your mandate?
We are facing a civilisational change, a paradigm shift concerning our attitude towards Earth’s natural resources and it is time to think about how we can change our way of life. In addition, Poland needs to effectively pursue its interests in achieving climate neutrality in the international arena and the EU. One of the key challenges will entail transitioning our country in a just manner, lowering the overall cost and burden for the society. This leaves little doubt that the Ministry of Climate is needed and its role will be crucial throughout this whole process.
The establishment of the Ministry of Climate last year proves where our government’s priorities really are.
Our main objective is to improve the quality of life of Poles, and this entails improving air quality. The Ministry of Climate was also tasked with ensuring the energy security of the country, and this involves technologies such as nuclear power and zero-emission energy sources. We have to be prudent, but we are going to gradually transition the national energy system to take advantage of green energy.
As President of COP24 that took place in Katowice last year, what are the main takeaways of “Katowice Rulebook”?
In 2018, the COP24 Climate Conference in Katowice had three main headlines - humanity, technology and nature - which were followed up with three declarations proposed by the Polish Presidency. The first of them - the Declaration of Solidarity and Just Transition - assumes that climate policy cannot be detached from the economy and that the human beings need to be the focal point in the debate on climate neutrality.
Another Polish contribution to the global climate negotiations was highlighting technological revolution - including electromobility - as one of the elements of the struggle to curb emissions and pollution. The Electromobility Declaration was signed by countries representing over half of the world’s population. The introduction of the topic of forests to the international climate debate with the Forest Declaration was yet another success of COP24.
Poland recently opted out from EU’s net-zero emissions target by 2050. What was the reasoning behind this? What key elements must be considered in your view to ensure a just transition for Poland?
As a result of the decisions made at the December meeting of the European Council, the EU adopted the climate neutrality, taking into account the specific situation of Poland, which has been granted an exception from having to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, along with other EU Member States. What is important, Poland is not going to shy away from fulfilling its commitments resulting from the Paris Agreement.
The European Commission’s proposal on just transition shows us that the EC understands the specific challenges faced by individual regions in Poland. In order to ensure a just transition for all citizens, we need to ensure that local communities living in areas dependent on fossil fuel extraction have the conditions for further development and growth.
A just and responsible transition takes time - we do not want to institute sweeping radical changes, rather we want to introduce them in a gradual, albeit systematic manner, while taking into account their impact on the society as a whole.
We should not forget about the fact that Poland starts its changes from a completely different starting point than other countries. As of now, nearly 80% of all energy produced in Poland comes from coal. We need a new start. We want to change the way we approach the energy sector. We also need to keep in mind that this transition is a long-term process, it won’t be completed in just a year.
Air quality is a real problem in Poland - what is the Ministry of Climate doing to address this?
In line with what I said earlier, our goal is to improve the quality of air we all breathe, which is why we are continuously implementing the "Clean Air” Programme - a government programme on a scale unprecedented in the European Union, supporting insulating single-family houses and replacing old and inefficient solid fuel heat sources. We are currently working to simplify the programme and make it even more effective.
Soon the potential beneficiaries will have a way to submit their application on-line, which should make it easier to take advantage of the programme. Even the application itself will be simplified, while the majority of required documents will be replaced by statements. The processing time will also be shortened - from 90 working days to 30 calendar days. Moreover, the application will no longer need to include technical details, which was often one of the main obstacles for potential beneficiaries.
These improvements are intended to increase the number of applications submitted by beneficiaries. The new version of the programme will be launched soon.
Solar is booming in Poland but onshore wind still find itself limited by the 10H rule. Can we expect this rule to be amended throughout 2020? In what way?
The Ministry of Climate wants to introduce new solutions to boost the development of RES in Poland. It is indeed true, we are currently experiencing a real boom in photovoltaics and solar energy, largely owing to the “My Electricity” Programme - one of Europe’s largest funding programmes for photovoltaic microinstallations for individuals who generate electricity for their own use.
Recently, we have been seeing a lot of progress in this area, which shows that the transition in the energy sector will be successful when the investment potential is unleashed, which requires some support and regulation. The estimated potential of the Baltic Sea allows forecasting that offshore wind energy will become an important element of the Polish power system. That is why we want to propose an amended law on offshore wind energy, taking into account the comments from the public consultation of the draft.
COVID-19 is threatening industries all around the world - what is Poland doing to protect its energy security during these trying times? Do you already have a sense of how this crisis will impact the sector in the short term?
The Ministry of Climate has proposed a number of solutions that will enable safe waste management, concerning in particular medical biohazardous waste resulting from the pandemic.
We are also going to introduce changes concerning renewable energy sources. The Ministry’s proposals will enable the investors to extend the deadlines, if their bids won the auctions in previous years.
This unprecedented situation requires us to take extraordinary measures. There is no doubt that this situation will affect all areas of our lives, as well as the economy. Our main objective is to ensure security for all Poles, which is why the government has prepared regulations that will really help entrepreneurs and local governments.
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