Does anyone remember a referendum on whether Poland should block EU efforts to stop climate change? How about whether Poland should hold the climate negotiations hostage by blocking the EU from being constructive and committing to ambitious domestic climate and energy policies? Perhaps a public consultation about whether the Polish economy should stay addicted to coal?
I thought I might have overlooked something, so I checked, but no -- no consultations, no referenda. It never happened.
And here is why: If the government of Poland were to follow the will of its people, its position would be entirely opposite to the one it now sticks to. On the one hand, according to polish national radio, Prime Minister Tusk himself said, “Poland will continue to back coal and invest in the coal-mining industry,” in an address to the International Fair of Mining, Power Industry and Metallurgym.
On the other hand, we recently commissioned a representative poll asking Poles three simple questions. Here are the results:
The overwhelming majority of Poles choose renewable energy over coal and nuclear. 89% percent of Polish citizens want more energy coming from renewable sources. This is based on an opinion poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS). Also, more than two-thirds of Polish people (70%) want energy policy supporting the development of renewable energy. If you compare this to the support for coal and lignite (18%) and nuclear energy (16%) what the people actually want becomes starkly apparent.
It should be noted that 73% of the Polish people would like Polish government to be more involved in acting to prevent the negative effects of climate change.
So, despite the endless repetition of the Polish government’s “coal is good, there is no alternative” mantra, Poles are not buying it. Even the “coal is the basis of energy security” tune doesn’t seem to work for the Polish government – maybe because people in Poland are starting to see that coal import is on the rise from … Russia. The concept of producing your own green energy and becoming independent from powerful corporations’ steadily increasing prices (and profits) seems to be catching fire in Polish society. The results of the poll are crystal clear: The gap between what the Polish government does - inside the country and at the international level - and what Polish citizens want, is vast and growing.
Polish Prime Minister Tusk is out of touch with what the people want. The Polish government’s continuous support and promotion of a coal-based energy mix must end now. Here, at the international UN climate summit, it is time for Tusk to follow the will of his own people.
Maciej Muskat is the Director of Greenpeace Poland.