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The second day of the UN Climate Talks highlighted the need of a just transition in the shift towards low greenhouse gas emission and climate resilient economies. Andrzej Duda, president of Poland, presented the “Silesia Declaration on Solidarity and Just Transition”. However, the country’s dependence on coal still raises questions.

In the shift of economies towards sustainable production to avoid the causes climate change and reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, actions are needed to secure workers’ jobs and livelihoods. This is known as “just transition” which implies recognizing that the workforce and sectors of the population in poverty are the most vulnerable to these changes.
As a commitment pursued by the Polish COP Presidency, the “Silesia Declaration on Solidarity and Just Transition” was presented during the second day of the Climate Talks COP24 by the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda.
The declaration emphasizes the need of safeguarding and creating sustainable employment as crucial to ensure the public support for the long-team emission reductions.
Moreover, the Declaration recognizes the specific needs and circumstances of developing countries.  It also takes into account the challenges of a transition for vulnerable people living in poverty with limited savings and no social safety net for which it is necessary the creation of decent work and quality jobs.

Poland or Coal-land?

“The UN Climate Change is now taking place on the exact location of where a coal mine was once operated. Katowice is meanwhile one of the greenest cities in Poland. That is highly symbolic.”, said Duda during the ceremonial opening.

Once called Poland’s coal capital and now the city hosting the COP24, Katowice used to be the heart of the coal industry. Almost half the 82,000 jobsthat rely on coal production are found in Upper Silesia, the region where Katowice is located.
Poland relies primarily on coal for 80 percent of its energy and it is one of the most polluted countries in the EU. In fact, 33 of the 50most polluted cities in Europe are in Poland, according to a study by the World Health Organization.
Even though Poland aims to reduce its dependence on coal to 60 percent by 2030 by adding nuclear energy to its mix and replacing coal with renewables, the country’s real commitment to the Paris Agreement goals is debatable. Recently, a representative from the government has announced that Poland would start investing in a new coal mine next year in the south of the country.
The criticism on Poland increased when it was announced that coal companies sponsor the climate talks. The state-owned JSW company along with coal-based energy companies PGE and Tauron were chosen as partners of COP24.

Andrzej Duda, President of Poland. Photo: IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth

Same old story

Sadly, this is not new. The largest polluters have long used their sponsorship of climate talks as part of a PR strategy to showcase how they are part of the solution.
COP19 in Warsaw was sponsored by PGE and LOTOS, both majority state-owned coal and oil companies. The Polish government co-organized the “International Coal and Climate Summit” alongside the World Coal Association, for which they also used their official COP19 website.
Sponsors for the COP21 in Paris included fossil fuel energy company Engie, fracking enthusiast Suez Environment, and car manufacturer Renault. All three corporations also sponsored the COP21- endorsed “Solutions COP21,” which in turn provided them access to a “communications and networking area” inside the rooms where the negotiations were taking place.
Andrea Garcia Salinas

About Andrea Garcia Salinas

Campaigner for Climate Tracker. Andrea is a Communicator for Development from Perú. Following the UNFCCC negotiations since COP20. She has worked in conservation and climate awareness with youth initiatives in Latin America. Currently studying an M.A. in International Development - Environment & Migration at PSIA Sciences Po in Paris. @dellazule