November 6, 2019 / 8:53 AM / 7 days ago

Some leading Polish companies back climate neutrality goal

WARSAW (Reuters) - Over 20 Polish companies, private and state-run, have backed the European Union proposal for the bloc to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at a time when the country’s pro-coal government is reluctant to support the ambitious plan.

Poland, which generates 80% of its electricity from polluting coal, in June led a handful of eastern EU states in blocking a push by France and most others to commit the bloc to net zero emissions by mid-century.

Warsaw said that it wants a hefty compensation package for its industry in exchange for agreeing to commit to the target, arguing it cannot cut coal overnight. Poland’s energy minister said Warsaw needs up to 900 billion euros to reach a net zero emissions economy, saying it was a “fantasy” that it could reach that goal by 2050.

Still many Polish companies, including some of the biggest ones, pledged in the past few days to sign the Ecological Responsibility Charter of the Entrepreneurs and Employers of Poland, said a lobby group Employers of Poland, which proposed the charter.

“By signing this charter, we express our support for the objectives of the European Union, which wants to become the first global economy that achieves climate neutrality in 2050...Climate-neutral technologies are now more expensive, but profitable in the long run,” the draft document says.

Spokesman at Employers of Poland lobby group said that among the charter’s signatories are Polish units of France’s Orange (OPL.WA), Germany’s innogy IGY.WA, Dutch ING (INGP.WA), state-run refiner PKN Orlen (PKN.WA) and PKO Bank Polski (PKO.WA).

“We will not achieve the goal of climate neutrality tomorrow or the day after, but we must move towards it immediately,” the document also reads.

Joanna Erdman, Deputy Head at the Polish unit of ING, which was one of the first lenders in Poland to refuse new financing for coal-related projects, said signing the charter would be a natural step for the bank, which has also reduced its use of water, paper and electricity.

“For now the debate is about whether (Poland should agree to meet the 2050 goal), while it should be about when and how we should be mobilized to reach the deadline,” Erdman told Reuters.

It is unclear at the moment what would be Poland’s final stance towards the EU climate neutrality proposal as the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is expected to introduce personnel changes in the government within days following the general election last month.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Additional reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Anna Koper; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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