It is that time of year again – when the annual international UN climate negotiations take place. This year, the Conference of the Parties – or COP for short – is happening in Katowice, in Poland. It starts next week.
Next week, thousands of delegates will descend on Katowice to discuss our climate emergency.
As I write, news comes in that this year is on course to be the 4th warmest year on record. According to the World Meteorological Society, which has just published their annual report on the subject: “This would mean that the past four years –2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 –are also the four warmest years” we have experienced.
Elena Manaenkova, the WMO Deputy Secretary General, said: “These are more than just numbers. “Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life.”
Given that time is running out to take drastic action on climate, one of the most rationale actions to take would be to make sure that Big Polluters stopped having undue influence and access to the UN talks like they have for years.
And if you were doing that, you would start with excluding the dirtiest fossil fuel of them all: coal. But that would make too much common sense.
The climate talks are being held in Katowice. And Katowice is coal country. As the Associated Press reports: “coal’s grip on Katowice and its surroundings remains firm — as evidenced by the smog that envelops the region for much of the year.”
Poland remains the EU’s largest source of coal, providing 70 per cent of the EU’s output and 83,000 jobs. And King Coal will still be king, even at the climate talks.
As Desmog reported this week: “One of Poland’s leading coal companies has become the first official sponsor of the UN climate talks, which start in the southern city of Katowice next week.”
The company, Jastrzebska Spólka Weglowa, (JSW), a state-owned company which is the European Union’s largest producer of coking coal, announced two days ago that it had, with the agreement of the Minister of the Environment, “become the first official partner of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 24).”
JSW added: “This is UN’s most important international conference. JSW’s partnership supports Polish Presidency, guaranteeing the company’s active participation in the event and the possibility to promote environment-friendly changes in the mining sector.”
Daniel Ozon, JSW President said: “We are honored to be able to support Polish COP 24 Presidency. We hope that our participation in the summit … will contribute to promotion of JSW as an environment-friendly leader of the mining industry.”
He added that “ We want to strengthen the image of the JSW Group in the international forum as the biggest producer of coking coal and coke, i.e. the components required for production of steel and development of modern, low-emission industry and innovative technologies of the future.”
Sriram Madhusoodanan, deputy campaigns director at Corporate Accountability, told DeSmog that the fact the climate talks are “being bankrolled by Big Coal is absolutely unacceptable”.
He added: “Big polluter sponsors like JSW are not only able to use sponsorship to greenwash their images, but also sponsorship will likely buy them access to the talks themselves — a massive conflict of interest.”
Meanwhile, whatever happens at the talks over the next two weeks, the Poles intend to carry on burning coal for decades to come. Deputy Energy Minister, Grzegorz Tobiszowski, argues: “We, as the government, want to have Polish coal for the Polish energy system.”