Two weeks in Katowice will be a time of intensive dialogue. At the same time COP24 kicks off the Polish presidency.
We live in a world of geometric growth. Since 2000, energy consumption has increased by 70 per cent, and in the next 20 years it will go up by another 60 per cent. In the meantime, global GDP will double.
“On the scale of human history, the current rate of economic development is exponential. We must be able to curb it and put it on the right track,” said Michał Kurtyka, Deputy Minister for the Environment, Government Plenipotentiary for COP24, which will take place in Katowice.
“Many decision-makers have already noticed that one cannot think about further development without considering the environmental aspect,” added Kurtyka, pointing to China and India.
Counteracting the effects
According to Kurtyka, Katowice’s negotiations will focus the world’s attention on the planet’s problems. The key issue in Katowice will be to agree on the so-called Rule Book, i.e. the rules of implementation of the Paris Agreement of December 2015. They were adopted with euphoria after the fiasco of the Copenhagen summit in 2009. Especially as everyone agreed then to stop the increase in global average temperatures below 2°C and declared to continue their efforts to limit the growth to 1.5°C.
In 2018, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report had a sobering effect. “The commitments made in Paris are not enough. Their effect will be an increase in average temperature from 2.7 to 3.7 degrees Celsius,” notes Andrzej Kassenberg, representing the Climate Coalition and the Institute for Sustainable Development.
“The report has shown that we need to achieve climate neutrality by mid-century. The Union has the most progressive multilateral international law in this area. Poland has to be a part of this by showing its own plan of change,” stresses Tobiasz Adamczewski, member of the management board and director of the WWF Poland’s nature protection department.
“We do not have time to work out compromises slowly. The situation is already bad. We have a disregulated climate and the effects of global warming can be seen,” warns Kamil Wyszkowski, CEO of the Global Compact Network Poland, mentioning the fires that have recently consumed California, the violent storms in Tenerife, the hurricanes passing through Florida, the drought and water crisis in Poland, as well as the desertification of previously fertile areas on all continents. The result will be a global migration of peoples caused by climate change, which may lead to a threat to security and peace.
In the light of the above he is all the more puzzled by the ignorance of politicians, such as the US President Donald Trump, who are undermining the achievements of NASA’s government agenda and several hundred of the world’s most important scientific centres specialising in climate research.
According to Kassenberg, Polish politicians who are focused more on a more effective continuation of the existing activities do not pay enough importance to the report. Society does not see its importance either. Although there are more frequent declarations about the need to act for the benefit of the climate, this does not translate into a change in attitudes, e.g. in terms of changing the way of using transport, limiting meat consumption, abandoning the construction of an energy inefficient home or travelling abroad.
Wyszkowski advises to talk about climate change on the basis of specific examples. “The abstract message will have less impact on the imagination of Poles than the awareness that blue-green algae will become a permanent element of the Baltic Sea in the summer months. And then the attractiveness of our sea will decrease along with the revenues from tourism in this region to the economy, representing about 5% of GDP – he argues.
“We inspired to the middle class for so long that we don’t want to give up our annual trip to the proverbial Maldives. But we don’t care about the fact that in 20 to 30 years’ time they will disappear from the surface, flooded with water,” Kassenberg illustrates.
He sees the hope to build a different way of thinking in the progressive business looking for opportunities for development, city owners worried about ensuring food security for residents, as well as social and environmental organizations, among others. It is estimated that the market for low-carbon investments and services worldwide has exceeded PLN 20 trillion (about 10 times more than Poland’s GDP).
“There is already a growing awareness among businesses and citizens that we are influencing the climate and that it is up to us what the future will look like,” says Rafał Rudzki, senior manager of the Sustainable Development team in Poland and Central Europe at Deloitte. He advises to focus on reviewing and selecting the best existing solutions – both systemic and small, everyday activities that translate into minimizing our negative impact on the natural environment.
“Let’s promote behaviour that gives the average citizen a benefit and at the same time minimizes the negative impact on the climate,” adds Rudzki. New business models, e.g. sharing, or EU regulations, e.g. on packaging or plastic, are also a support here.
Starting from the cities
Cities should take on the role of leader of change. Because they will experience the problems of securing water and electricity supply in the face of the influx of more and more people the soonest. And in our country the number of inhabitants of rural areas who move to agglomerations is clearly decreasing.
“Cities already occupy about 3 per cent of the land area. They account for 50% of the global population, and by 2050 they will account for 70% of the world’s population. Cities consume 60 to 80 percent of energy and are responsible for 75 percent of carbon emissions,” calculated Wyszkowski.
As the representative of Deloitte points out, an important challenge for cities is the implementation of adaptation solutions to climate change. 44 Polish cities are about to finish work on their plans in this area. This is a milestone, because agglomerations already have problems with poor air quality and traffic jams.
“The outlays and quick actions connected with improving the energy efficiency of buildings are an opportunity for relatively quick results,” believes Rudzki.
In a recent report published with the InnoEnergy Fund, Deloitte looked, among other things, at available technologies in the field of heating and transport that can help us combat smog.
The politicians want to fight the problem using money from the Clean Air programme or the Low Emissions Transport Fund. But some people go further. Some Polish cities want to join the NAZCA platform (which brings together 9,000 centres and 200 regions around the world that reduce their negative impact on the environment), on which cities declare and report their actions for adaptation to climate change and its fight against it. The aim is to attract at least hundreds of Polish cities to NACK before the Katowice summit. This is supposed to inspire others. On the 5th of December during COP24 the NAME of the Urban Summit will be held, which will jointly adopt the Katowice Declaration.
“City authorities have a huge causative power. Their awareness and knowledge, as well as their ability to imagine what is going to happen in a dozen or so years’ time will determine the wise planning of the development of these agglomerations,” says Wyszkowski.
A negative example can be Los Angeles, which today is stuck in traffic jams due to the decision taken in the past to liquidate one of the largest tram lines. Now they are thinking about returning to the concept of basing their communication on trams.
On the other hand, the actions of cities such as Copenhagen, which, by building special motorways for bicycles and managing the development of a network of bicycle lanes for decades, has contributed to the development of the advantage of this means of transport over cars, are encouraging.
“Transport in combination with energy create interesting space for the development of new businesses. And it’s not about building one’s own electric car, but rather intelligent transport and mobility management,” says Kassenberg.
Kassenberg advises to direct revenues from the sale of CO2 emission allowances to activities in the areas of air quality improvement through the deep thermal upgrading of buildings and the development of micro installations. The budget in the years 2021-2030 may reach as much as PLN 50-100 billion.
“An important element of these activities should be building a system that shortens the distance between the source of energy production and the place of its consumption. Today, a prosument is not treated as a serious partner at all, and acting in this direction is the building of energy democracy,” notes the expert.
A breakthrough in thinking is already taking place. Because, as Kurtyka emphasizes, energy and transport, treated separately so far, are slowly perceived as a whole.
“Batteries in electric cars can be a kind of dispersed network, running on wheels and computer-controlled. However, switching to electric vehicles will not solve the basic problem, i.e. congestion of streets with the massively growing number of cars bought by the inhabitants of big cities aspiring to the middle class,” explains the Deputy Minister for the Environment.
He believes that Poland with a high rate of use of public transport in cities as a means of transport (e.g. in Warsaw – 57%) may serve as an example not only for developing countries, but also for many Western European or American metropolises.
“The world will be becoming more and more urban. Already today, the population of these centres is growing every quarter by the size of Shanghai. This shows the scale of the challenges facing us. Driving around the world I can see what kind of leap we have made. At the same time, however, I am aware of how much more needs to be done, for example, in the area of comprehensive sustainable development policy,” adds Kurtyka.
The Polish Presidency wants to listen not only to the voice of the Heads of State, but also to take into account the suggestions of people who are submitting them for the first time through social media. The Peoples’s Seat project is intended to democratise dialogue on climate. Ideas will be processed by introducing artificial intelligence into the discussion.
What will be the success of Katowice
The expectations related to COP24 are high. Many people are wondering whether Katowice will lift this burden. For Adamczewski, the measure of the summit’s success will be a look at our energy sector and decisions in this sector through the prism of the IPCC report.
“If we are talking about emission neutrality in the middle of the century, we should not build Ostrołęka (a 1,000 MW hard coal-fired power plant planned to be launched in 2023). The government should also support zero-energy and plus-energy buildings using the potential of 5.5 million detached houses in Poland. The same applies to transport, which, after switching to electricity and alternative fuels, will contribute to the reduction of oil imports,” stresses the WWF expert. “Only if we translate the report’s recommendations into Polish reality and make decisions in accordance with them will it be easier for us to achieve sustainable development for the benefit of the economy.
Kamil Wyszkowski hopes that Katowice will succeed in pushing forward the discussion on financing climate policies and discussing the allocation of specific funds for particular technologies, e.g. photovoltaics or energy storage.
“The world’s largest institutions are withdrawing from investments in high-emission energy sources. It will be a success to include Chinese banks, which for the time are willing to lend funds for coal projects,” stresses Wyszkowski. It is also necessary to take care to introduce a minimum technological standard so that developing countries such as India or Pakistan are not flooded with old technologies. This will also work to our advantage, because German diesel cars will not be pushed out to Poland.
According to Kassenberg, apart from the adoption of the Rule Book, the Polish message for the international community should be to encourage a revolution in thinking about business. The goal is to sell fewer products, e.g. washing machines or cars, and to sell more laundry services or transport. The inspiration could be Philips, which sold the airport in Amsterdam not only fluorescent lamps, but a lighting service, including service and replacement in the price, as well as energy management for this purpose.
“Solutions related to closed-loop economy have a huge potential. In the Deloitte report we indicate that a minimal change, 1% savings in the cost of materials and energy in the economy may result in an increase in the Polish GDP by 19.5 billion PLN per year,” Rudzki estimates.
Kurtyka will focus on reaching an agreement between parties with often different interests. He hopes that the discussions and their final outcome will inspire even those withdrawing from the Paris agreement.
“It is true that although the US federal government has announced such a will, it may not materialise until 2020. Therefore, they will have time to assess to what extent the Katowice agreement is satisfactory,” explains the Deputy Minister for the Environment.
He also declared that Poland will be a loyal partner of the EU, which aspires to be the leader in the implementation of climate policy. “This does not mean that we do not notice the high costs of transformation and the challenges facing the EU in this area. We also understand the dilemmas of developing countries in Asia, striving to maintain economic growth at a high level, but trying to implement more sustainable energy generation technologies.
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