Coal-reliant Poland to host U.N. climate talks after OPEC's Qatar

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 28, 2012 12:34 PM

By Regan Doherty

DOHA (Reuters) - Coal-dependent Poland is set to host next year's U.N. talks on slowing climate change after OPEC member Qatar in 2012, a move dismaying environmentalists who say both oppose action to reduce use of fossil fuels.

Poland formally submitted its offer for Warsaw to host the talks on Wednesday to almost 200 nations at this year's meeting in Doha. No other countries made an offer at a planning session on Wednesday, making its selection pretty much automatic.

"Poland is a good place to go," the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, Christiana Figueres, told Reuters. "Here also in Qatar and in Poland what this conference does is bring the world's attention to the host country and encourage that country to actually step up to the plate and do more."

Poland, which relies on carbon-intensive coal for nearly all its power, has expressed concern that greater action on climate will harm its economy. The country, which also hosted a U.N. climate meeting in Poznan in 2008, has led opposition to European Union plans to curb carbon pollution permits.

Environmental campaigners have also criticized the current choice of host. OPEC member Qatar's greenhouse gas output per capita is the world's highest and it has made no pledge to cut it.

Carbon Market Watch's Anja Kollmuss said a host needed to negotiate between parties with differing views but Poland "is not capable of this as it has repeatedly been against the wishes of the other 26 EU member states."

Due to a slowing economy, Poland has a glut of carbon emission permits it wants to keep to offset future emissions or sell. Other EU countries want tighter restrictions on "hot air".

"The prospect of Poland hosting the next global climate conference is hugely concerning. At a time when action is desperately needed, a host country should be firmly committed to climate protection," Greenpeace's Jiri Jerabek said.

The Polish government plans to open several new lignite mines that will prolong the country's dependency on coal for the next 100 years, Jerabek said.

The EU is one of the few to have promised to sign up to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the only international pact on tackling climate change that will otherwise expire at the end of 2012.

Some experts said a meeting in Poland might just help forge more consensus within the EU on the need for on climate change action.

"Hosting the negotiations so close to home in the EU could ... help to unblock greater ambition in Europe" although Poland has been reluctant until now, said Richard Gledhill, global leader of climate change and carbon market services at London-based PwC.

Past hosts to U.N. climate conferences include Durban, South Africa, last year, Cancun, Mexico, in 2010 and Copenhagen in 2009.

(Additional reporting by Alister Doyle; Additional reporting by Nina Chestney; editing by Jason Webb)