Science & Environment

Coal fires green anger at UN climate talks

Berchatow open-cast lignite mine
Image caption Poland says the country's economy depends on continuing to use coal

Environmental groups have sharply criticised the Polish government for hosting a coal industry meeting while UN climate talks are held in the country.

They are angry because they believe Poland is more committed to coal than curbing climate change.

The Polish government says that coal will remain a critical part of their energy mix for many decades.

But they say they are committed to developing cleaner technologies.

The UN's chief climate negotiator, Christiana Figueres, will address the International Coal and Climate two-day summit and is expected to call for radical reform.

She said she "wanted to speak directly to an industry that must change quickly".

But her appearance at the event has drawn criticism from green groups.

According to WWF's head of delegation at the climate talks, the coal meeting is a "provocative act".

"For the coal industry to come to Warsaw at a time when we are dealing with these serious issues and to say they have a future and try to pretend they can make a contribution, is a bit provocative," Tasneem Essop told BBC News.

Image caption Protesters marched at the weekend to chants of "keep the coal in the hole".

The World Coal Association believes that coal is an important part of the energy mix right now and is growing in many parts of the world.

They say that coal accounts for 41% of the world's electricity and in 20 years' time is still expected to be providing a quarter of the world's primary energy, the same level it was at in 1980.

If people are serious about tackling climate change, they need to accept this reality and help the industry develop the "clean coal" technology that can extract the CO2 from the substance.

But Tasneem Essop rejects the idea that coal can be cleaned up.

"This whole concept of clean coal is a myth and it is being presented by the industry," she said.

Image caption Ms Figueres is expected to call for radical reform in her address

"We do recognise that for developing countries that giving up coal is going to be a challenge and we're not suggesting that tomorrow they stop.

"What we are saying is that we need to recognise that there is a point at which we cannot continue using coal in our energy mix and we have a just transition into renewables."

Poland is investing heavily in clean coal technology and the coal meeting has the open approval of the government, being held at the Ministry of the Economy.

Speaking in September, Prime Minister Donald Tusk re-iterated the importance of coal for Poland.

"The future of Polish energy is in brown and black coal, as well as shale gas," he was quoted as saying.

"Some wanted coal to be dispensed with, but energy independence requires not only the diversification of energy resources, but also the maximum use of one's own resources."

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