‘Changing together’ a key for a success of global climate deal in Poland

In just a few weeks’ time, Poland will host one of the key global climate change events, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP-24. We expect over 30 000 international delegates, including heads of states and governments, to participate in the COP24 summit which will be held on 2-14 December in Katowice.

The top priority of Polish COP Presidency and the major goal of the COP24 conference will be the finalization to the Paris Agreement Work Programme to compel the states to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow the pace of global warming. We aim for the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement in the form of ‘Katowice Rulebook” – a comprehensive package of balanced rules bringing the agreement fully into force, a kind of a “user manual”. Successful finalization and adoption of the guidelines is critical to maintaining the credibility of the process and global action against climate change.

This year Poland celebrates 100th Anniversary of Regaining Independence. However it wasn’t until the collapse of communism in 1989 that our country was able to independently shape its destiny, including its industrial and energy policies. The environmental landscape in the 1980’s was bleak: high emissions, coal-based energy, domination of heavy industries, ineffective economy and a surge of unemployment coupled with lack of understanding for the environment and its role in economic policies. Fast forward to 2018, Poland has made an enormous progress fueled by large-scale investments and common efforts of Polish people.

In a span of 30 years Polish GDP increased almost eightfold and Poland has never fallen into recession. Owing to that unprecedented growth we were able to adapt our industries to meet the environmental norms of the European Union. For example, while Poland’s obligation under the Kyoto Protocol was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6%, we made, in fact, over 30% cut. Joining the EU in 2004 Poland also signed for the EU 3×20 Climate Package and is  currently on a good path to meet all of its objectives.

The unique historical experience allows Poland to understand not only the perspectives of developed Western countries, but also the challenges faced by the poorer, developing states where food security and energy provision for their citizens is the top priority. We can relate to the various stakeholders in the negotiating process. The summit city– Katowice – is a good symbol of the effectiveness of our economic and social transformation strategy and positive interaction with the environment. No longer than 25 years ago Katowice’s landscape was dotted by factories and chimneys.

Nowadays it is one of the greenest cities in Poland, with over 40% of forested area, and a center for culture, innovations and new technologies. We trust that sustainable transformation of both the city and the region can be an inspiration for global change.

I do trust that in Katowice the states will agree on the mechanism to meet their reduction goals and to report on their initiatives. This mechanism will be aimed at demonstrating the commitment of individual states to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adopting generally applicable rules for contribution to global goals. One of initiatives of the Polish Presidency is also the ministerial declaration on just transformation which stresses the need to take into account the social aspect of the transition towards a low-carbon economy.

It is important to underline that without success of COP 24, the Paris Agreement won’t meet the hopes and expectations raised back in 2015. Only the decisions to be taken in Katowice can catalyze any further actions on the part of the states-parties. We are facing an enormous challenge, with outstanding issues related, for example, to transparency and accounting in climate change mitigation policies. However, ministerial discussions during pre-COP in Cracow as well as in the framework of Talanoa Dialogue allow us to think that the solutions to the challenges are within reach. The key to the acceptance of the implementation package lies in building confidence between the parties. It will be crucial to ensure that no issue important for individual states is omitted. The agreement in Katowice can be achieved through solidarity as regards participation and is aimed to create a trust-building system.

Upcoming COP24 constitutes a unique chance. Its motto is ‘Changing together’ and in that spirit we will jointly take decisions that will be of utmost importance for the future of our planet. I trust, that with solid political will of the participating states, Katowice, alongside Kyoto and Paris, will find its place in the climate history of mankind.

Michal Kurtyka, Secretary of State in Poland’s Ministry of Environment and incoming president of COP-24, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.