WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland should not phase out coal before 2060, mining trade unions said on Thursday, as talks with the government continued on the restructuring of the industry, which generates most of the country’s electricity.
Poland is the only European Union state to refuse to pledge climate neutrality by 2050, with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party saying that it needs more time and money to shift its economy from coal to cleaner energy sources.
The powerful coal trade unions have usually been successful in stopping the government from making deep cuts to the sector. Mindful of violent miners’ protests in the past, PiS has been cautious in dealing with the unions in the past few years.
But the coronavirus crisis and EU climate policies, which have added to the cost of burning fossil fuels rather than using cleaner energy sources, have pushed Warsaw into more decisive steps to tackle the loss-making sector.
The government and management at Poland’s biggest coal producer PGG had planned to close at least two mines, which have been hit by falling demand for coal, rising costs and a rapid spread of coronavirus cases.
The plan was rejected by the unions in July and the parties have since been trying to work out a new scheme.
But with progress slow and the unions angered by a climate ministry proposal to phase out coal more quickly, miners started an underground protest on Monday.
“Some elements of these talks have made progress today… we have decided that the transformation of the sector will follow a similar pattern as it did in Germany,” Dominik Kolorz, the head of the Solidarity union in southern Poland said in a statement.
He said the unions see 2060 as Poland’s cut-off date for coal, while the government is targeting 2050.
“We have 10 years of discrepancy. Maybe we’ll meet halfway,” Kolorz said.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Jan Harvey)