* Questions raised over Polish commitment to negotiations
* Outgoing minister says will keep role at talks
* PM says move intended to accelerate shale gas development
By Pawel Sobczak and Alister Doyle
WARSAW, Nov 20 Polish Environment Minister
Marcin Korolec lost his job on Wednesday in a government
reshuffle, which may undermine his leadership while Warsaw hosts
U.N. climate talks involving almost 200 countries.
Korolec assumed the presidency of the U.N. Framework
Convention on Climate Change on Nov. 11, the first day of the
two-week conference that aims to make progress on a global
climate deal to be agreed by 2015.
Despite losing his ministerial post, he continues as
Poland's representative at the talks and is to hold the
presidency throughout 2014.
"Mr Korolec will remain the government's plenipotentiary for
the climate negotiations," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a
At the ministry, he will be replaced by Maciej Grabowski,
former deputy finance minister responsible for preparing shale
gas taxation. Tusk said the change was aimed at accelerating
Poland's drive to develop shale gas.
The dismissal raised questions over Poland's position in the
negotiations. A U.N. representative told Reuters on the
sidelines of the conference that the move could create problems
at the end of this week when talks are scheduled to end.
The president of the talks has the power to wield the gavel,
fighting off any last-minute objections and therefore forcing
through some sort of agreement, he said.
But if the president does not have the authority of his
government, then his power in the eyes of other countries is
reduced, the representative said.
Some U.N. delegates also said the timing of the reshuffle
indicated that Poland was not interested in ensuring tougher
global action to combat global warming.
"Poland hosted a conference to promote coal earlier this
week and now this. You have to question how serious they are,"
one delegate said
Korolec said the change in his position will formally take
effect on Nov. 27.
"I would like to reassure you the Polish presidency of COP
19 climate summit remains unchanged," he said.
"I realise the consistency of the work of the COP presidency
can only be achieved by a continued effort. Now I will be able
to fully focus on the efforts of climate negotiation without the
... daily responsibilities of the ministry."
Poland, which generates 90 percent of its electricity from
coal, has been one of the most reluctant European Union members
to toughen the existing goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions
by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
Environmentalists sharply criticised the latest move.
"This is nuts. Changing the minister leading the climate
negotiations after a race to the bottom by parties of the
convention shows Prime Minister Tusk is not sincere about the
need for an ambitious climate deal," Maciej Muskat, director of
Greenpeace Poland, said.
"Furthermore, justifying the change of minister by the need
to push the exploitation of another fossil fuel in Poland is
beyond words," he added.
The environment ministry under Korolec had been criticised
for hampering work on new shale gas legislation, which together
with red tape and poor results forced a number of global players
to quit Poland.
Some people in the industry had hoped for a change in the
ministry in hopes that work on the necessary legal changes would
speed up. But others were afraid that a change could delay the
proceedings even further.
The government, hoping shale gas will deliver Poland from
reliance on energy imports from Russia, has proposed new
legislation to ease conditions for investors. But the final
draft has not yet been adopted.
Kamlesh Parmar, chief executive of 3Legs Resources,
a company looking for shale gas in Poland, and the head of an
industry lobby group, said he hoped to continue work with the
ministry, "to improve procedures and administrative burdens" and
remove "regulatory uncertainty".
U.S. oil and gas major Chevron declined to comment
on the government changes.