Coal-addict Poland's president promises zero-emission energy system by 2040

WARSAW, April 23 (Reuters) - Poland plans to build a zero-emission energy system in the next two decades, President Andrzej Duda said in remarks for the White House virtual climate summit on Friday.

The claim apparently runs counter to Poland’s energy strategy, which plans to cut the share of carbon-intensive coal in power production by 2040 but not eliminate it.

Poland was the only European Union member not to commit to climate neutrality by 2050 when the bloc set the target in 2019 and the government has long courted political support from interests in coal.

Faced with surging carbon emissions costs and pressure from the European Union, Warsaw has, however, taken steps to reduce the share of the fossil fuel in power generation and has said its forests can help to absorb carbon emissions.

“Poland plans to build a new zero emission system over next two decades thanks to which the share of coal is going to drop from the current 70% to as little as 11% in 2040,” Duda told the summit, referring to Poland’s 2040 energy strategy.

He did not explain how the zero emission energy system was compatible with continued use of coal.

“The pandemic has brought the world to a halt for a moment. While getting back on track of development, let’s make sure that is not an old track,” Duda also said.

The president, who in the past vowed not to let anyone “murder coal mining”, also highlighted during the summit the latest agreement between the Polish government and coal trade unions to close the last coal mine in 2049.

Environmental groups denounced Duda’s speech, saying they had hoped he would use the summit to declare Poland would aim for climate neutrality by 2050, in line with the rest of the EU.

“An 11% share of coal in 2040 is a bizarre declaration. To reach climate neutrality in 2050, Poland has to completely resign from coal in the early 2030s,” said Marcin Kowalczyk from WWF Polska.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Alicja Ptak; editing by Barbara Lewis