Polish environment minister fired, but to continue climate talks

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk dismissed Environment Minister Marcin Korolec on Wednesday as part of a government reshuffle, but said the latter would continue to represent the country in ongoing U.N. climate talks.

Marcin Korolec, Poland's minister of environment and president of conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19), talks to the media on the second day of the 19th COP19 at the National Stadium in Warsaw November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Korolec will be replaced by Maciej Grabowski, former deputy finance minister responsible for preparing shale gas taxation.

“It is about radical acceleration of shale gas operations. Mr Korolec will remain the government’s plenipotentiary for the climate negotiations,” Tusk told a news conference.

Warsaw is hosting this year’s U.N. climate talks, at which almost 200 countries are trying to make progress on a global climate deal that should be agreed by 2015.

Korolec, as Poland’s environment minister, assumed the presidency of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change process on November 11, the first day of the two-week conference, and was to hold it throughout 2014.

His dismissal raised questions over Poland’s position in the negotiations.

Some delegates complained about the timing of the reshuffle, saying it indicated that Poland was not interested in ensuring tougher global action to combat global warming.

“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,” said Maciej Muskat, director of Greenpeace Poland.

“Furthermore, justifying the change of minister by the need to push the exploitation of another fossil fuel in Poland is beyond words,” he said.

One delegate added: “Poland hosted a conference to promote coal earlier this week and now this. You have to question how serious they are.”

The country, 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.

The environment ministry under Korolec was criticized 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.

Additional reporting by Nina Chestney; writing by Agnieszka Barteczko