April 02, 2009
The Future of Climate Policy Depends Upon A Single Country . . .
By Roger Pielke, Jr. Cross-posted from Prometheus
the coming weeks a monumental decision will be made that will influence
the future evolution of global climate policies. A single country has
in its power the ability to alter the course of global negotiations and
change the dynamics of a political debate characterized by gridlock.
That country is . . .
Poland. Yes, Poland. (It is not the U.S. presidential
election.) Over the next 6 weeks, the EU, with France taking the lead,
must convince Poland (plus other Eastern European countries and Italy)
to fall in line with (i.e., not veto) its ambitious climate policies or
else see them utterly fall apart. The following graph helps to explain
the political dynamics...
Poland depends heavily on domestic coal for its energy needs, and
thus its energy supply is very secure. France, by contrast, does not
depend on coal, hence leading the charge on EU climate policies fits
well with French national interests. For Poland, reducing dependence on
coal all but certainly means a greater reliance on gas, which is most
readily available from a large country to the east that Poland does not
wish to depend on. The graph below from the Economist shows why Poland likes coal so much.
What will get Poland's (and others in its coalition) vote in
support of the EU's climate policies? I can think if three
- Kick the can down the road. In exchange for Poland's agreement
to sign on to an aspirational agreement, the EU always could promise an
escape clause in coming years.
- Promise cost certainty. In
exchange for the Polish vote, the EU could agree to limit the effects
of any agreement on the Polish economy and energy security. This would
basically carve out Poland from the EU policy.
- Promise coal
with CCS. The EU could promise to allow Poland to continue to rely on
coal, and offer support for prototyping and deployment of new
technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide from coal. The EU is
fast heading down this path in any case.
It is clear that the EU cannot allow its climate policies to be seen
to fail, while at the same time Poland is not going to abandon its
domestic energy policies. As the Polish Prime Minister said recently:
"We don't say to the French that they have to close down
their nuclear power industry and build windmills. Nobody can tell us
The future of climate policy awaits the resolution of the EU standoff.