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Historic Just Transition plan to phase out coal mining in Poland

9 October, 2020Polish unions, employers and the government reached an agreement on 25 September to phase out coal mines by 2049. Polish mine and energy workers' union NSZZ Solidarnosc SGIE is concerned about the deadline, as the move will potentially leave several million people without jobs in mining, energy-intensive industries, and other dependent employment.

The agreement was reached less than ten days after an ambitious announcement by the European Commission to obtain a 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, based on 1990 levels, with a final goal for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050.

As part of the negotiations, the parties agreed to develop a social agreement by 15 December 2020, which will regulate the operation of the hard coal mining sector of the country. The agreement will be presented to the European Commission for approval to secure access to public funding and to be able to implement the social plan.

Among other things the agreement promotes investment in low and zero carbon emission energy generation projects, creates a company for the development and application of clean coal technologies and finances the closure of hard coal production in individual mines by the end of 2049. The timetable of the closure of individual mines is also part of the agreement.

Jarosław Grzesik, president of the NSZZ Solidarnosc SGIE, IndustriALL Global Union affiliate , took part in the negotiations and is cautious about the final text of the agreement. The union’s main concerns regard the deadline for the closure of the mines in 2049.

According to the union, Poland’s initial plan was to have its own path to climate neutrality, to be achieved by 2060. Some mines could have remained operational until this deadline.

Grzesik draws attention to the deficiencies of the agreement, in particular that it only covers the region of Silesia. The deal foresees the modernization of the Łaziska and Rybnik power plants, but no plans were announced regarding other power plants.

Grzesik comments:

“This agreement only applies to hard coal, and the solutions included in the assumptions of the Polish Energy Policy will also affect other industries, i.e. lignite mines, energy, metallurgy, cement plants, steel industry, automotive industry and all energy-intensive sectors. Now, another social agreement is important for other industries that will be liquidated as a result of the European Union's climate policy.”

NSZZ Solidarnosc SGIE believes, that the European Union's climate policy is dangerous for Poland as the resources devoted to just transformation are unfortunately not enough and that the proposed solutions will result only in job destruction, which has nothing to do with the concept of Just Transition. There are plans to build an electric car factory and a photovoltaic installation factory in Silesia, but according to the union these will generate only a few thousand jobs, while several million Polish citizens will lose jobs in energy-intensive industries and mining.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, comments,

“IndustriALL strongly support our affiliate NSZZ Solidarnosc SGIE and other Polish trade unions involved in their decision to address the challenges of climate change and sign this agreement defining the future of the national energy policy. IndustriALL Global Union supports the goals of the Paris Agreement, but we insist that all workers affected by the industrial transformation be completely protected – financially and socially – through a Just Transition process.”

IndustriALL concept on the transition to a cleaner, more sustainable economy, which is economically and socially just and fair for workers and their communities is defined in the IndustriALL position on Just Transition