Analysis: Poland’s path to climate neutrality is affordable and feasible

Posted on 03 October 2019

€7.5-18 billion of investments are needed, but will bring massive savings
Brussels, Belgium - 3 October 2019

Poland can reach net zero carbon emissions in a socially fair way without massive increases in EU financial support, new analysis from WWF shows. 

Poland will need to make additional investments of €7.5-18 billion in its power system up to 2050 to reach a near decarbonised power system, compared to business as usual. However, if it shifts its spending from coal to renewables, Poland already has significant resources to make these investments. What’s more, reaching net zero emissions by 2050 will bring Poland direct savings of €55 billion on total energy costs, as well as €200 billion of avoided health and environmental costs. 

WWF’s analysis comes as EU Environment Ministers prepare to discuss the EU’s net zero emissions target on Friday 4 October. Agreement on the target was blocked in June by Poland, Hungary, Estonia and the Czech Republic. The Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki argued in June that Poland would need financial support guarantees before agreeing to a net zero goal. This week the country’s energy minister said the transformation of Poland’s economy required €700-900 billion. 

Katie Treadwell, Energy Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office said: 
“Poland already has the money to clean up its energy system, benefitting its workers, climate, health and electricity bills. But right now, it is mainly spending that money on polluting coal and gas. Rather than using modernisation costs as a bargaining chip in EU talks on a climate neutral target, Poland must invest in renewables and social support to coal regions. It is also crucial that the EU maintains funding to those regions, and includes tougher controls on the money, to ensure it is spent on a socially fair transition to clean energy.”

Oskar Kulik, Climate and Energy Policy Officer at WWF Poland said:
"Poland’s transition towards a carbon neutral economy will require significant investments, but in the long run it will result in lower total energy costs, and a cleaner and healthier environment. What we must avoid are lock-ins in fossil fuel technologies. This includes not only investments in coal power plants, but also direct and indirect subsidies in the mining sector or planned investments in gas infrastructure".

The analysis finds that:
  • Between 2005 and 2016, Poland invested €18.8 billion into the coal industry, whilst only €5.42 billion was invested in renewable energies. 
  • Over the first seven months of 2019 alone, European Emissions Trading System revenues to Poland have amounted to almost €1.5 billion
  • Poland also qualifies for over 40% of the EU Modernisation Fund and is the largest recipient of cohesion funding. However, proposed cuts to cohesion policy will limit the potential impact of EU funds and the funds continue to lack controls on climate spending. 
  • Climate change is already having global impacts, including in Poland. The Ministry for Environment has estimated that costs of damage from climate change-related extreme weather events have escalated from €12 billion between 2001 and 2010, to €48 billion between 2011 and 2030. 
Read the analysis: Poles apart: how Poland can and must get climate-neutral

More information:

 The EU should commit to reaching net zero emissions - in WWF’s view, this should be by 2040.

However Poland, alongside Hungary, Estonia and the Czech Republic, blocked consensus on setting an EU-wide 2050 climate neutrality target at the June European Council. 

Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has not ruled out signing up in future to a European 2050 net-zero emission target. 

He has, however, argued that Poland would need financial support guarantees before agreeing to it. At the June European Council, he stated: 

“Poland is one of those countries that must first have a very detailed compensation package. We must know how much we can get for modernisation.”

Comments from Heads of Government suggest that Czechia, Estonia and Hungary share Poland’s concerns. They are therefore likely to support a net-zero target, if concerns about adequate financial support – for all countries facing specific challenges – are addressed  

Even if financial support is guaranteed, Poland might move on a net zero target only after its general election on October 13th.This may mean no decision at European Council until December.  

Poland can reduce the overall costs of the transition significantly by ending all use of national and EU funds to subsidise the fossil fuel sector, including the coal industry.

This would send a clear signal and all Member States should reflect this in their long-term investment and national climate and energy plans  Poland should earmark spending of the European Emissions Trading system allowances, to ensure that emissions trading system revenues are used to support climate action.  The EU should not cut structural and cohesion funding to fossil fuel-dependent sectors and regions. However, it must also put in place greater controls over spending to ensure it is consistent with the most cost-effective and socially fair pathway to a clean and sustainable energy system


Sarah Azau
Media manager

WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 473 573 137
Belchatow coal power plant in Poland
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