Polish Coal Company Announced as First Sponsor of UN Climate Talks in Katowice

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Bełchatów lignite coal mine, Poland

One of Poland’s leading coal companies has become the first official sponsor of the UN climate talks, which start in the southern city of Katowice next week.

Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW), a majority state-owned corporation and the European Union's largest producer of high-quality coking coal, has announced the partnership with COP24 in a statement on its website.

The Polish Environment minister later announced that several other coal-sector companies had been chosen to sponsor this year's climate talks. 

JSW said the partnership would guarantee “the company’s active participation in the event and the possibility of promoting pro-ecological changes in the mining sector”.

It added that through the partnership, the company will organise panel discussions to showcase the company’s environmental activities and will offer “solutions” that will allow the coal sector to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and use resources such as land and by-products more effectively.

Although some coal-friendly countries such as the US and Poland have been pushing the idea of “clean coal”, scientists from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have warned that the world needs to take “rapid and unprecedented measures” to move away from fossil fuels and halve its greenhouse gas emission in the next 12 years to avoid catastrophic climate change. 

Daniel Ozon, president of JSW, said that the company was “honoured” to support the Polish Presidency of COP24 and hopes that the sponsorship will “contribute to the promotion of JSW as an environmental leader in the mining industry”.

He added: “We want this international forum to strengthen the image of the JSW Group as the largest producer of coking coal and coke, which are the necessary ingredients for steel production and modern development, including for low-carbon industry and the innovative technologies of the future.”

During the climate talks, JSW will provide hydrogen-powered bus for participants and delegates.

In a press conference reported by the AFP, Polish Environment minister Henryk Kowalczyk told reporters that coal-based energy companies PGE, Poland's largest energy sector company, and Tauron, which is headquartered in Katowice, had also been chosen as COP24 sponsors. 

Poland's PZU insurance giant, PKO BP bank, and the PGNiG natural gas company have also been announced as sponsors — making all six COP24 partners state-owned companies. 

JSW's statement adds that during the talks, Poland wants to focus the attention of other countries on the three issues of nature, man, and technology.

It adds: “According to the Polish Presidency, a solidary and just socio-economic transformation is necessary while achieving climate neutrality, among others by absorbing carbon dioxide through forests.”

This year’s climate talks is another pivotal moment in the global climate negotiations and will see countries finalise the rulebook to the landmark Paris Agreement.

Sriram Madhusoodanan, deputy campaigns director at the NGO Corporate Accountability, told DeSmog UK that the fact the negotiation charged with solving the global climate crisis are “being bankrolled by Big Coal is absolutely unacceptable”.

He added: “Big polluter sponsors like JSW are not only able to use sponsorship to greenwash their images, but also sponsorship will likely buy them access to the talks themselves — a massive conflict of interest. 

“Such sponsorship raises serious questions about what access and influence sponsorship buys and could risk calling into question the legitimacy of these talks before they even begin. Big polluters have no place bankrolling or participating in the UN climate talks.” 

Deputy executive secretary at UN Climate Change (formerly UNFCCC), Ovais Sarmad, told DeSmog UK sponsors gained no access to participate in or influence the political negotiations and decision-making. 

He said: “Many governments that host climate COPs seek out sponsors to provide funding to cover conference costs, which can be significant. These sponsors typically include other governments and/or private businesses. The choice of sponsors is a national matter for the host government and does not involve the United Nations or the Conference of the Parties (i.e. the Member states).  

“According to the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement will clearly require an urgent reduction in the use of fossil fuels, with the aim of achieving net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by mid-century. Many countries, however, have important investments in fossil fuel production. If we are to achieve progress on global climate action, it is necessary that the concerns of the fossil fuel sector are highlighted in the intergovernmental discussions.” 

Update: The story was updated on 28th November to include the annoucement of further sponsors by the Polish Environment minister. 

Image Credit: The Bełchatów lignite coal mine in Poland. Phil MacDonald/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

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