Photo: Illustration; Photo by: Zoran Tarade (used under permission from photographer)

Poland could reach climate neutrality by 2056

The Polish Economic Institute (PEI) said on Wednesday that Poland, which is the only European Union country that has not pledged to reach net-zero by 2050, could reach that goal by 2056.

The PEI stated that out of the 115 countries covered by the Energy Transition Index (ETI) in 2019, Sweden was the most advanced EU Member State in the transition towards net-zero while the poorest performer was Bulgaria at 77th. Poland did not fare much better as it ranked 75th.

Despite significantly differentiated conditions, only three EU Member States have declared achieving net-zero before 2050 – Finland by 2035, Austria by 2040, and Sweden by 2045. Poland is the only Member State which did not provide a planned date of achieving decarbonisation.

According to ETI calculations and the assumed years of decarbonisation in the other EU Member States, an optimistic version suggests that Poland could become climate-neutral by 2056, but it might be as late as 2067 in a negative scenario. This was revealed in the “Time for decarbonisation” report of the Polish Economic Institute.

Countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Poland will face a difficult task of achieving the climate neutrality goal. In terms of ETI scores, they ranked 77th, 75th, and 49th respectively. The energy sectors in the countries in question are much less modernised than Scandinavian countries, mostly due to a high share of fossil fuels in the energy mixes of those countries.

Based on the ETI data and the decarbonisation years declared by the EU Member States, analysts of the Polish Economic Institute calculated that the Polish energy sector should achieve climate neutrality by 2056

At the same time, only relying on the ETI scores of the Member States having published comprehensive strategies for becoming climate neutral, Poland was estimated to be able to attain that objective as late as 2067.

Poland’s low rank was determined, among other things, by the still vast share of coal in electricity supply in Poland.

In 2018, coal-fired power plants produced 79 per cent of electricity. Other major electricity supply sources included wind energy – eight per cent, gas – seven per cent, and biofuels – four per cent.

Due to the dominant share of electricity from coal in Poland, its energy sector is characterised by the second-highest carbon intensity in the European Union – 773 g of CO2/kWh – against the EU average of less than 300 g. A higher level of carbon intensity was only noted by Estonia.

In complete contrast, Sweden relies on nuclear energy and hydropower which accounts for 80 per cent of total electricity production and has only 13 g of CO2/kWh.

Aleksander Szpor, the head of the climate and energy team of the Polish Economic Institute, said: “In the case of both the European Union Member States and non-EU countries, the energy transition leaders having departed from coal – despite considerable contributions from sources such as photovoltaic and wind energy – have stable energy supply independent of weather conditions.

Electricity is usually generated by hydroelectric and nuclear power plants. Some countries have gas-fired power plants, characterised by half of the carbon intensity of coal-fired facilities.

Due to the natural conditions in Poland, the optimal medium-term choice would be to rely on the last two of the above-mentioned alternatives. In a longer perspective, a desirable scenario would be to gradually replace fossil fuels with offshore wind farms and low-carbon hydrogen”.

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