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Monday, 3 December 2018

Statement by the President of the Republic of Poland at the session devoted to the "Just Transition" declaration

President Andrzej Duda at the COP24 climate summit

Honourable Secretary-General of the United Nations,

Honourable Prime Minister,

Honourable COP24  President,

Distinguished Madam Chair,

Distinguished Mayor of the City of Katowice,


 Ladies and Gentlemen,

All Distinguished Guests!


Dynamic climate change, which affects all regions of the globe - from island states in the Pacific Ocean to depressed geographical regions in Europe - is one of the greatest threats of our time. 


In many places on Earth we witness dynamic, even extreme weather phenomena - they can include more frequent and abundant rainfall, as well as heavy heat waves and droughts. For example, this summer in Poland, and I would like to remind you that my country lies in a moderate climate zone, the drought caused losses estimated at about PLN 3.6 billion (about EUR 830 million). The disaster affected 130 000 farms and destroyed 3.5 million hectares of crops. See also: President and UN Secretary General open COP24 climate summit in Katowice


Therefore, in the face of the challenges posed for us in the area of climate change, it is essential that we work together in as broad a coalition as possible, involving both governments and international organisations, as well as civil society, business and trade unions.  This synergy between different actors can only be achieved through dialogue. This way groundwork can be laid for a gradual change that is acceptable to all stakeholders, and participation in and involvement in this dialogue makes it possible to find win-win solutions. It was out of this responsible approach to dialogue that the Paris Agreement was born. The agreement, which as I trust, thanks to your commitment, will receive specific guidelines in Katowice - the Katowice rules book. An agreement that sets out, among other things, the objective of finding a balance between carbon dioxide emissions and the uptake of carbon dioxide by ecosystems.


This approach to dialogue also gave rise to the "Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration”, which complements the Paris Agreement to add an extremely important social aspect. Social dialogue is crucial to ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy is based on solidarity and justice. Solidarity and justice, i.e. where the human being is at the centre; one which, in addition to the need to reduce emissions, takes into account the need to combat poverty, exclusion and social marginalisation and to involve vulnerable groups of citizens in the process of shaping public policies.


In this context, it is impossible not to refer to the Polish heritage in the area of solidarity and just social transition. The ancient bishop of Cracow, Wincenty Kadlubek, wrote about it in the "Chronicles of Poland", referring to the beginnings of Polish statehood and recalling the organizer of the political community of Poles even before the 10th century - Krak. He proclaimed that it was not the law of the stronger that would prevail in the community, but rather  "what was most beneficial to those least prominent", the weakest, that was called justice.


In a similar spirit in the 1970s and 1980s, the great social movement "Solidarity" fought for Poland's liberation from the yoke of a totalitarian system. A movement that has set itself the goal of fighting for workers' and social rights and freedom of associating them into free trade unions, a peace movement.


Today, while placing the declaration on just and united transition high on the agenda of the COP24 Polish Presidency, we refer both to the heritage of 'Solidarity' and to the ancient Polish ideals mentioned by the Old Reverend Wincenty Kadlubek.


 Ladies and Gentlemen,


Poland and Poles understand perfectly well what great social change means, what benefits this process brings, but also what challenges and costs it entails.


Over the past 30 years, we have come a long way from a centrally planned economy, with inefficient industry and a underdeveloped service sector, to a market economy that placed us among world’s developed countries. One of the challenges we have to face – and we continue to face - is reconciling economic growth with care for natural environment.


In the period after 1989, Poland made one of the biggest headways in Europe in the field of energy efficiency and improvement of the quality of environment. This was mainly due to the energy and industrial sectors, where structural changes led to the modernisation of plants with a view, on the one hand, to improving energy efficiency but, on the other hand, to taking care of the environment.


For many years there has also been a decrease in the consumption of hard coal and lignite as energy sources in favour of petroleum-based fuels, while the share of Renewable Energy Sources in gross final energy consumption has been systematically increasing and exceeded 11% in 2016.  All these measures contributed to the fact that Poland, with a fivefold surplus, met its reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol, reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions by about 30% compared to the base year, which, as I said earlier, was 1988.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The transition towards low-carbon development offers many economic, social and health benefits and opportunities, but also entails costs, especially in regions traditionally based on fossil fuels. These challenges are present e.g. here in Silesia, where hard coal mining has been and continues to be an important development factor for decades, providing fuel to the economy and stable jobs.


Therefore, it is also important that the transition to a low-carbon economy should not pose a threat to the economic security of the state and that the supply of reliable energy carriers should not be jeopardised. In other words, states must look at economic and climate policy in a realistic way - making sure that they do not endanger their economies and thus their societies.


I would like to stress that the choice is not between work and natural environment, but rather whether we retain both or none of them. Just transition should be understood as a tool to support climate policy, not as an alternative.


On the road to a low-carbon economy it is crucial to take into account the aspect of social transition and economic security of the state if we want to gain approval of the public for the changes taking place. Public policies to reduce emissions often face social resistance, especially if they are not accompanied by safety programmes for workers whose jobs will be transformed.


Just transition is to ensure conditions for living in a healthy and clean environment, but also security, including economic and energy security. For these reasons, a just transition policy should be of vital importance for governments, social partners and civil society organisations, and it requires dialogue between them.


Katowice itself is a place where just transition is proving to be a success; where efforts to ensure a more sustainable future go hand in hand with sustained economic growth and improving prosperity for the local population.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am convinced that by adopting the "Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration ", we are taking the next step in order to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In order to make this happen, it is necessary to create a development model that reduces emissions while reducing poverty and creating new quality jobs.


In this respect, it is necessary to engage politicians, experts, scientists and business people in cooperation so that they work side by side to attain sustainable development and climate neutrality; something that I warmly encourage you to do.


Thank you very much.

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