President Donald Trump came to the rescue of Poland, which is on an apparent collision course with the European Union over its continued use of fossil fuels, especially coal. Poland will soon receive its first shipment of American coal.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło warned the European Parliament that she will "throw it back at them" if they criticize Poland’s carbon footprint at the EU summit scheduled for December. Further fireworks are expected next year, when Poland will host the next round of UN talks on climate. While the EU is a leader in enforcing the Paris climate accord, which aims to radically cut global carbon emissions, Poland -- the EU’s biggest consumer of coal -- is locking horns with the EU over the climate targets.

Prime Minister Szydło and her ruling Law and Justice party are unapologetically in favor of coal. Her father was miner. When President Trump visited Poland this year, he said, "Whenever you need energy, just give us a call." Taking Trump at his word, Poland put in an order for coal, which was loaded onboard the Navios Helios, a vessel carrying a 73,616 tons of coal from Baltimore to Gdansk.

Poland has to meet a shortfall left by the failure of national mining giant PGG to fulfill its production targets. Coal mines in the U.S. are seeking foreign markets for their production because demand in the U.S. is down. 

Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski, for his part, rejected any suggestion of fuel shortages because of PGG. This week, he  reporters: "A psychosis related to coal shortages has appeared on the market. I can say that this winter no one will be cold in their homes because of a lack of coal."

EU ministers meeting in Germany on Thursday told Poland to do more on climate change, and to ratify the Doha amendment, the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol, which preceded the 2015 Paris agreement. Trump has already backed out of the accord. 

Polish imports of American coal have already leapt more than 500 per cent in the first half of this year, according to the Energy Information Administration. 

Unlike Trump, Szydlo is sticking with the Paris agreement, arguing that aside from her country’s opposition to EU carbon emission goals, the Paris deal does not impose specific obligations on the signatories. However, she seeks to promote her country’s coal industry in order preserve jobs in traditional heavy industries.

Elsewhere in Europe, environmentalism has been blamed for unemployment. In Spain, on October 31 the national congress approved a bill offered by the socialist Unidos Podemos party that would shut down all of Spain’s coal-fired energy plants. The bill passed with support from Unidos Podemos, the Spanish Socialist Party, Ciudadanos, ERC, Democratic Party of Catalonia, Compromis, UPN, Bildu, and New Canaries. Voting against the measure were the Popular Party, Canary Coalition, and Forum Asturias. The Asturias region of Spain is home to a number of coal mines.
 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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