Poland's coal addiction exacts heavy health, economic toll

KRAKSW: The thick, grey layer of smog blanketing Poland’s southern city of Krakow is one of the most visible symptoms of the EU member’s addiction to coal, a habit experts warn is both economically risky and deadly.

“Just over 47,000 Poles are estimated to die prematurely each year from smog caused mostly by low quality coal burned in old-fashioned household furnaces,” Andrzej Gula, head of Poland’s Smog Alarm group, told AFP quoting a European Environment Agency (EEA) study published Monday. Seventy percent of Polish households use coal for heat and antiquated coal-fired power plants generate nearly all the country’s electricity, giving it some of the dirtiest air in the 28-member European Union.

The EEA blames this so-called “low-stack” or household emissions for countless cases of respiratory illness in the country of 38 million people. While new right-wing President Andrzej Duda recently approved anti-smog legislation allowing municipalities to ban coal-fired home furnaces, he also refused to endorse an amendment to the UN’s Kyoto carbon-cutting pact requiring Poland to curb greenhouse gas emissions that equal around one percent of the global total.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who is the daughter of a coal miner and a Duda ally, has vowed to keep domestic coal as Poland’s “main energy source to guarantee energy security” and economic growth.

Speaking in Paris at landmark UN climate talks, Szydlo said on Monday that Poland would endorse any deal “that protects Polish economic interests”, signalling that her new right-wing government intends to drive a hard bargain on coal use within the EU.

Agencies

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