Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Persecuted for decades? Poor? Green groups will still kick you when you’re down.
In 1939, Poland was invaded by the Nazis. At the end of World War II, Soviet oppression returned. In the 1980s, there was martial law. And now, in the 21st century, Poland is being besieged by environmentalists.
A news story published last month in the German magazine, Der Spiegel, exemplifies the current state of affairs. Titled ‘Coal-aholics’: Poland Wages War on Efforts to Save the Climate, it might as well have been written by an environmental activist.
The subtitle claims that “Poland is addicted to coal.” The body of the article quotes a professor who teaches, what else, “courses on sustainability.” According to Michael Labelle, the people of Poland:
are coal-aholics, that’s the best term to use, it’s horrible but it’s true.
Only the over-privileged can be so smug, so disconnected from reality. Labelle – who was born in America and educated in the UK – has perhaps forgotten that coal still produces 42% of America’s electricity. Apparently it has also slipped his mind that both America and Britain became economic powerhouses via coal-powered industrial revolutions.
Today, Poland is a poor country wrestling with serious problems. As the World Factbook reports, its
GDP per capita is still much below the EU average…Unemployment has been 2% more than the EU average…[there are] deficiencies in its road and rail infrastructure…
Last October, Habitat for Humanity sponsored a photo exhibit about that country. In its words:
The housing situation in Poland is very unfavorable compared to other European countries…Poles often live in overcrowded houses and many of the buildings are in poor condition. The enormous scale of poverty makes many families unable to meet their housing needs… A coherent vision to satisfy one of the basic human needs, which is to have a safe, decent shelter hasn’t been developed in Poland yet. [backup link]
Other observers note that fully one quarter of Poland’s children are growing up in poverty (see here and here). This is a country, therefore, that is struggling to heal itself. What money it has needs to be spent wisely.
Which is why it makes total sense for Poland’s government to oppose costly European Union carbon emissions measures. The Der Spiegel article describes Poland as “coal-dependent.” Which is about as meaningful as saying that people are food dependent.
As the journalist acknowledges elsewhere in his article, the fact of the matter is that 92% of Poland’s electricity is now produced by burning coal. Short of depriving people of light and heat, it’s impossible to significantly change that in the short term. The financial penalties associated with CO2 emissions are hardly, therefore, hypothetical.
Last month, Poland’s environment minister argued that proposed changes to the European emissions trading system would cost Poland in excess of €1 billion between now and 2020. Der Spiegel quotes him saying “We are already at the limit of what our industry and citizens can pay.”
If you had been elected to govern that country, which would make more sense to you – spending a billion improving the lives of impoverished school kids or handing over that billion to wealthy foreign bankers connected to the fraud-prone carbon markets?
To hear professor Labelle tell it, though, there isn’t a single good reason for Poland to be hostile to emission reduction programs: “There is a vested interest in maintaining the current power system,” he says.
Ah, yes, anyone who doesn’t behave the way greens think they should gets accused of being a “vested interest” with questionable motives. Except that Der Spiegel tells us that:
much of the energy industry in Poland remains under government control. Though many of the largest energy companies have been ostensibly privatized, the Polish treasury often retains a significant stake.
In other words, energy policy in Poland is strongly influenced by people democratically elected to run that country. Those alleged “vested interests” are, in fact, Poland’s own citizens. Isn’t it shocking that their politicians have priorities that have nothing to do with satisfying the whims of green activists?
With the help of journalists like the one who authored this Der Spiegel article, environmentalists are now intent on besmirching Poland’s reputation. Poland isn’t working desperately to improve the living standards of its population. Rather, as the headline declares, its waging “war on efforts to save the climate.”
Poland isn’t a poor country that can ill afford inefficient renewable energy projects (remember the recent open letter to US President Barack Obama which admitted that currently available renewables “are simply not yet ready to compete with fossil fuels”).
Instead, Poland is being portrayed by greens as deliberately perverse, as making decisions that are ideologically based. Der Spiegel quotes an activist, Julia Michalak, who is employed by Climate Action Network Europe:
What is needed is a very robust and detailed analysis of both costs and benefits. So far I haven’t seen it.
If Michalak is interested in cost-benefit analyses I recommend that she study closely an audit report released two weeks ago. It determined that, since 2000, nearly €5 billion has been misspent by the European Union on energy efficiency projects. It seems that a body as wealthy as the EU doesn’t bother with cost-benefit analyses, either. Perhaps Michalak should pick on it for a change.
But wait, hasn’t her organization accepted funding from the EU? So when Der Spiegel talks about Poland’s “addiction to coal,” wouldn’t it be fair to mention that the Climate Action Network has itself been accused of having an addiction – “to EU money” (see pages 16-17 here and pages 7-13 here)?
Last year I wrote a piece titled Mother Mexico and the Jackals in which I described the shocking lack of empathy greens have for ordinary Mexicans. The same dynamic is clearly at work with respect to Poland.
Environmentalists seem intent on heaping bad publicity on that country, on pushing it in directions that make no sense if we care about real people who are struggling right now.
Here are some other examples:
All of the above make for upsetting reading, but perhaps the most nauseating is this account, published last November on the Friends of the Earth website. It’s titled Poland must stop blocking climate action and begins this way:
Activists satirised the Polish government’s blocking of progress on necessary climate action. Dressed as coal industry lobbyists, our activists offered free Polish coal to participants on their way to the European Council’s Working Party on International Environment Issues.
The Polish government’s close ties to the coal industry are leading it to adopt positions in discussions that are not in the best interests of people and the planet, but rather benefit companies engaged in fossil fuel extraction. [backup link]
Green activists are blind and deaf to anything other than their own narrow agenda. Again and again, they demonstrate a willingness to kick entire countries when they’re down.