INTERVIEW. Zalewska for AWPE: The EC methane regulation will lead to the closure of Polish mines, and coal of any value will flow into Poland from places where there is no mention of the environment at all

I know that there were talks with the social side, with the miners regarding the methane regulation. How is the situation at the moment? At what stage is it?

Anna Zalewska: As far as this methane regulation is concerned, its progress was suspended for a while, because the rapporteur from the “Greens” was caught by journalists and MEPs directly transcribing the amendments of lobbyists from, among others, American NGOs. In the context of the corruption scandal, things got really nasty and for a while the work was boycotted by several groups – by ECR, ID and by EPP. As a result, the work has been delayed, but it is still going very quickly, because in May a vote is scheduled for the plenary session. This is first in terms of the level of where we are. Later, there will be trilogues, i.e. work with the European Commission, with the European Council, so this shape will still change.

The miners are really terrified, because if the regulation were to pass in its current form, we would actually have to close hard coal mines in a few years, despite the social agreement in force (it is pre-notified, it is probably not yet finally signed by the European Commission). Indeed, these restrictions on methane, and methane drainage is necessary for coal, simply for the safety of miners, provided for a standard of 0.5 tons of methane per 1000 tons of coal, where at the moment miners say that they need a standard of 8-10 tons. We know that there is already the first consent to discuss 5 tons per 1,000 tons, calculated for one operator. This operator will probably be NABE, so maybe that would be acceptable, but it’s not written down yet, it’s not in the document. At the same time, miners say that it is necessary to extend the time to talk about 2030 even more, and here I absolutely agree with them that this regulation is new, it is not a change, it does not work, it is based on probability that “maybe”. There are no technologies that would be directly applicable. They also argue that the provision on deterrent penalties should be changed. Of course, this will be done by the government, but in a situation where the United Right does not continue to rule, we know for sure that these will be deterrent penalties, because our colleagues from the opposition say that we need to decarbonise faster and more ambitiously. Therefore, there is an idea to change these penalties into fees, because then it will actually be established, it will be safer and more manageable by the mines. The miners emphasize that they are entirely responsible for 140,000 tons of this methane, where we are talking about global values of several hundred million, so this is not a significant value that would affect the total, global elimination of methane. At the same time, the same document says that we will be able to import coal from all over the world and only a statement will be needed. This is a very unequal treatment of entities – those from the European market are to die, they are to close down, and any coal, of any value, imported from places where no mention is made of the environment at all, will be able to flow into Poland in any stream.

You mentioned the social contract. I remember that when it was concluded with the European Commission, EU officials said directly: we can conclude it, but you will not survive the methane directive anyway. Why has the European Commission bent parol on Polish mines and wants to liquidate them necessarily?

Because Poland is the last place in Europe where there is hard coal, so it is competitive. That’s first. Secondly, the Germans, who do not have hard coal but do have lignite, told the Commission – and the Commission did nothing but agree, did not discuss, did not negotiate – that they are opening five new power plants specifically for lignite. They were also allowed to spend almost 150 million euros to restore these mines and power plants, where lignite is much dirtier and more difficult for the environment. So it’s just about money.

Is it a coincidence that the issue of methane was raised just before the elections in Poland, because it seems to me that probably not necessarily?

In fact, at every step you can see that the European Commission is seriously – not hiding it at all – involved in the election campaign in Poland. These are not only declarations such as those of Commissioner von der Leyen saying to Donald Tusk: “Come back here as soon as possible as the prime minister of your country”, but these are all kinds of documents intended to intensify the discussion in Poland, to touch other groups. For now, they are restraining themselves on methane, not to mention landfills and agriculture, while in other documents we have provisions saying, for example, that agriculture will be treated as industry when it comes to animal husbandry – this is a document on industrial emissions. For now, there is a row in the Agricultural Committee (AGRI), so we are not discussing it for a moment, but these are indeed not coincidences. All hands on deck in the European Commission to support the Civic Platform primarily in the election campaign.

In your opinion, what is the probability that we will be obliged to implement these methane regulations?

First of all, I hope that this document will change, because both the Polish government and the miners are determined. This meeting, which you mentioned at the beginning, was a meeting with all MEPs of all political groups from Silesia. I was the only one from the outside and Prime Minister Beata Szydło. Me, because I work on this document, so I reported what it looks like. Mr. Buzek, Mr. Kohut and Mr. Balt signed a declaration to work in their political groups to modify these provisions. They will be responsible for persuading that this regulation absolutely needs to be changed.

Can we simply not accept this regulation, refuse to implement it?

No, because it’s a regulation. It’s not even a directive that can be implemented in different ways, only with a specific framework. This is a regulation, which means it applies directly. Therefore, the shape in which it comes out will determine the future of Polish mining. We will do everything to make this regulation absolutely bearable.

Does the European Commission come up with any solutions to mitigate the social effects of this regulation?

No. The European Commission is generally not interested in society, even if it pretends to carry out some kind of analysis, assessment of socio-economic effects, it is a rough calculation. It is recognized that these are the problems of the member states, that they will solve them. The entire “Fit for 55” package does not see a person, it is an algorithm, it is a rule, very often it is a utopia based on absolutely new technologies or being at the stage of scientific research. Please see what happened to the electric car regulation. Well, Germany has told the Commission that it is to prepare a delegated act that will soften this regulation, but attention, about e-fuels, i.e. hydrogen fuels, fuels related to carbon dioxide capture and based on renewable energy.

So German tech…

Exactly. Because they’ve already started working on it. But these are even more expensive technologies and, as I said, at a very early stage. It is difficult to predict what the consequences will be. For example, to allow hydrogen to carry energy, you need to use at least one-third more energy than hydrogen can give off. This is absurd from an economic point of view. The liberal-left majority shrugs. Here, firstly, there is an ideology, a utopia of people who probably have never dealt with the economy, and on the other hand, a powerful lobby of global, European companies, which firstly want to raise money for the development of their own technologies, and secondly, to sell their technology. They really don’t have much to sell anymore. There is such a gloomy joke in the back room of the Environment Committee that the entire climate policy of the European Union is written for the Chinese, because the Chinese benefit from it, the Chinese mostly have access to or directly bought various sources of critical elements or rare elements, such as lithium which is needed for electric cars, and they will decide globally what the climate policy in Europe will look like. Anyway, even von der Leyen in her speech in Strasbourg pointed out that we are becoming independent from Russian hydrocarbons, while dependence on China is terrifying. And apart from words, there is nothing, on the contrary, solutions are used that condemn Europe to the external search for various kinds of elements and sources.

I have the impression – because this problem of shrinking the economy applies to all areas – that in the concept of global governance this part of the world is to be an open-air museum, one big reserve where there is to be no production. Ultimately, production is to be moved entirely to Asia or the United States.

But of course it is. However, you will not hear this in the European Commission. Yesterday there was a debate in the European Parliament about f-gases. These are the fluorinated, artificial ones, which, among other things, are responsible for heat pumps, for air conditioners, for cooling in refrigerators. Here we heard from Timmermans such pride that we have to do it quickly, because the whole world will buy these solutions from us, that the whole world will follow the European Union. Really nothing but a shrug, because you can see at the climate summits that it is exactly the opposite. And in this document, like in a lens, the entire European Union and its absurdities are reviewed, because on the one hand, Frans Timmermans is the face of the REPowerEU document, which was created right after the outbreak of the war, which talks about how quickly you need to change technology and switch to everything what is renewable. Among other things, it is said that heat pumps must be built, a ban on the use of gas stoves will probably be introduced in a moment, and on the other hand, a document, the regulation on f-gases, which requires the removal form the heat pumps most f-gases. It’s just paranoia. Obviously, there will be a search for new technology, the prices of heat pumps will increase, therefore it will not be possible to convince citizens to install these heat pumps, even if there are some subsidies, and nothing will come of these ideas resulting from REPowerEU.

Or another paranoid example – two months ago we voted out a document from the “Fit for 55” package, which is called CBAM, which rightly says that those importing products from outside the EU should pay taxes at the border, because we have ETS, and they they don’t have it, so our economy is not competitive and literally on the same day China announced that they were considering a ban on the export of silicon wafers. Silicon wafers are the basis for photovoltaic panels. And to make it funnier, scarier, China has a 98 percent global share of silicon wafers. This shows how we will, in turn, develop this branch of renewable energy. This confirms your thesis – to bring everything out, pretend that we are clean, pretend that we will sell something, and in fact become more and more dependent on the whole world.

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