The World Health Organization estimates that two-thirds of the European Union’s 50 most-polluted cities are in Poland, largely in the mining region of Upper Silesia, where the smell of burning coal lingers in the air.
Undaunted, Poland’s government is doubling down on coal. “Building more efficient coal power plants will get us better results in cutting CO2 emissions than building renewable energy sources like wind or solar,” says Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski, a member of the Law and Justice party, which swept to power in October with union backing after it pledged to preserve mining jobs.
Even as other European countries shun coal, Poland is still addicted, getting almost 90 percent of its electricity from it. That has more to do with politics and fear of job losses than with the inability to generate power from other sources.
Successive governments have sought to restructure the mines snaking beneath the lush Silesian countryside, but those efforts have been thwarted by unions intent on preserving the country’s 100,000 mining jobs.
Before the Law and Justice party governed, Polish companies built plenty of wind turbines. In May, parliament passed a bill requiring that wind turbines be located farther away from homes, a rule that developers say effectively kills new projects.
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