To domesticate the Green Deal in Poland Oswoić Green Deal w Polsce (the Green Deal through the eyes of Kowalski)

Why are we afraid of novelties and create myths on the European Green Deal? What are Poles afraid of and in what way should the European Green Deal be talked about to limit these anxieties? What benefits can bypass us as a result of the delay of the process of transformation to the green economy? To domesticate the Green Deal it is worth approaching it in a way that it was invented – systemic, showing its core through the confrontation with popular and often wrong opinions on it.

The Green Deal constitutes one of the most important elements of the policy of the European Union in the period 2019-2024, undergoing constant modifications. It is a strategic idea on how to build a climate-neutral economy and sustainable and responsible communities. It is a certain plan of action, in which the European Commission combines the areas which till now have been subject to different policies: the uprating of the economic competitiveness and the strategic security with the ecological questions and upgrading the quality of life of the continent inhabitants. The circular economy, which is a model of husbandry in which the production cycles are closed, is becoming a model concept. The frugal usage of resources enables to diminish of the production of waste which in turn (as far as it is possible) is used again in different types of processes, becoming a resource.

Why is it important? The European Green Deal is an answer of the European Union to the environmental problems, which  the industrial era left behind for us. It is also a chance to upgrade the level of the EU strategic security. It will enable, among others, to depart from the traditional energy sources, being in shortage in a scale of the continent and from the up-to-date way of building economical growth, dependent on these resources. It gives a chance to make oneself independent from the deliveries of the energy resources: oil, gas, coal, or uranium from Russia, the US, China, or the Gulf states.

The Green Deal and the pandemic

The pandemic of COVID-19 changed the approach towards the European Green Deal. The conducted actions to limit the climate crisis were overlapped by a new crisis. The European Parliament strives for  the Green Deal to become a foundation of the reconstruction of the continent after the pandemic slowdown. The pandemic highlighted the influence of the economy in its current shape on the natural environment, the new generation of the economy after the crisis is to be climate neutral and more immune1.

Apart from known and widely commented in the media areas such as strengthening of the production of clean energy, actions for climate and the elimination of pollution or the sustainable mobility, the European Green Deal includes also the less emphasized in Poland areas: the sustainable agriculture and the deliveries of healthy food, preserving of the biological diversity, ecological processes and materials in construction and also the development of environmentally friendly industries and technologies and the scientific research and innovations2
Among the most important initiatives constructing the European Green Deal are:
  • the European Climate Law,
  • the European Climate Pact, and the 2030,
  • Climate Target Plan.

Apart from the full climate neutrality till 2030 they include also the engagement of the EU citizens in the climate actions3.

Why does the perception of the European Green Deal in Poland require correction?

The European Green Deal is a complex and demanding strategy in the sense that it relies on the change of thinking of the up till now the way of functioning of both the economy and lifestyle of the societies of Europe. The more the road to obtain the goal (in this case the climate neutrality) is longer, the bigger anxieties it can awake. This is the situation in Poland which is beginning from a different threshold than other European countries, for example in the matter of the usage of coal energy. Thereof in our country, the European Green Deal can awake greater resistance and overgrow with myths.

The most commonly repeated myths and social anxieties

MYTH 1: The European Green Deal threatens the collapse of the Polish economy. It is introduced to weaken Poland.
EXPLANATION: It is a catastrophic vision which there is not based on facts. The European Commission has been supporting the development of Poland for more than 20 years (even before the accession of Poland to the EU in 2004), co-financing important for the country investments in infrastructure and the development of skills and qualifications of Poles. That's why it seems very improbable that the representatives of the European Union would aim at weakening and all the more making the Polish economy fall. In the upcoming years, Poland 750 billion PLN will reach Poland. It is almost the double sum of the Polish yearly budget in the last years. In its actions the European Union bets on justice and solidarity in dividing the financial resources. We should also remember that Poland is not the only country of Central Europe in the EU structures, which grapples with certain economic backwardness comparing to the states of Western Europe, involved in the Marshall Plan after the II world war. This solidarity concerns also us.
MYTH 2: The European Green Deal is too radical and the set goals threaten business
EXPLANATION: The goals which are set for the Community by the European Commission were constructed to stimulate accepted and developing, in the terms of quality, the direction of the transformation in the economy. The establishing of law within the limits of such a complex and diverse organism as the European Union is not an easy task. The policy of the Green Deal is not radical, however, it sets certain direction and goals. They will be subject to evaluation based on the unified for everyone  criteria – the element of the control system for the progress in implementing this policy. Equally unsupported seems to be the fears for the potential threat for the business sphere. The change which is taking place will be favoring the release of the potential of persons employed in the decadent industries, its redirection and usage in the sectors generating bigger value -added than traditional industries ie in the branches that enable bigger profits.
MYTH 3: The European Green Deal will cause the rise of the energy prices
EXPLANATION: Each new product or new technology costs, no matter if it serves at home or an economy of a country. However having in mind the benefits, which it will bring in the form of for example the higher standard of life or the saving of time, we decide on the initial expenses even though the resignation from them would not generate such a cost. A similar situation takes place during a „purchase” of new technologies in energy production. Initially, the costs serve the savings in the future, which are very complex because they concern not only the finances of the inhabitants of Poland, they concern also the environment, health, and the quality of life in our country. The one right now as well as the future one. Even now Poland is beginning to feel the consequences of the delays in introducing green technologies and the more we will wait, the more the costs will be grievous.
We should remember that the energy resources deposits are not unlimited, that's why sooner or later the transition to other sources of energy would be inevitable, and in the wake of them certain raises of prices. Such growths, as a result of neglect and delay in time the process of transformation, would be however more painful and costly than in the situation of conducting this transformation in a way planned already today. The tendencies concerning the extraction of hard coal in Poland indicate the drop of yield for 2/3 in the last 40 years. The maintaining of the drop of such speed will lead to shutting down of the mining in the perspective of the upcoming 30 years – what is convergent with the caesura of the implementation of the full climate neutrality in Europe in the perspective of 2050. Poland belongs to the biggest importers of coal in the EU. The choice should be clear.
MYTH 4: The European Green Deal will cause the increase of the energy threat for Poland
EXPLANATION: It is the other way round. The biggest threat for Poland is running out of resources, to which we are addicted and this is inevitable. A certain chapter in the history of energy of  humankind is coming to a close. The European Green Deal opens a new stage that won't be closed by running out of natural resources. The energy produced from renewable resources like wind, sun, or the warmth of Earth, guarantees us long-lasting energy safety, access to deposits that will never end.
The arguments concerning  security directly speak for the transformation. The deposits of energy resources in Europe to the large extent went flat – the Community to the largest extent uses the important resources. The renewables guarantee the independence from the external supplies. The European Green Deal is a policy preceding what is inevitable.
MYTH 5: The European Green Deal will cause thousands of people to lose jobs
EXPLANATION: The fact is that in the scale of the European Union around 11 million jobs in the traditional sectors, the decadent industries, and the associated branches will fade out. Nevertheless, they will be transformed to jobs in the „ascendant” sectors – green ones and others. It concerns among others the jobs in the entities connected with the energy and car industries. In exchange, new jobs in renewable energy and the production of cars using electric energy or hydrogen will be created. This problem should also be examined in the context of the transformation of the job market as a result of COVID-19. The new jobs in the sectors developed within the limits of the policy of the European Green Deal are to become a trigger, which will contribute to the rebuilding the undermined economy of the European Union after the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
MYTH 6: The European Green Deal will lead many people to poverty/ affect the weakest positioned social groups
EXPLANATION: It is true that for some countries/regions the climate neutrality will be a bigger challenge, which can be shown by the example of Upper Silesia, whose considerable part of the job market relies on the industry based on coal. Here the concept of the fair transformation comes in, in which the EU earmarks funds for help for such areas. It is not only about the financial  support but also expert, research, and technological support, which are to give an investment injection and what comes after – support the green business and marketplace. In the pot for such activities for 2021-27, there are 100 billions euros. The goal of the Green Deal for all the EU states is common but the paths leading to it can be different, accommodating an individual situation of certain member states. As one of the pillars of the strategy for the Union, the general betterment of the wellbeing of the societies and the possibility to strengthen these groups which need it, is being emphasized.
MYTH 7: The European Green Deal is not needed. „Till now we haven't had it and life went on”
EXPLANATION: The predictions concerning the tempo of climate change turned out to be understated. It is testified first of all by the alarming reports of the IPCC, in which we are informed about the increase of the average world temperature in comparison with the time before the industrial era. It has direct consequences (fierce weather phenomenons, heat waves) and indirect (air quality questions, health or changes in the process of production and the like).  On the skepticism towards the need to introduce the Green Deal, it is worth looking at the evaluation of standards concerning hygiene or postnatal care – the level of medical, obstetric, neonatal, or psychological knowledge is changing. The awareness of staff and parents is increasing. The fact that in the past toddlers were given water with sugar as medicine and „they somehow survived” doesn't mean that it did not affect the state of their teeth, the proper functioning of their stomach, or the form of nutrition in the future. Obtaining new, scientific knowledge, there is no rational justification for remaining with the old schemes.

The causes of anxieties

The change of the way of perceiving reality doesn't take place flawlessly and it is always a long process requiring leaving the comfort zone. The Green Deal is not only a movement away from coal but a change on the technological, social and mental level. This change – instead of being associated with a new opening – for the large part of the society is still an opposite  to the stability – which is a movement away from something known and durable. This is followed by the resistance to change, which comes from the outside and with which Poles have a problem, referring to the historical experiences from the last 300 years.

The complexity of the European Green Deal policy is its big advantage however with its immensity of topics and the complexity of the problem, it causes incomprehension and disorientation. It results in changes in many fields: from production, through energy and transport to consumption. Moving away from coal means not only the closure of mines and the proposal of rebranding for miners but also the changes in each branch of the economy, basing on coal energy. Therefore a lot of interpretations of the assumptions of the Green Deal from different social and professional groups appear.

In the evaluation of the Green Deal, a mechanism appears which is based on short-term thinking and is submerged first of all in what is here and now („this doesn't concern me”). The cause for this can be seen in the planned date of completion of the realization of the flagship goal which is climate neutrality in 2050 – such a complex problem will require  20 years of work.

How to speak of climate neutrality?
Since many anxieties were born in Poland, connected with the European Green Deal, we should place a bet on the honest information – the explaining of each aspect, presenting of connection, explaining of causes, showing, what the abandonment of this strategy will cause, endanger or hinder its realization. We should speak on climate neutrality with a language of benefit. - with simultaneous raising difficult issues, which is being done also by explaining the misunderstandings in this article.

Klaudia Plac, Krajowy Ośrodek Zmian Klimatu IOŚ-PIB
Alicja Piekarz, Krajowy Ośrodek Zmian Klimatu IOŚ-PIB
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