The Polish Ministry of Climate released the full content of the decision on the Turów mine concession issued on 20th of March 2020. To justify this mining concession of the Turów open pit until 2026, the necessity of rational management of resources was brought up, in accordance with the principle of sustainable development. The Ministry ensures it is thereby acting "in a justified, scientifically based manner, consistent with the public interest”. It is worth comparing these words with an analysis of "the impact of the development of the Turów mine and power plant on the Polish Climate protection commitments", written by scientists. The authors of the study write that "when deciding to expand the Turów power plant and to continue the exploitation of lignite from the nearby mine, the principles of precaution and prevention were not taken into account. Will Poland actually begin to base its opinions on scientific grounds and give up its efforts to mine in Turów after 2026?
On 27 October 2020, the "Analysis of the impact of the expansion of Turów mine and power plant on Polish commitments to climate protection" was published. It was written in July this year by PhD Zbigniew Karaczun from Warsaw SGGW university and PhD Andrzej Kassenberg from the Institute for Sustainable Development. It clearly shows that the extended operation of the facility until 2044, which PGE is seeking, will have a significant negative impact on the climate. If the Turów open pit is expanded and the operation of the power plant prolonged, coal mining and combustion will result in carbon dioxide emissions ranging from 194.6 to 261.4 million Mg CO2eq. To achieve the goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the size of the carbon budget available to Poland is a maximum of 3.46 billion Mg. This means that the emissions from Turow alone would consume 34-45% of the entire Polish carbon budget. "According to Stanford University's estimates that the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions contribute about 220 USD/Mg CO2eq, it can be determined that the expansion of the lignite mine and extending the operation of the Turów power plant until 2044 may contribute to social losses worldwide as a result of climate change in the range of 41.25 to 55.66 billion USD" - we read in the report. According to the authors, this data proves that "when deciding to expand the Turów power plant and further exploit lignite, the precautionary and preventive principles were not taken into account. This initiative should also be regarded as against the provisions of Article 2 of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement". "The impact that the Turów mine and power plant activity will have on the global climate will intensify many of the negative phenomena that already occur in the proximity of these facilities: water deficit and the expansion of the depression cone around the mine, air pollution, reduction of biodiversity". - emphasize the scientists. "The authors of the report indicate that climate is a common good, and that the principles of precaution and prevention should also be followed when implementing this type of investment. They point out that abandonment or significant reduction of the activity of the Turów complex would significantly contribute to climate protection. - At the same time, it would be a step towards achieving the climate neutrality set by the Paris Agreement and the European Union's commitments in this respect". - Barbara Oksińska, journalist of the Rzeczpospolita daily, about the report.
The Ministry of Climate has released the full content of the decision on the mining concession for the Turów mine issued on 20 March 2020. Until recently it has not been publicly available. We have written more about it here.
According to the decision, the concession for the extraction of lignite and accompanying minerals from the "Turów" lignite deposit was granted until 30 April 2026.
The justification states that "in the opinion of the concession authority, the continuation of the extraction of lignite and associated minerals from the Turów deposit is consistent with the principle of rational management of the mineral deposit. The proposed change allows the continuation of mineral extraction and, consequently, the operation of the power plant providing 7% of the national electricity demand, which means that the decision in question corresponds to the public interest. In the light of Article 3 point 13 a of the Act of 27 April 2001. - Environmental Protection Law - (Journal of Laws of 2019, item 1396 as amended) the essence of environmental protection is, among other things, the rational management of its resources, in accordance with the sustainable development principle. Although there is no official definition of the rational management of mineral deposits and rational management of environmental resources, it boils down to rational conduct in a justified manner, based on scientific grounds and consistent with the public interest. The expression of the latter is indisputably the security of raw materials and energy".
The full document is available here.
In June 2020, the senior citizens, mayors of the municipalities of Zgorzelec, Bolesławiec and Lubańska sent Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, a petition against the closure of the Turów mine and power plant in Bogatynia. The local government representatives who signed the petition expressed their "concern about the actions of our Czech neighbors aimed at bringing about the closure of the Turów mining and power plant complex". They are afraid that the mine and power plant may be closed and jobs may be lost.
Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, responded to the petition. " Based on a complaint regarding the extension of the concession of the Turów mine, the Commission asked the Polish authorities for information on the application of the requirements of EU environmental law in this case. After clarifying all relevant facts, the Commission will be able to determine whether there has been a violation of the EU environmental law. I would like to assure you that the Commission is fully aware of the complexity of this case and is examining it with the utmost care.” - wrote Florika FINK-HOOIJER on behalf of the President
The letter to the Association for the Development of Energy Innovation in Zgorzelec also emphasized Poland's obligations resulting from the Paris Agreement and the EU climate targets. It also noted that "the Commission is ready to support Member States in achieving climate neutrality, including through the future fair transition mechanism".
Lignite trade unionists are not satisfied with the new strategy of the PGE Group announced on 19 October 2020. The company plans to change the key development directions, which from now on will include wind, offshore and onshore power, photovoltaics, grid infrastructure, low-emission heating and energy services.
The unionists do not like, in particular, the prospect of separating the coal assets of the entire company into a new entity.
- From 3 to 20 November the strike referendum will be held in the whole PGE GiEK group. We expect talks with the CEO of PGE in the presence of the CEO of PGE GiEK. We want these talks to be attended by decision-makers. [...] If there is no response from the Management Board of PGE, a warning strike may follow the referendum - said Bogumił Tyszkiewicz, President of the Federation of Lignite Mining Trade Unions based in Wrocław, for WNP.PL.
5. Will Turów benefit from the Just TransitionFund?
In order to benefit from the European Just Transition Fund, the mining region must present decarbonization plans by 2030. Therefore, Bogatynia together with the entire region of Zgorzelec cannot currently apply for these funds. The problem is the ongoing procedure of obtaining a concession for PGE to extract coal deposits from an open-pit mine by 2044, as well as a new block of Turów power plant, which is to be completed in spring 2021. The European Commission has already referred to this issue on several occasions and stressed that without changing the plans and setting a date for shutting down the units in the Turów power plant and setting a date for the completion of lignite extraction from the Turów open-pit mine by 2030, it is not possible to finance the transformation activities in Turoszów Region with money from the Just Transition Fund.
Despite the clear position of the European Commission, the local governments, the Lower Silesian Voivodeship Board and the Ministry of Finance, Funds and Regional Policy itself express their approval of the need for an early, long-term energy transformation of the region of Zgorzelec and its inclusion in the Territorial Just Transition Plan (which is necessary to benefit from the Fund). The Ministry will recommend the representatives of the European Commission to take into account the possibility of supporting the district of Zgorzelec within the framework of JST. Therefore, the Board of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship is preparing the Regional Plan of Just Trasition, also covering the region of Zgorzelec.