Page 7 - Respond 2019 Magazine
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          modernity, with digital industry, with auto industry… 42% of the   “Of course,” Luberta says, staring down at the table, “we are
          surface of the city is green,” he tells Climate Home News.  aware that energy produced from coal is not very clean. We
                                                               exercise pressure on our government not to reduce the number of
          Katowice residents say the city has transformed in the past 25   mines, but to invest in clean combustion technologies.”
          years. Joanna Strekowska, a 61-year old beautician, sits on a
          bench in the main square under a clear blue sky.     Unfortunately, while “clean” combustion technology can filter
                                                               out the pollutants most harmful to health and reduce carbon
          “Let me give you this image,” she says, describing the smog they
          used to experience. “After three hours of walking on a day like   somewhat, coal still emits significantly more greenhouse gas than
          today, my arms and legs would look completely different. We   the alternatives.
          could see the air that we were breathing. There were no stars in   But the union’s arguments hold sway with the ruling Law and
          the sky.”                                            Justice party. Polish president Andrej Duda endorsed a “social pre-
                                                               cop” held by trade unions in August, which sought to push mining
          It only takes a short walk from the city centre to the headquarters   jobs up the agenda.
          of the Confederation of Mining Trade Unions in Poland
          (Konfederacja Związków Zawodowych Górnictwa w Polsce) to   Against this backdrop, Kurtyka walks a line between advocating
          realise the transformation is far from complete.     Poland’s fledgling renewable energy industry and soothing the
                                                               coal sector’s fears.
          “My grandfather came to Silesia with mining roots in the family,”
          says Piotr Luberta, 51, a trade unionist and mine rescuer. “Back   “There has been a very sharp increase of renewable capacity,”
          then there was little employment by the seaside. Despite my job, I   he boasts. Poland has installed 6,000 megawatts of wind power
          fell in love with this industry.”                    capacity, overtaking Denmark. Kurtyka claims clean sources met
                                                               up to 40% of power demand last Christmas, and the government
          Luberta maintains a grave expression throughout our discussion
          on climate policy, but lights up when asked about his personal   tendered another 2,000MW of renewables in 2018.
          relationship to coal. Above all, he loves working with nature, he   At the same time, one of his three priorities for Cop24 is the
          says.                                                “just transition”: code for protecting fossil fuel workers from the
                                                               disruptive force of clean energy. A draft declaration from the
          “We call it black gold,” says his colleague, Skawomir Kukasiewicz.   Polish Cop24 presidency, seen by Climate Home News, called for
          “This is the breadwinner for thousands of people – not just   workers to be ensured a “decent future”.
          miners. For one place of work in the mining industry, you should
          add four people.”                                    This tension is apparent on the streets of Katowice. Strekowska
                                                               wants the mines to be cleaner but not to close down. “We need to
          According to Euracoal, the sector employs around 100,000 Poles.
                                                               have our own industry as well. We have nothing else,” she says.
                                                               “Coal has no future,” says Teresa Zlotos-Sobzak, a self-described
                                                               white-collar worker. “On the other hand, our society is too poor
                                                               to change to clean heating systems… Let them keep two mines in
                                                               Katowice. Where else will people find jobs?”
                                                               Local environmentalists see Cop24 as an opportunity to shift
                                                               the tone of debate. Patryk Białas, president of civic association
                                                               BoMiasto, is hopeful that grassroots voices can challenge
                                                               At the unions’ social pre-cop, BoMiasto ran an alternative media
                                                               briefing on the doorstep. “We were not welcome,” Białas says.
                                                               They got their message across to print and radio journalists,
                                                               although the TV cameras prioritised the official press conference
          Katowice’s coal miners Piotr Luberta (left) and Skawomir Kukasiewicz
          (Photo: Natalie Sauer)                               Together with his colleague Jarosław Makowski, Białas is standing
                                                               in the local elections on a green platform. BoMiasto runs
                                                               educational programs for local climate leaders, and coordinates
          The trade unionists see EU and international climate action   with Katowice Smog Alert to fight for clean air.
          purely as a threat to their way of life. “We are terrified by the   “The truth is politicians have the power to produce many
          propositions of the European Union,” Luberta admits.
                                                               messages on the Cop, including to portray the climate crisis as
          While it does not single out any fuel or technology, the EU has   absurd,” he says. “But listening to the people organising grassroots
          some of the most ambitious climate targets in the world. In June,   movements, I see in society that people are ready for change.”
          commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete called on the EU to increase
          its contribution to the Paris Agreement to a 45% emission cut
          by 2030, piling pressure on member states to crack down on the   This article was first published by Climate Home News at
          most polluting energy sources.             

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