World leaders are convening for the United Nation’s latest climate conference in Katowice, Poland to discuss the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions globally to limit the worst effects of climate change.
Ironically, this two-week meeting is taking place in the heart of Poland’s coal country. As a fuel source, coal accounts for roughly half of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, but the conference center currently dedicated to cutting these emissions is literally decorated with mounds of coal.
Poland is by far the EU’s largest producer of hard coal, and Katowice is known to have terrible air quality due to the area’s strong reliance on burning coal for energy. The country relied on coal for about 80 percent of its electricity in 2015.
Poland has been slowly moving away from coal as part of the EU’s larger mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in his opening remarks Monday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said coal “does not contradict the protection of the climate and the progress of climate protection.”
If the world is to truly prevent climate change—and the extreme weather disasters and rising seas that accompanies it—the attendees of the UN climate conference will have to disagree with Duda.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report published in October, coal will have to be almost entirely phased out by 2050 to limit the rise in global temperatures above 1.5 degrees Celsius.