WARSAW – Poland’s biggest opposition group, the European Coalition, plans to eliminate coal from power production by 2040, its leader said on Saturday as he unveiled pledges ahead of an autumn election to be fought against the coal-friendly, conservative government.
Poland generates electricity mostly from coal and has some of the worst air quality in Europe. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which won a 2015 election partly on promises to sustain coal, plans to cut the use of the polluting fuel to around 60 percent by 2030 from around 80 percent now.
“We are committed that by 2030 we will eliminate coal in household heating, by 2035 in systemic heating and by 2040 in the energy sector,” Grzegorz Schetyna, the European Coalition leader said in a televised speech at the group’s convention.
“We must clean Poland up,” he said.
Coal has fueled Poland’s economy for years and a promise to support it has been used in previous political campaigns, due to the strength of the coal unions and a large mining workforce.
However attitudes among Poles have shifted in recent years due to increased awareness of coal’s impact on the environment.
Schetyna also promised that if the European Coalition won the election — likely to be held in October or November — it would remove the Sunday trade ban introduced by PiS and raise salaries.
PiS has led in most opinion polls since the 2015 election due to robust social spending. In European elections in May it won 45.4 percent of votes.
The European Coalition, made up of the Civic Platform formerly led by European Council President Donald Tusk and a group of leftist and rural politicians, was second, with 38.5 percent.
Schetyna also pledged to “renovate” democracy in one legislative package, in reference to PiS moves to increase control over the judiciary and media which critics say have undermined the democratic system.
Other pledges that counter conservative PiS proposals include the possibility for unmarried couple to register their relationship and stronger women’s rights.
“One can talk a lot and promise much,” PiS spokeswoman Anita Czerwinska told public television after Schetyna’s speech. “We ask for calculations and concrete projects. If these are not revealed, then it could mean that Grzegorz Schetyna is not telling the truth.”