Can Poland end its toxic relationship with coal?

Poland’s love affair with coal goes way back. For decades coal was the favorite for energy: mined locally, and cheap. In those days, the environment was pretty low on the agenda.

But things are slowly changing.

When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, coal made up almost 100 percent of Poland’s energy mix. Last year, the country turned to other sources for 20 percent of its power, and its wind power operators boast that Poland has more installed turbines than Denmark.

The official plan is to reduce the share of coal in Poland’s energy mix to 50 percent by 2050. For a country that has long relied on coal as the backbone of its economy, that entails a dramatic transformation.

Yet, with coal reserves in existing mines running low and most power plants due to retire well before mid century, environmentalists argue the target is actually a renewed vow of commitment to a relationship already turned sour.

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(Photo: John Nyberg/