UN Climate Forum Host: Melting Arctic Ice Will Make Chasing Pirates Easier


A coal-fired power plant in Poland.

CREDIT: AP/Alik Keplicz

A blog post on Poland’s official website for the 2013 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has sparked some outcry among environmentalists, who say it sounds like this year’s host is lauding the benefits of climate change.

In a short post published Thursday, Poland’s website for this year’s climate change talks — known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP19 — examined the possibilities that have arisen since the Arctic sea ice began melting.

“We can sail from Asia and America to Europe via a shorter route. The first ships are already on their way and the savings of time and energy are huge. We may also build new drilling platforms and retrieve natural resources hidden below the sea bed,” the post reads.

Warsaw COP19 blog

It goes on to mention the pirates, terrorists and ecologists “that will come to hang around” the area, implying that chasing out less-savory characters that enter the Arctic will now be easier. The “pirates, terrorists, and ecologists” are likely a reference to the group of Greenpeace Arctic oil drilling protesters, who were detained by Russian authorities and charged with piracy after attempting to scale Russia’s first Arctic offshore oil rig.

The post prompted the responses of several international climate activists on Twitter — Kelly Rigg, Executive Director of the Global Campaign on Climate Action, asked “Why is #COP19 host Poland applauding #climate destruction?” And Bryony Worthington, a UK climate campaigner, called the post outrageous.

Poland has since updated the post, saying that its goal was not to celebrate the effects of melting Arctic sea ice, but simply to make them known. But regardless of the post’s objective, this isn’t the first time that the host nation of this year’s COP19 host has come under fire for anti-environmental stances. The Polish government has partnered with multiple oil and coal companies for this year’s conference, including Alstom, which manufactures the equipment for 95 percent of Poland’s coal plants. Poland has long opposed the EU’s push to reduce carbon outputs by 2050, with one government source admitting to Reuters in 2012 that the country “cannot agree to anything that would directly or indirectly allow for higher emission reduction goals in the near future.” Polish environmentalists have said the country has manufactured “climate of fear” for pro-environmental groups, with harassment from the country’s police force and harsh words from its policymakers.

Poland’s adversity to emissions-reducing policies isn’t surprising: the country relies heavily on coal, using it to generate 90 percent of its electricity supply, and it wants to get into the shale gas business as well. Poland is trying to forge ahead to build two new coal-fired power plants without assessing the plants for carbon capture and storage (CCS) readiness, a move EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said would be in violation of EU regulations. And though Poland is hosting the international climate talks this year, it’s making sure its commitment to coal is clear: Warsaw is also the site of the World Coal Association’s International Coal & Climate Summit, which will be going on in November alongside the COP19 talks.

It’s not the first time the UNFCCC has been held in a country with a less than stellar environmental record. Last year, COP18 took place in Doha, Qatar, a country with an economy that is heavily reliant on oil and gas reserves that have made Qatar the world’s highest per capita carbon dioxide emitter. One nonprofit group, Avaaz, said having Qatar — one of the leaders of OPEC — in charge of the climate talks was “like asking Dracula to look after a blood bank.”