At a time of geopolitical tensions and global market turmoil, environmental concerns may seem to some to be an important but not urgent issue. Indeed, economic issues have come into the spotlight in recent months, with the spectre of an energy crisis hanging over Europe. Does this mean that ecology can wait? Absolutely not.
Today, environmental protection, the optimisation of energy or raw material consumption and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions are not disconnected concepts from economics that operate somewhere outside the economic mainstream. On the contrary, they are inseparably linked, and the trends followed by the global and national economies have much in common precisely with climate policy and the shift towards zero-carbon.
– It is worth remembering that the changes ahead are not only about costs, burdens and difficult reforms, but above all about innovation, a technological and qualitative jump in life, new investments and a friendlier environment for residents and business in general – highlighted Agata Śmieja, President of Fundacja Czyste Powietrze and co-organiser of the TOGETAIR International Climate Summit.
Today, few people question anymore the necessity of becoming independent from fossil fuels, which for decades have been the main driver of development and testament to the health of national economies. However, there are arguments about which routes to take to achieve this and when. Two concepts clash here. One is based on a more radical and rapid transition away from gas, oil and coal and a maximum shift towards renewable energy sources. The other, is based on more gradual and sustainable reforms that will ensure a smoother transition from one economic reality to another. In Poland, the majority of voices are in favour of this – more reformist than revolutionary – solution. Experts emphasise that as a country whose economy has been based on coal-fired power for decades, we need more time to build and run new power stations, and in doing so ensure the energy security necessary not only for millions of Polish homes, but also for the country’s entire industry.
– Energy policy today is closely linked to geopolitics. Since Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, we know that the energy transition is not only a business or civilisational project, but also a strategic one from the point of view of Poland. The pace of change in the energy sector must therefore be adapted to the capabilities of the Polish economy and at the same time respond to current geopolitical challenges. Agencja Rozwoju Przemysłu S.A. (Industrial Development Agency JSC) has been establishing an increasingly strong presence in the area of renewable energy for several years. Hydrogen, wind energy and also the atom will drive the future of the Polish economy, and we are keen to ensure that these processes are not only efficient but also fair – in line with the principles of sustainable development. Our strategy is to invest in ‘clean industry’ – safe for the environment and at the same time guaranteeing independence from the dirty politics of countries such as Russia – said Łukasz Gałczyński, Vice-President of Agencja Rozwoju Przemysłu S.A (Industrial Development Agency JSC).
However, the energy sector is not the only one that will have to undergo major reforms in the coming years. Big changes are also ahead for the transport sector, and not only passenger transport, but also freight transport. Today, after the decision has already been made to exclude new internal combustion cars from sale after 2035, the entire automotive business must look for new technological solutions to catch up with the coming electromobility revolution. [QUOTE motorization]. It is worth mentioning here that the stricter restrictions on emission standards will also affect the heavy goods transport sector. This will be a major change, as wheeled transport – despite heavy investment in the development of green railways – is still the veritable part of the European economy.
–In principle, we support the main direction of the European Green Deal, but the devil is in the detail. It is crucial for our economy that Polish transport companies remain competitive. This can be achieved through for example, using EU funds to support the green transition, e.g. through subsidies for fleet renewal. In addition, new CO2 emission standards for vans and emission reduction requirements for the transport sector must be realistic to fulfil. Today, the biggest problem is access to infrastructure, which is developing, but not at a sufficient pace for international road transport. Transporters will switch to electric trucks when they can complete any transport seamlessly without fear that their vehicles will suddenly stop in the field – Anna Brzezińska-Rybicka, ZMPD.
However, the EU’s drive to reduce its carbon footprint will not only affect these sectors, as the changes announced in the FitFor55 package will introduce new standards and force fundamental changes for almost all businesses in the EU. With the biggest challenges facing those whose business model is based on long supply chains. Why? Because the further away the production is from the final consumer, the more resources we have to spend on all the logistics, and this means not only higher costs, but also a waste of resources that goes against EU targets and regulations. Therefore, many companies will have to develop a new business model in the coming years that involves shortening supply chains and possibly minimising the carbon footprint at each link.
However, entrepreneurs are not left on their own, as many of them can count on funding and favourable fiscal arrangements to support the transition. Taxonomy is also one such instrument. This is a set of recommendations and standards which – when applying for support from Community funds – give an advantage to the most environmentally friendly solutions. This ensures that only those investments that are most desirable from a climate protection perspective are allowed to be co-financed with public money. In turn, grants are reduced for facilities which, although potentially more profitable in the short term, are more damaging and undesirable in the long term.
– The EU taxonomy is a unified system for classifying the economic activities that are considered environmentally sustainable within the European Union. Its consequence will be a shift in the direction of the funding stream towards sustainable activities that contribute to climate change mitigation or adaptation, the sustainable use and conservation of water and marine resources, the transition to a circular economy, pollution prevention and control or the protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems. At PKO Bank Polski we recognise the opportunities associated with sustainable development and have set ambitious goals in this regard. As the largest bank in Poland, we want to be a leader in sustainable financing and a driving force behind the transformation of the Polish economy – highlighted Mateusz Kowalski, Director of the Departament Zrównoważonego Rozwoju ESG at PKO Bank Polski.
However, experts are in no doubt that simply pumping in money will not be enough to give the economic transformation the pace we need to become energy independent as soon as possible. This also requires more cooperation than ever between the central administration, business and local authorities, as well as a reorganisation of the regulations, which today raise many interpretative doubts and complicate new investments.
It is investment and innovation that are nowadays precious. And, unfortunately, against the background of world leaders, including our neighbours, we are not doing so well, ranking only in the fourth ten most innovative countries (source: GII Innovation Index). This is not to say that there is no shortage of pioneers and leaders in our market, whose ideas, technologies and visions can be turned into spectacular successes. The problem is that there are too few of them, they are scattered and the regulatory environment does not support their entrepreneurial potential.
Greenwashing, the phenomenon of whitewashing the image of companies whose activities are harmful to the environment, by highlighting and publicising individual environmentally friendly actions expected by consumers, institutions or investors, has also featured prominently on the EU agenda in recent months.
The European Commission considers such practices undesirable because, in its view, they can undermine the efforts of honest companies that seek to manage their businesses in a sustainable manner, rather than one focused solely on profit and subsequent image campaigns to silence critics. Thus, the need arose to regulate this difficult issue and establish rules that would distinguish between mere marketing and PR and greenwashing, ultimately eliminating the latter. Experts agree that while making such changes is not easy, as the dividing line between information and disinformation is thin, the EU’s attempt to sort this out is an important step forward. It is also a signal to companies that the EU legislator will be looking at their operations even more closely in the coming years than before.
On 20-21.04, the 4th TOGETAIR 2023 Climate Summit took place at the University of Warsaw Library.
“Business HUB” was the media patron of the event.