The EEC Green conference gathered nearly 1.000 people.

Will ecological awareness and cooperation skills determine our future surroundings? Participants of the Green European Economic Congress (EEC Green), an event accompanying the Conference on Climate Change COP24, spent two days (December 4-5) discussing the chances and threats to the economy related to climate change. Big companies made specific commitments in the field of sustainable development. Representatives of the Polish government and business representatives, experts and opinion leaders took part in the debates. The conference gathered nearly 1.000 people.

  • During the opening plenary of EEC Green, we could hear a strong voice that innovation in the economy is a must and environmental protection measures should be taken today.
  • Global corporations operating in Poland announced commitments and goals related to the implemented business strategies of sustainable development.
  • EEC Green was accompanied by special events, including the signature of a cooperation agreement for the fight for clean air by Dalkia and Beskid Zywiec, presentation of the WWF report and Marek Kaminski's expedition.

- Climate summit is a very important event both in Poland and internationally, therefore it is natural that the Green European Economic Congress had to appear in Katowice and became an important accompanying event of COP24. We wanted to expand the area of international debates, and at the same time discuss the topics that will determine the future of the Polish economy. Discussions started yesterday and today will continue in May next year at the European Economic Congress 2019 - says Wojciech Kuspik, president of the PTWP Group, organizer of the EEC Green. 

Sustainable development - important declarations

During EEC Green in Katowice, global corporations operating in Poland announced commitments and goals related to the implemented business strategies of sustainable development.

The 3M Company presented its environmental goals for 2025 covering educational activities as well as energy and water management. From 2019, as informed by Gayle Schueller, Vice President & Chief Sustainability Officer at 3M, each of approximately 1.000 products owned by the company (that's how many products 3M introduces each year to the market) will be valorised due to the trace that they leave in the natural environment.

- The company is aware of the importance of circular economy. The key message of the new framework for sustainable development policy in 3M is the application of scientific achievements in environmentally-friendly solutions - said Schueller. - The new model is based on three pillars. The first is the implementation of science to circular economy. The second is the use of science in the fight against climate challenges. The third - its application in improving the quality of life in society and the safety of employees - he said at EEC Green.

- Being aware of the environmental impact from the beginning of our operations, we make sure that our packaging and packaging components are completely processed - said Frédéric Guichard, president of Zywiec Zdroj. - We are convinced that plastic should never end up in the natural environment, which is why we will work towards a more effective system for collecting and recycling PET bottles in Poland. Our commitment is that by 2020 we will collect and recycle the same amount of plastic that we will introduce to the market - he declared.

Malgorzata Mika-Bryska, Director, Regulatory Matters and Public Relations at Veolia Energia Polska (a part of the French active group in heating, water and waste management), said that one the strategic goals of the Veolia Group is to halve the reduction of CO2 emissions in the energy sector by 2030.

This is no longer a charitable activity, it's business

During the opening plenary of the EEC Green conference, experts exchanged views on sustainable development. We could hear a strong voice that innovation in the economy is a must and environmental protection measures should be taken today.

- The concept of sustainable development was born 30 years ago and has been developing and evolving to the present date. Diversion from dirty technologies must be combined with attention to socio-economic issues. However, we're almost out of time. Therefore, if we want to take effective action against climate change, the process related to the Paris Agreement cannot be stopped. Instead, it should be accelerated. Hence, the COP24 in Katowice should achieve its main goal, namely prepare implementing acts for arrangements from Paris - said Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Global Leader Climate Change WWF, President of COP20 in Peru.

Jerzy Buzek, Member of the European Parliament, President of the European Parliament in 2009-2012, Prime Minister of Poland in 1997-2001, argued that it is in our own interest to departure from coal, but this process must take place gradually. - Poland will slowly depart from coal, which even the current government admits. However, we cannot be over-ambitious, because we will suffocate the economy. There is no other way than departing from coal. We are no longer able to produce as much good coal as we need. About 40.000 people in Poland die each year due to smog. It is necessary to depart from extraction of low-quality coal - he said.

- We must act together, there's no time to spare. The financial sector can play a big role in the departure from coal, but it cannot do it alone, the government should be also involved in this process. The transition to a low-carbon economy is getting closer. Last week, the European Commission presented a project whose aim is to completely reduce CO2 emissions in the EU by 2050 - said Leon Wijnands, Global Head of Sustainability ING Group.

- A few years ago, it seemed that the concept of sustainable development had a charitable status for business.  Today's reality strongly contradicts such views. A company that will ignore this concept in a few years may be eliminated from the market. This will be influenced not only by banks or suppliers who will not want to finance or cooperate with “dirty business” - said Brunon Bartkiewicz, CEO at ING Bank Slaski.

Marek Kaminski, Polish polar explorer, traveller and entrepreneur also shared his experiences with participants of the EEC Green conference. - When I went to the poles, ecology was a niche topic. Today, it is not only a slogan. It can be seen in everyday activities of young people. Residents of Siberia or Mongolia know that car fumes harm their health. There are 500 electric cars in Vladivostok. Our awareness changes and leads to action. The rapid development of e-mobility is a matter of 5-10 years, also in Poland. Electricity, in contrast to gas stations, is everywhere - he said.

Challenges of the COP24 climate summit

During the “Smart city and eco-development” session, Jerzy Kwiecinski, Minister of Investment and Development, stated that it is much easier to propose directions and goals, but it is considerably more difficult to implement them.

- It is apparent in the climate summit in Katowice. Three years ago there was a possibility of concluding a climate agreement and many leaders of world countries were interested. Now, when we plan to implement these assumptions, there are significantly less prime ministers and presidents - he said.

The Minister also pointed out that electromobility is an important topic with regards to climate protection, especially in cities. - In case of passenger cars, there is still no visible interest - 0.1 percent of electric cars are registered in Poland, and 0.3 percent in Europe. In the case of public transport, we are approaching 1 percent. If we implement the project of introducing 1 thousand electric buses to Polish cities, we will be at the forefront in the world in terms of the use of electric buses - added the Minister of Investment and Development at EEC Green.

A presentation of the WWF report entitled “2050 Poland for Generations”, including the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology Jadwiga Emilewicz, took place on the first day of the EEC Green conference. - The fight for clean air is a priority for the Polish government. Air pollution is a diagnosis, and we need to look at the problem from a wider perspective. The Polish energy mix is a difficult mix, but it is a mix that we have inherited and we must change it. We need to take up new challenges, hence the creation of major energy projects, but also a new prosumer approach - argued the minister.

- The prepared document can act as a scenario for future generations. It shows what needs to be done in order to survive in good shape - says Miroslaw Proppé, CEO at WWF Poland.

How does this work in practice?

On 5 December 2018, a session entitled “Sustainable development - best practices” was held under the EEC Green conference. It included a presentation of various activities and undertakings aimed at the protection of the natural environment.

- Our goal is to establish a circular economy in all aspects of our operation. We strive to introduce requirements for our suppliers. If they do not comply with them, they cannot be our suppliers. People are interested in, among others, solar panels that we offer. Research shows that Poles do not want to waste things and prefer to give a “second life” to different products - said Carolina Garcia Gomez CEO IKEA Retail Poland.

The second day of the EEC Green conference consisted of discussions on the water crisis, circular economy and innovations for sustainable development. The participants of the debate on various causes and effects of the water crisis, hydrological situation of the world, Europe and Poland, considered how climate change, human activity and other factors affect the water resources condition.

- One of the key issues is maintenance of the water transport system - said Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, Israeli ambassador, special envoy for sustainable development and climate change. - The Jewish state is affected by water scarcity. The resources are small, up to 60 percent of the country’s area is desert. Last year, the water level in Lake Tiberias, the main drinking water reservoir in Israel, was the lowest in one hundred years. Hence our interest in the transmission system. Our data shows that Israel loses the least supplies of water in all countries during transport - he explained.

During the session “Effective energy. Innovations for climate”, Mariusz Kondraciuk, Director of the Siemens Energy Management Division, said that we must be aware that losses in energy networks are not linearly proportional and the process of energy line densification is necessary to increase energy efficiency. - The more energy flows in the network, the more losses are generated. The way to reduce losses is therefore to densify the network. Polish network operators are also aware of this need, as exemplified by investments currently being implemented by Polskie Sieci Energetyczne with a prospect that goes up to 2025 - he said.

Another conclusion that was strongly and unequivocally voiced at the EEC Green conference concerned smog. According to specialists, only joint action - self-governments, public benefit organizations and residents - can bring tangible results.

- We struggle with low emission, as this is the main source of air pollution - i.e. fumes from household furnaces. Low emission - combustion of coal, wood, fuel with poor quality - explained Andrzej Gula from Polski Alarm Smogowy. - Poland is a master of imperfect law. Since last year, one cannot theoretically sell boilers that do not meet the emission standards. In practice, however, these devices are still on the market - he added.

During the “Smog - common problem” session, it was pointed out that we have no time to spare and we need to implement anti-smog solutions as soon as possible - Western Europe struggles mainly with communication smog. If one day we manage to solve the problem of smog, which is a consequence of heating, and at the same time electromobility from the West “pushes” a lot of old diesels onto our roads, there will be further problems - said Marcin Lewenstein from InnoEnergy.

- Polish companies are already participating in the entire supply chain for wind energy and their share in investments should increase along with the increase of wind investments in Poland - said Janusz Gajowiecki, president of the Polish Wind Energy Association, during the EEC Green conference. - Today in Poland there are about 100 companies that produce components for wind energy. Their production satisfies about 50 percent of all investments carried out in Poland. With the development of wind energy, this share may increase significantly. Especially considering that the production of Polish companies is mainly exported - he stated.

Special events

EEC Green was accompanied by special events, including the signature of a cooperation agreement for the fight for clean air in the City of Zywiec and in the Zywiec region by Dalkia and Beskid Zywiec, presentation of the WWF “2050 Poland for Generations” report and presentation of Marek Kaminski's NO TRACE EXPEDITION 2018. The second day of the conference included a presentation of the “Closed Circuit - Open Opportunity” report, consisting of the latest solutions to prevent the depletion of Earth's natural resources and CO2 emissions. During the EEC Green Innovation, we could also see a presentation of start-ups specializing in pro-environmental innovations.


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