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Polish environment minister sacked as he chairs UN climate talks

Polish environment minister is sacked in the midst of UN climate talks in Warsaw, which he is heading

AFP , Wednesday 20 Nov 2013
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Poland's sacking of Environment Minister Marcin Korolec in a government reshuffle Wednesday sparked ire at the ongoing UN climate talks in Warsaw which he is chairing.

Korolec was one of seven cabinet ministers -- including the finance minister -- replaced by Prime Minister Donald Tusk at a time when his centre-right government is battling low popularity, a sluggish economy and corruption allegations.

"This is nuts," Greenpeace Poland director Maciej Muskat said in a statement after the reshuffle.

"Changing the minister leading the climate negotiations after a race to the bottom by parties of the convention shows Prime Minister (Donald) Tusk is not sincere about the need for an ambitious climate deal."

The sacking comes with just over two days left in the annual round of UN climate talks that observers and delegates say have been marked by a worrying lack of progress.

Only two years from now, the world community is supposed to seal a historic pact that will roll back greenhouse gases and save Earth's climate system for future generations, while also helping poor countries exposed to worsening natural disasters.

Tusk replaced Korolec with Maciej Grabowski, a proponent of hydraulic fracturing or fracking -- the controversial method of extracting hydrocarbons -- further setting off Muskat's ire.

"Justifying the change of the minister by the need to push the exploitation of another fossil fuel in Poland is beyond words, especially in the light of the majority of Poles wanting to see increased investment in renewables - not fossil fuels," Muskat said.

Korolec will continue however to preside over the UN climate negotiations until at least the next scheduled talks in Peru in December of next year and possibly the key 2015 negotiations in Paris.

Korolec will remain Poland's chief negotiator "for as long as is necessary", Tusk said.

"Now I will be able to fully concentrate on the process of climate negotiations," Korolec told reporters Wednesday.

Grabowski, who officially takes over on 27 November, said exploiting shale gas in Poland would be "his priority".

Poland, which wants to continue exploiting its coal to ensure energy independence from Soviet-era master Moscow, also plans to tap its shale gas deposits, to the horror of environmentalists.

Total investment in exploration and development of the shale gas sector by domestic and foreign companies could reach 12.5 billion euros ($16.9 billion) by 2020.

Last month, Lane Energy Poland -- controlled by US energy giant ConocoPhilips -- began shale gas extraction at a test well in northern Poland.

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