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    Poles Worry Pope's Address on Environment Will Be 'Anti-Polish'

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    Commenting on Pope Francis's highly anticipated address devoted to the environment, conservative Polish daily newspaper warned that its anti-coal message may be "anti-Polish."

    The letter, known as an encyclical, will be published on Thursday, and will urge the Catholic Church's 1.2 billion faithful to reconsider the way they think about the environment, theorizing the problems of environmental degradation and climate change as fundamentally connected to the human rights of the world's poor, and stepping out against the wastefulness and excess of conspicuous consumption.

    Although Pope Francis has commented on environmental issues before, Thursday's encyclical, entitled Laudato Sii – 'Praised Be', "On the Care of Our Common Home" will be the first time that the high-level teaching document is to be devoted entirely to this issue. It comes ahead of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in Paris later this year.

    Reading through the papal document, which has already been released and translated into Polish, Rzeczpospolita commented that the "anti-carbon" document may actually be "anti-Polish," given Poland's heavy dependence on coal as a heating and energy source, and its high rank among global CO2 emitters. "As Rzeczpospolita has discovered, Francis devotes a lot of space to the issue of coal mining and the related environmental degradation; he draws attention to the fact that countries whose energy industry is based on coal damage the environment by carbon dioxide emissions, and calls for limitations in its use," the newspaper notes.

    The encyclical's criticisms are a sore point for Poland, which continues to depend on coal as its main source of electrical energy despite having the highest frequency of premature deaths in Europe attributed to air pollution. About 85 percent of the country's electricity and 43 percent of its heating is obtained via coal-burning power plants. A recent report on air quality in Europe found that an estimated 43,000 people per year die prematurely in Poland as a result of air pollution, many of them attributable to coal burning electricity and heating plants.

    Rzeczpospolita noted that "Poland is among the top twenty emitters of carbon dioxide globally. For years, we have been at the forefront in this respect among the EU countries." And while the country has made promises to cut emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2030, the newspaper is skeptical that this is even possible. "If between 1990 and 2000 carbon emissions fell by 19 percent, in the subsequent years up to 2013, they have grown by 6 percent." The paper notes that despite many promises by the government over the years about reducing the use of coal and the introduction of clean technologies, little very little has actually been done.

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    Tags:
    material excess, encyclical, environmental degradation, consumption, human rights, environment, Vatican, Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, Poland
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