10 June 2021
The climate crisis is happening in Europe right now. More than ever, Poland is experiencing longer-lasting droughts, sudden heavy rainfall and storms. These changing weather patterns, worsened by climate change, are also increasing the risk of wildfires, crop failures and also affect water quality.
Read the stories of the Polish citizens who are experiencing the impacts of climate in their community right now and are worried for the future.
“I believe that Polish politicians have been passive for too long. The time for talking and thinking is over and the time for action has come.”
Małgorzata has been living near the border of the Biebrza National Park for 15 years. Together with her husband, Małgorzata runs an ecotourism business. They were the first tourist facility in the Podlaskie Voivodeship to be awarded the Polish Ecotourism Certificate.
Increasingly flooding is threatening her home and livelihood. The rain at times creates a temporary river knee-deep and several metres wide. This started happening around eight years ago and is becoming more frequent – last year it happened twice in one summer, seeping into the terrace of the tourist accommodation, flooding her basement and polluting her water supply. As well as these dangerous flash floods, drought conditions in the region are on the rise, increasing the risk of wildfires in the nearby Bierbrza Valley peatlands.
“Climate change affects us all, but not equally. Many already are suffering the worst consequences of the climate crisis despite contributing to it the least. I want those in power to fight this injustice and take responsibility for our climate present and future”
Maya doesn’t know what her future holds. She often wonders if there is any point in studying. She believes the Polish government is condemning her and other young people to an unstable and frightening future with more fires, floods, unstable weather, rising food prices and a wave of refugees fleeing the climate crisis. She began attending climate protests when she was 15 – she believes the lack of decisive government action is a threat to her health and life.
“I have decided to take legal action. This is a dramatic situation for me. A situation where I do not see any other way of acting. I want a good, secure future for my children and my grandchildren. For all of us.”
Piotr N lives in a forest in the Greater Poland region. Stronger storms and forest fires are an ever-increasing threat to him and his home. Dry conditions are making forest fires more frequent and also forcing him to dig a deeper well for water. Piotr says the Polish Government is failing him, his children and grandchildren, so he is taking them to court.
“I fear for the future, I fear for the future of my sons, my farm. I am filing this lawsuit because the Polish government is doing nothing to prevent this situation, to prevent climate change.”
Piotr R lives in a region which was once lush, fertile and dotted with ponds. He runs a nursery selling shrubs and trees. Now, water levels in the region are down. Last year, he lost part of his stock because his land dried out. The increasingly unstable and unpredictable climate is affecting neighbouring farms too – adapting crops to climate change can be difficult and uncertain. Piotr worries about his sons and the difficult future they face.
“Climate change affects us all. I do not want this to happen. I want those in power to take responsibility for our climate future”
Over the last year Monika has seen the increasing impact of drought on her village. Low river levels have meant local ferries were unable to run, and neighbouring farms have suffered crop failures from increasing drought. Monika and her husband have had to abandon their plans for a tourism business because the river, a kayaking hotspot, is no longer deep enough in some parts during droughts. Monika fears the future her son will grow up in. She worries that if we don’t stop climate change, people will be forced to struggle for survival as water and food availability become an issue.
These stories show the realities of a climate crisis that threatens the future of life on our planet. We need urgent action to tackle the climate emergency. The 2015 Paris Agreement was a landmark global response to combat climate change that commits States to pursue efforts to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels, and keeping that increase “well below” 2oC.
The Polish Government is one of a minority of EU governments which has failed to announce its long-term strategy to meet its obligations under the UN Paris climate agreement. It has no coherent, comprehensive and credible energy and climate policy.
These Polish citizens cannot afford to wait any longer, so they are taking legal action to protect themselves and their communities from dangerous government actions – and inaction – on the climate. They say that the Polish Government must commit to a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 61% by 2030 (below 1990 levels), and reach carbon neutrality by 2043.
Piotr N, Małgorzata and Monika have launched their legal cases today. Piotr R and Maya will launch their legal cases later this month.
Photo credits: Grzegorz Wełnicki/ RATS Agency