Poland’s new Ambassador to Canada Witold Dzielski sat down with the Canadian Gas Association to discuss the energy needs of Europe and how Canada’s energy sector can support global energy security. The interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Canadian Gas Association (CGA): Thanks for joining us today, Ambassador Dzielski. Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself and what was your journey to your current position as the Ambassador of Poland?
Ambassador Dzielski (Ambassador): I come from the civic society world and so I am not a typical career diplomat in that regard. I was always fascinated by civic diplomacy, and this is something that remained with me. I moved on to diplomacy at the government level and went through different stages. I was posted for five years at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. I worked for the foreign ministry and later moved on to the presidential chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, where for six years I served as the Director of the foreign office. After that, I moved here to Canada to become the new Polish Ambassador.
CGA: Canada has a long-standing relationship with Poland – what shared values do you see between the two countries?
Ambassador: Poland and Canada share many values and those of the highest priority to Poland are freedom, independence, sovereignty, and the right of countries to self-determination. We value these principles because of our difficult history and as many Canadians know, the history of Poland was quite tumultuous, filled with wars, and fighting for independence. Therefore, freedom is something that Polish people cherish, especially today when we are faced with yet another Russian aggression. In Europe, we value the commitment and the shared principles that we have with Canada.
CGA: You mentioned a lot of important things and there is one other important aspect that is related to this war, which is energy. What are the sources of energy that Poland relies on?
Ambassador: The energy mix in Poland is becoming more diverse every year. Historically, after fighting the Communist regime in 1989, we entered a very quick and radical energy transformation process and at the beginning of that process we relied solely on coal but throughout the years, we have been doing our best to change that and to move to more modern energy technologies and sources. We are looking at nuclear, we already have a strong mix of renewables, mostly wind and solar, and we are obviously looking at natural gas. We use a lot of gas and this is a source of energy that we consider more important in Poland as well.
CGA: How has natural gas contributed to the Polish energy mix?
Ambassador: Poland is using more and more natural gas every year because of the level of development in our country. The assessments are that Poland uses about 18 billion cubic meters of natural gas, annually. A third of that is produced in Poland, a third of that is brought in through our LNG terminal, and a third of that used to come from Russia. The Polish government doesn’t purchase gas from Russia anymore and we were prepared for that decision. Poland has been preparing itself for years. We are in the process of building and opening the Baltic pipe, which will pump gas from Norway through Denmark to Poland, and this will sort of complete the gas energy picture in Poland, hopefully towards the end of this year.
Gas is important for the Polish industry, for investors that invest in the Polish industry, from outside of Poland, and it is essential for people and households in terms of keeping warm during winter.
CGA: What are Poland’s energy and environment policy goals and how does natural gas fit into them?
Ambassador: Natural gas in the climate context is very important and is absolutely essential for Poland and the region. The Polish government is devoted to move away from coal, which for several reasons is necessary. In order to transition from coal-based energy, we need gas and it is essential today. Poland uses about 18 billion cubic meters of gas annually but it tends to grow each year – for the households, but also for industry.
Environment policy goals and gas is a topic which is absolutely essential for Poland today. Poland is transitioning from our coal-powered plants to new technologies. There is a huge need in Poland and in the region to extend the levels of us purchasing gas and for Canada, this could be a very interesting topic.
CGA: You mentioned one-third of the portion of natural gas used in Poland used to come from Russia, which has been cut off and there are talks of energy security. Has your government engaged Canada’s government on that issue because of the events that have unfolded in Europe?
Ambassador: Poland is working closely with Canada. Both governments are having conversations on the topics related not only to the war and the horrid Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also related to energy which is important for our region. It is essential to do all we can to stop the revenue that Russia generates from selling energy. A lot of work in that area has happened. The European Union has introduced several sanctions which relate to energy. Canada has done quite a lot with decisions to stop purchasing oil from Russia and to start providing services in the areas of gas and oil. These are the decisions which were appreciated in Poland. So, there are many conversations between Poland and Canada, and energy is an area which is further developing. This is a priority for me and my colleagues at the Embassy. We are having conversations for nuclear cooperation, we’re having a conversation on renewables, and on the topic of gas, we are very happy to see an internal debate in Canada. We hope that Canada, being a superpower in the area of resources, will be able to send gas to Poland, and to the region, in order to support the diversification of energy sources. This is very important from our perspective and we are ready and will be happy to support Canada in that regard.
“We hope that Canada, being a superpower in the area of resources, will be able to send gas to Poland, and to the region, in order to support the diversification of energy sources.”
CGA: What would be your top message to Canadian decision makers as it looks at ways to support European and more specifically Poland’s energy security?
Ambassador: My hope for the Canadian government and all the Canadian partners, including businesses, would be to continue doing what you’re doing and do more. The war in Ukraine is far from finished. Ukrainians need international support, countries of the region, including Poland, need international support, including Canadian support in the context of energy. We need to do as much as possible to diversify the energy mix and to cut off Russians from revenues in the area of energy sales. So, my request and hope for the Canadian government is to consider and open as many avenues as possible for energy cooperation. Gas is a very important source of energy for our region and much more could still be done. We need to see the Canadian gas flowing in European pipelines and this is the area that I hope the conversation in Canada will further develop.