The lignite power plant in Bełchatów – widely regarded as the largest single air polluter in Europe – emitted 38.3 million metric tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere in 2018. Meanwhile, methane in the same year was responsible for emissions, the equivalent of which was 56.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Methane escaping from mines is a stronger factor of global warming than aviation and maritime transport taken together – warns the German think tank Ember in the report "Second Bełchatów. The mine methane in Poland ”.
“Methane is a greenhouse gas. One tonne of methane is estimated to have an impact comparable to around 86 tonnes of CO2 if the 20-year greenhouse potential of methane is analyzed (GWP20 scenario) and 34 tonnes of CO2 if its impact over 100 years is analyzed,” the report reads.
This means that in the 20-year time horizon, 695 kilotonnes of methane emitted by coal mines in Poland in 2018 correspond to 56.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. However, in the longer, hundred-year horizon, this impact decreases. Then the impact of Polish mine methane on the climate would be "only" 22.4 million tonnes of CO2. The direct and indirect social costs of methane emissions are currently estimated at $1,400-6,830 per tonne of methane.
The UNFCCC data analyzed by Ember shows that 70 percent of the methane leakages from active coal mines in Europe take place in Poland. Polish 659 kilotonnes of methane from all mines are responsible for 57 percent out of,152 kilotonnes of total emissions from the EU-27 area.
The document of the International Energy Agency (IEA) quoted by Ember shows that Polish coal mines are also among the largest methane emitters in the world. According to this analysis, only in Russia and Kazakhstan, there are more methane leaks per tonne of coal mined than in Poland.