The 22nd of February can be remembered as a turning point in the fight against smog in Poland. The verdict of the tribunal encouraged the government to work and could break the resistance of matter in ministries opposing changes.
The air condition in Poland is systematically bad
Polish authorities violated the EU regulations on air quality standards – said the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg indicating that the limit values for PM10 dust concentrations were continuously exceeded in Poland.
Environmentalists from ClientEarth point out that although the EU Court of Justice judgment concerns the years 2007-2013, PM10 standards are still being exceeded in our country. The assessment of air quality in zones in Poland prepared by the Main Inspectorate for Environmental Protection shows that in 2016 the standards for PM10 dust were exceeded in 35 out of 46 zones.
“This is double bad news for Poles: not only do we have to accept the lost legal process, but also continue to breathe the air that harms us. The actions of Polish authorities are too slow in relation to the scale of the threat “- notes the legal adviser of the organization ClientEarth Lawyers for the Earth Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan.
– I do not suppose that any penalties were imposed on Poland – said the former Minister of Environment Jan Szyszko, referring to the ruling of the EU Court of Justice regarding the violation of air quality regulations by Poland. Although the punishment can count up to 4 billion zlotys, Poles can prove to the Commission that they have improved the situation. Perhaps hence the government’s offensive in the fight against smog.
Stop Smog program
Even if the Court’s judgment does not end with penalties, it already has one positive effect. It accelerated the government’s work on solutions to fight smog. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki presented the government program “Smog stop” on the day the judgment was announced. The government wants to fight against smog, among others through thermal modernization of buildings. Thanks to it, households are to use “half as much coal”.
– We start with a pilot in 22 municipalities. This is approx. 15-16 thousand. houses where less affluent Poles live. The cost is about PLN 750 million. We need to learn how much it costs thermo-modernization of a small house where the less affluent Poles live. After this piloting, we will be able to estimate the costs in the country – informed Undersecretary of the Ministry of Enterprise and Technology, Piotr Woźny, quoted by BiznesAlert.pl.
Poland without smog program
In the European Commission, Polish authorities will show solutions, both adopted and future, that aim to improve air quality in our country – the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology Jadwiga Emilewicz. She announced the program “Poland without smog”, which is to be dedicated to the poorest.
– This is a program addressed to families living in one of the 33 cities identified by the WHO as the most polluted in Poland, living in single-family houses, affected by energy poverty – noted the Minister. Its announcements indicate that the homes of such people will be insulated next year, window and door woodwork will also be mentioned.
In Poland, it is impossible to effectively fight smog without dealing intensively with energy poverty. The biggest source of low emission are inefficient energy-related single-family buildings – said Deputy Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology Piotr Woźny.
Clean Air Program
The resort calculated that home furnaces are responsible for 91 percent of PM10 emmission. Industry is responsible for 2 percent. About 40,000 people in Poland die every year due to smog, it’s like dying out of a city like Ciechanów or Kutno. In Krakow alone, in January 2016, smog could contribute to the death of about 300 people.
For this reason, it is planned to implement fuel quality standards that will apply from the next heating season. “This is a breakthrough in Polish legislation; from that moment, the customer approaching the coal sales outlet will know what fuel he is buying. We hope that thanks to this bill, we will eliminate those who wanted to earn money for ignorance of clients, because it is not only about mules and flotoconcentrates, but also pouring coal over water to increase its mass”- said Minister Emilewicz.
The amendment to the Act on the quality of solid fuels is part of the government program “Clean Air”. From October last year the regulations on emission standards for solid fuel boilers already apply, which means that it is no longer possible to produce products that do not meet the criteria for reducing harmful emissions – from 1 July 2018, they will be prohibited from selling.
– At one of the two forthcoming meetings of the Council of Ministers, the bill on fuel quality standards will be adopted and sent to the Sejm. We have reached an agreement with the Ministry of Energy. The document also contains standards for sulfur. The document will be considered in the Sejm along with the shielding program for the less prosperous Poles – Deputy Minister Woźny said on 22 February.
A tool for fighting smog in cities where transport is responsible for its creation, as in Warsaw, may be the creation of low-emission zones. This solution promoted by Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz while still working in her role as deputy minister of development is to allow local governments to limit the entry of cars emitting significant amounts of pollution into the city. Local authorities, however, indicate that the Act on Zones has limitations that will not allow them to be effectively led by a lack of coercion. – We see that awareness in cities is changing. Speaking about smog is no longer a theoretical problem. The city residents themselves say they do not want to live in dirty, dirty metropolises. We give the opportunity and the mayors will be able to use it by consulting the subject of the residents – said the deputy minister of development, Jadwiga Emilewicz.
Break the resistance
Until now, work on solutions to fight smog has blocked or inhibited opposition groups in the Ministry of Environment and Energy. In the environment there has been a change of minister, and the energy department may be encouraged by the threat of PLN 4 billion in penalties for violation of air standards. It seems that the jump of Morawiecki people into smog may bring real fruit this time to the benefit of the quality of what we breathe.