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Clean partisanship? How do Polish cities fight smog?

16 of November '22

The smog problem disappeared from our public space for a while, although it has not disappeared from our atmosphere at all. The situation of the war in Ukraine, and the economic and political consequences that followed, have put us up against the wall. Smog, however, continues to poison us, and this is worth looking into.

See here - we talk to experts on how to reduce smog in Polish cities

Disrupted supply chains, problems with the availability of energy resources and the economic crisis that has followed have changed our view of smog policy. Pollution has gone by the wayside for a while, as confirmed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski's words about a difficult winter and burning anything. The problem of the future of anti-smog policy is worth discussing. Such a discussion, however, should start with a summary of how Polish cities have dealt with the issue so far.

Analysts of the think tank Polityka Insight, in cooperation with the Clear Air Fund, have created a report "How Polish cities are fighting smog." The document is the result of the "Cities without smog" project led by Clear Air Fund. The authors of the report are Joanna Sawicka and Mateusz Fornowski, who will be asked about what the future of fighting smog looks like. The first part of the document discusses the problems and how the results were measured. It focused primarily on metropolises and large cities, due to their ability to carry out their own anti-smog policies, usually inaccessible by finance to small centers.

How did Polish cities fare? It's worth a look.

The report is available for download from the think tank's website - See here.

Zanieczyszczenie największych polskich miast Benzo(a)pirenem

Benzo(a)pyrene pollution of major Polish cities

© Polityka Insight

Pioneering Krakow

The first city to be analyzed is Krakow. The capital of Malopolska, as the authors of the analysis point out, is in a difficult geographic situation. Krakow is located lower than the ring boroughs, so that pollution produced in neighboring centers affects urban air. Despite ambitious policies, Krakow is still polluted.

Nevertheless, Krakow's air has improved. The number of days with an exceeded daily standard for PM10 particulate matter has dropped from 123 in 2012 to 42 in 2020. The permissible maximum number of such days is 35. While dust concentrations of NO2 and PM10 fell, PM 2.5 was not once within the norm. Benzo(a)pyrene concentrations were also high. However, it's hard not to notice the difference.

What was Krakow's struggle like? First of all, the city is doing the best job of replacing fossil fuels. Officially, about 400-500 harmful stoves remain to be eliminated. Krakow has also organized shield projects for the poorest, helping to finance the changes. The authors of the analysis point out that Krakow has decided not to take offense at local activists, but to cooperate with them. Krakow also remains a pioneer in terms of introducing a clean transport zone - as the first city in Poland, this project is already in advanced mode. The capital of Małopolska performs poorly in terms of bicycle networks, further requiring expansion.



© Polityka Insight

The coal basin - Katowice

The next city to be analyzed is Katowice. The capital of the Silesian Voivodeship has only been within national PM10 concentration norms since 2018. However, the biggest problem remains PM 2.5 concentrations, in whose measurements Katowice performs worst (except in 2021, when the first place was won by Krakow). The problem for Katowice is the small number of sensors.

What does Katowice's struggle look like? The replacement of fossil fuels, despite having been going on for several years, is still quite slow. The provincial capital still has about 15,000 fossil fuels to replace. The city offers to subsidize the investment at 80%. Average annual spending on the fight against fossil fuels is about 9-10 million a year, the exception being 2021, where as much as 12.7 million zlotys were spent. Katowice spends about 5.1% of the city budget on public transportation. Only Łódź spends less. The city is investing in electric buses and the development of bicycle paths, the length of which is increasing by 7-10% every year.



© Polityka Insight

transportation capital

The next city to be analyzed is Warsaw. Like Krakow, Warsaw's main problem is its neighboring municipalities. The average annual concentration of PM10 particulate matter remains within the norm. In the case of PM 2.5, however, the situation was worse, although a downward trend is evident. As in other cities, Warsaw has a problem with benzo(a)pyrenes.

How is the fight against fossil fuels? There are still about 7,000 stoves to be replaced. The city ran a "Eliminate the fossil fuel" campaign, offering reimbursement of up to 90% in 2021 and 70% in 2022. In addition, it was possible to apply for RES subsidies if they go along with the new energy source - a rarity among large cities. Warsaw allocates as much as 19.6% of its budget to public transportation, which is among the best in Poland. As of 2018, it is investing in electric and hybrid fleets, and is outclassing other cities in terms of bike lanes.



© Policy Insight

From the city of Lodz

For a city from the "Promised Land," PM10 dust concentrations are within the national norm. Worse is the case with PM 2.5, which performs very poorly. Concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene were among the highest in the list.

Cinder blocks remain the biggest problem - there are up to 50,000 of them. The process of change is slow, relying primarily on a municipal program offering up to 90% reimbursement. Lodz also fares poorly in public transportation - spending on this is 3.8% of the budget, and transportation is poorly electrified. Bicycle paths fare a little better, with 105 kilometers of paths per 100 square kilometers of the city.



© Policy Insight

Wroclaw smog

Wroclaw compares quite well with other cities. Over the past five years, PM10 concentrations have been within the norms. The situation is different for PM 2.5 and benzo(a)pyrene standards, where norms were often exceeded.

How is Wroclaw fighting smog? Since 2019, it has been running the "Change the Stove" campaign, in which investments were reimbursed 100% up to PLN 15 thousand in 2021. In 2022 it was already 12 thousand zlotys. Wroclaw spent a record 90 million zlotys in 2021 on replacing boilers, for one year more than three thousand fossil fuels were replaced. Wroclaw's public transportation has been developed for many years, as evidenced by the number of vehicle kilometers per capita. To date, the rolling stock has not been electrified, but this is expected to change within a few years. The capital of Lower Silesia also has the second best developed network of bicycle paths after Warsaw.



© Polityka Insight

in the land of the goat

Poznań is within the PM10 dust concentration norms, as is the case in other cities for PM2.5 dust concentrations, as well as for benzo(a)pyrene. The Greater Poland capital compares favorably with other cities when it comes to NO2 concentrations.

Poznań has about 20,000 boilers to replace. The city has a furnace replacement program called "Kawka Bis," which provides up to 100% subsidies for replacing boilers. The city's public transportation was also positively evaluated, with as much as 19.6% of the municipal budget spent on it in 2021. As much as 18% of the bus fleet is electrified. Bicycle paths fare a little worse, with a score of 60 kilometers per 100 square kilometers of the city, worse only in Krakow.



© Policy Insight

In smog in Lublin

Lublin 's situation is similar to Krakow, primarily in neighborhoods located in river valleys. The average annual concentration of PM 10 in Lublin was one of the lowest. For PM 2.5 standards, too, the city fared quite well. The situation is different for benzo(a)pyrene concentrations.

There are about 5,000 fossil fuels to be replaced in the city. The city replaced 115 boilers in 2021, although almost a million zlotys were allocated for this purpose. What makes Lublin stand out is primarily the electrification of its transportation fleet - as much as 34.7%.



© Policy Insight

self-cleaning city

The situation in Gdansk is unique. The city, thanks to its location, does not have as much of a smog problem. Concentrations of PM 10, PM 2.5 and NO2 were within national norms. Only benzo(a)pyrene concentration standards were exceeded.

As for replacing boilers, Gdansk still has about 6,000 of them. Residents can count on a subsidy of 5 thousand. The city is also offering to join a district heating network. Gdansk, like Wroclaw, has increased the number of vehicular kilometers over the past few years. The density of bicycle paths is increasing, but the city is just beginning to electrify its transportation fleet.



© Policy Insight

what does the future hold for us?

The report "How Polish cities fight smog" at the end summarizes how smog should be fought, where to look for solutions and how our cities should be reformed. We also invite you to read a conversation with the authors of the report, about what awaits us and what the future of the fight against smog will be.

See here - we talk to experts on how to reduce smog in Polish cities

The report is available for download from the think tank's website - See here.

compiled by Wiktor Bochenek

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