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Climate and green consultants - is this a real quality change?

05 of July '22

Poznan citizens complain about the scarcity of public greenery, developers are pouring concrete where they can, and President Jaskowiak is setting up an Environmental and Climate Protection Consultative Council. Among its members: university professors. The goals? Relevant, though general. The idea deserves credit, but on the condition that concrete results will quickly appear.

Greenery, nature, climate change electrify the residents of Polish cities. At the same time, many public and private investments proceed as if natural issues did not exist. Hence "concretosis " - a slogan used to condone the insufficiency or lack of greenery, treeless squares and the absurdities of residential development.

This is also the case in Poznan. Yes, the city is systematically "re-paving" some streets in historic districts, taking care of street greenery, creating parks: from full-size to pocket parks. But at the same time, it has not reformed the structures of nature management, allows deserted developer investments, and rather strangely redevelops part of the squares and streets. Strangely enough, because even if handsome trees are planted - there are not enough of them (e.g., Kolegiacki Square), there is a lack of biologically active areas (e.g., Święty Marcin Street), and some road investments are saturated with greenery in homeopathic doses (e.g., St. Wawrzyńca and Wierzbięcice streets or the Rataje traffic circle).

tramwaj na Naramowice Święty Marcin, Poznań

A wide strip of new low greenery and trees along the streetcar route to Naramowice (2021); a lone pot of low greenery on Święty Marcin Street (2019)

photo: Jakub Głaz

nine greens

So, in the recent hot weather, the internet is nagging about imperfect realizations, the press is checking the temperature of newly created heat islands, residents are fighting vociferously against the development of wetlands in the Górczyn district, and Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak is announcing the establishment of a Consultative Council for Environmental Protection and Climate Change. He has invited to it nine award-winning scientists from Poznań universities dealing with climate, greenery or landscape, among other things (their full list - here). Among them are some who happen to be at odds with the official approach to greenery or landscape issues (for example, two of them supported residents with an expert opinion on the aforementioned wetlands). All of them will act socially.

What will the council do? The ordinance informs that, among other things:

Providing opinions on selected documents of the City of Poznań in the field of environmental protection, with particular emphasis on air, water, land surface, climate, shaping of green areas, biodiversity and protection of plant and animal species.

It sounds as good as it is general. The vision of the Council's shape and activities is lightened somewhat by the words of Vice Mayor Bartosz Guss, quoted by the city's official portal:

We wanted our elected council members to represent different research fields, so that they would complement each other's expertise. (...) We would like the members of the council not only to take up the topics we propose, but also to inspire us by talking about issues that are (...) important.

While Mayor Jaskowiak mentioned the educational role, addressing the council he did not refrain from taking a jab at critics of city projects:

We intend to take advantage of your knowledge not only in terms of the activities undertaken, but also in terms of educating the public. We are committed to ensuring that Poznań residents do not use information provided by Facebook experts.

advice at the sheepskin?

And will the president himself benefit from the knowledge of experts? Especially if their opinion coincides with the "facebook experts", who - sometimes - outside the Internet also act professionally and socially for nature (activists with factual knowledge were not invited to the Council). The history of some existing or disbanded advisory bodies shows that sometimes advisors are one thing and the city another. This includes the case of the monument team, whose members protested more than a year ago against the "pushing through" of monument issues contrary to the spirit of the city's resolution ordering the erection of monuments.

Advisory voices are also selectively treated in land-use matters. Often, when it is just about greenery issues in specific locations, and not , as in the case of the new Council: about "selected strategies and projects of the investment process of the City of Poznań."

park Cytadela, Poznań Poznań Podolany, dzika zieleń

The landscaped and protected greenery of the Citadel park (with the outdoor sculpture "Sunday"); Poznań Podolany, "wild greenery." Such naturally diverse areas are increasingly being replaced by developer developments (in the background)

photo: Jakub Głaz

All hope, therefore, lies in the members of the new Council - not only their expertise, but also their self-organization and determination, thanks to which they will not become a flower at the city or developer's sheepskin. Much will also depend on the organization of the work of the newly established body. This is because its coordination will be handled by the director of the municipality's Department of Landscaping and Environmental Protection. It is she who , according to the city ordinance , is to convene the Council's meetings "with a frequency based on current needs." Who will determine what is a "need"? How often will it be determined? That's what the document no longer specifies.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast