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Poland Slammed for Lack of Progress Against Smog

Government’s pledge to spend billions may not be enough, state audit agency and environmentalists claim. 

13 September 2018

Poland needs to hunker down to the job of cleaning up its air, the Polish Supreme Audit Office (NIK) has warned.

 

Poland still has one of the worst air qualities in the European Union,” the office said, Reuters reports.

 

The NIK and environmentalists say the government’s recent policies to tackle smog have loopholes and are inconsistent with a costly subsidy program for more efficient furnaces.

 

Krakow is one of Poland's loveliest, and dirtiest, cities. Photo by Jar.ciurus/Wikimedia Commons

 

Poland currently has the most polluted air in the EU, with 33 of the bloc’s 50 most-polluted cities located in the country, according to the Warsaw Business Journal.

 

This is at least partly due to households burning large quantities of low-quality coal and anything else that can burn, something that the government has tried to combat by imposing coal-quality rules in August. 

 

As one of the EU’s biggest producers and consumers of coal, particularly the dirtier brown type, Poland has sought to slow the union’s policy to substitute renewable sources for fossil fuels.

 

The new rules forbid the sale of coal waste, punishing non-compliance with fines of up to 500,000 zlotys ($135,000) and in extreme cases, imprisonment, writes WBJ.  

 

But the new standards seem designed more to placate the interests of the coal lobby more than to address the negative effects of air pollution, the NIK says.

 

Environmentalists have also voiced concerns about the standards, as they fear they are too lax and would override stricter, local rules in the areas that are worst-affected, writes Bloomberg.

 

In June, the government announced it would spend 103 billion zlotys ($28 billion) to provide 3 million households with more efficient furnaces through subsidies ranging from 40 percent to 90 percent of the cost, depending on household income, WBJ says.

 

The recent anti-smog policies came on the heels of the European Commission lawsuit, filed in February, charging Poland with persistent breach of air-quality standards between 2007 and 2015 and its reluctance to implement counter-measures. 

 

 

 

  • Reuters writes that smog in the cities of the south Polish industrial belt can get worse than in Beijing or New Delhi.

Compiled by Orsolya Liddiard

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