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Activities of the Ministry of Environment towards air quality improvement

“The issue of smog in Poland is mainly caused by low emissions – pollution from the communal and household sector (nearly 90% of the pollution), including waste incineration and poor quality of domestic fuels, often combined with outdated and obsolete furnaces. Transportation, particularly in large cities, also contributes to the deterioration of air quality. Our priority, therefore, is above all to act in these sectors,” stresses the Minister of Environment Professor Jan Szyszko.

The scale of air pollution also depends on local conditions and circumstances related to the density of development, topography and climatic conditions. Of particular importance is inadequate spatial planning, which contributes to blocking natural green wedges in city centres.

National Programme for Air Protection

The Ministry of Environment prepared a document indicating comprehensive measures, which are necessary to improve air quality in Poland – the National Programme for Air Protection (KPOP). The implementation of the KPOP is supervised by the inter-ministerial KPOP Steering Committee, chaired by Paweł Sałek, Vice Minister of Environment.

“In the KPOP Steering Committee, we coordinate activities of many ministries in the areas of legislation, financing and raising awareness of the issue of smog and solutions ready for Poles,” said Vice Minister Sałek. 

Key legislation

In accordance with the KPOP, the Minister of Environment took the initiative to initiate the necessary legislative work. He addressed the Minister of Energy with the need to define standards for solid fuels with regards to the type and size of fuel combustion installations, and to the Minister of Development with the need to introduce emission standards for boilers, in particular for solid fuels for the household and communal sector.

"Thanks to the adopted provisions of the quality of boilers used in households (Regulation of the Minister of Development and Finance on solid fuel boilers, which entered into force since the 1st of October 2017) starting in July 2018, only boilers that meet the most stringent emission standards will be available for sale,” says the Minister of Environment Professor Jan Szyszko.

The Council of Ministers was also provided with draft regulations prepared by the Ministry of Energy, concerning the quality of fuels used in household boilers (draft act on amendment of the Act on the fuel quality monitoring and controlling system and relevant regulations).

“The government's assumption is to ensure that good quality fuel is burned in a good quality boiler,” adds Vice Minister of Environment Paweł Sałek, Government Plenipotentiary for Climate Policy.

Other provisions

The Ministry of Environment has also completed legislative work on the implementation of the EU directive on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from medium sized stationary combustion sources (the so-called MCP Directive). This applies to plants generating power from 1-50 MW. 

Moreover, on the 22nd of December 2017 Polish Parliament of adopted an amendment to the Act amending the Act on the Environmental Protection Inspection and the Environmental Protection Law Act. It introduces solutions related to improving the quality of air pollution measurements carried out in Poland.

The Minister of Environment also supported the amendment of the Regulation of the Minister of Energy on detailed rules of shaping and calculating tariffs and settlements in power trading, which came into force on the 30th of December 2017. The purpose of these amendments was to introduce tariffs with lower prices and rates for households at night.

Local governments can protect air quality

As part of the Environmental Protection Law Act amended by the Ministry of Environment (the so-called Anti-Smog Act), local authorities may define requirements for fuels and heating devices used in homes. On the basis of these regulations, 8 anti-smog resolutions were adopted: for the city of Krakow, as well as for the following voivodeships: Małopolskie, Silesian, Opole, Masovian, Łódź, Silesian and Greater Poland. In the Podkarpackie voivodeship, work on such a document is coming to an end.

Money for anti-smog actions

Financial support is paramount for improving air quality in Poland.

“In 2015-2017, out of the financial means at the disposal of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management and voivodeship funds (projects) more than 2 billion PLN was invested in measures for improving air quality, including about 1.7 billion PLN for the development of district heating networks and connecting new households,” emphasised Professor Jan Szyszko, Minister of Environment.

“In total, by 2020, the Ministry of Environment will have spent about 10 billion PLN on measures aimed at improving air quality,” he added.

In addition, the Ministry of Environment supports the development of geothermal projects, as geothermal energy is completely emission-free. So far, two grant agreements have been signed in this area. EU funds from the Infrastructure and Environment Operational Programme will go towards: Podhale Geothermal Project – 12.2 million PLN and Toruń Geothermal Project – 19.5 million PLN.

Education is the key

The Ministry of the Environment also carries out educational activities.

"We want to raise ecological awareness in the society, in particular regarding the need to improve air quality and also the awareness of the existing solutions financed by the Ministry of Environment, which are ready to be applied by Poles. That is why, as part of our educational activities, we have prepared a guidebook titled: "Clean solid fuel heating in my house”, informs Vice Minister Sałek.

A leaflet and promotional materials were also prepared. These documents contain practical tips for the users of domestic heating appliances as well as information on raising funds to replace old high emission boilers with environmentally friendly devices.

The educational campaign in this area is also conducted by the Ministry of Environment – Institute for Environmental Protection – National Research Institute ("Stop Smog” nationwide project).

In turn, the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection conducts educational activities, among others, thanks to the Air Quality Portal and “Jakość powietrza w Polsce” mobile application.

In addition, other ministries have also joined the educational activities, in particular the Ministry of Health, which has been running a nationwide campaign entitled "Time for Clean Air” (“Czas na czyste powietrze”) since the 6th of September 2017.

Cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior and Administration

At the request of the KPOP Steering Committee, led by Vice Minister Paweł Sałek, the Ministry of the Interior and Administration undertook cooperation with the Polish Police Headquarters in the area of exhaust gas testing during roadside inspections ("SMOG" campaign).

Since July 2017, 97337 vehicles have been inspected, with abnormalities being detected in 956 cases by using exhaust gas analysers and 1399 registration certificates have been confiscated.

Cooperation with the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy

At the request of the Minister of Environment, the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management undertook cooperation with the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy. The aim of this cooperation is to train social workers of Municipal Social Welfare Centres in areas such as the possibilities for obtaining funds to replace obsolete heating equipment. As part of the first round, 321 social workers and employees of voivodeship offices from all 16 voivodeships participated in the training course.

Air quality monitoring

Air quality monitoring in Poland is the responsibility of the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, supervised by the Ministry of Environment. According to the current National Environmental Monitoring Programme for the years 2016-2020, the Inspectorate carries out the task of developing measurement networks on an ongoing basis. The Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection also planned to purchase additional 426 monitoring devices, including 20 mobile stations. So far, 25 monitoring devices have been purchased, including 16 dust monitors, which have already been handed over to 16 voivodeship environmental protection inspectorates.

Alarm and information levels for PM10

EU legislation (2008/50/EC Directive) provides for alert levels for the protection of human health for only three substances, namely nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone. However, it does not provide an alarm level for PM10. The individual Member States, if they so decide, may determine it individually.

The alert and information level for PM10 introduced in Poland, which is not mandatory under EU law, aims to protect human health.

The alarm level for PM10 is 300 µg/m3 and the information level for PM10 is 200 µg/m3.

In Poland, there is an obligation to take remedial action as soon as there is a risk of exceeding not only the alert and information level, but also in case of the risk of exceeding the acceptable and target level. For PM10 it is 50 µg/m3 (mean daily value) – the same value for all EU countries. Remedial actions are undertaken by local government authorities within the framework of short-term action plans adopted by way of a resolution of the voivodeship parliaments.

Air quality improvement in national strategy papers

Most of the directions of activities specified in the KPOP were reflected in the recommendations adopted by the Council of Ministers on the 25th of April 2017, prepared by the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers – the so-called "Clean Air" Programme.

The Ministry of Environment also proposed introduction of measures aimed at air quality improvement into the new "Strategy for responsible development", which is key to Poland's development and was adopted by the Council of Ministers on the 14th of February 2017.

On the other hand, the need to reduce road transport emissions has been included in the "Energy for the Future” Electromobility Development Plan, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers on the 16th of March 2017.

Electromobility as a way to cleaner air

“The issue of air pollution is also caused by exhaust emissions from means of communication. That is why it is necessary to increase the number of clean passenger vehicles and buses in Polish cities,” said Paweł Sałek, Vice Minister of Environment.

As part of its activities for the development of electromobility in Poland, the Ministry of Environment will allocate over 2 billion PLN for the purchase of about a thousand innovative, emission-free buses. The funds will be provided by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management as part of the “Emission-Free Public Transport” (BTP) Programme implemented by the National Centre for Research and Development.

In addition, 5 projects related to emission-free transport are currently carried out at the National Centre for Research and Development, including:

Emissions-Free Public Transport (buses), Emission-free Public Transport (network infrastructure), Emission-free Light Commercial Vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes, Grand Challenge for autonomous vehicles and Emission-Free Carsharing.

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