The problem of air quality in Poland

Despite a slow but steady improvement in the quality of air, admissible and target levels for selected substances are still being exceeded. This applies in particular to the exceeded PM10 limit value as well as the target level for benzo(a)pyrene and, in isolated cases, higher than admissible levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The municipal and household sector is the dominant source of issues with respect to the poor quality of air (it accounts for more than 90% of cases involving exceeded admissible limits for PM10; 100% of cases involving exceeded limits for benzo(a)pyrene), while in selected areas of Poland, usually within the perimeter of big cities, another vital driver are emissions from means of transport – the cause behind the exceeded admissible emission limits for nitrogen dioxide.

Initiatives undertaken to improve the situation               

·  The priority for the Minister of the Environment as well as the entire government of the Republic of Poland is to reduce the so-called low emissions produced by small local boiler rooms or dispersed individual combustion sources and means of transport.

·  Within the scope of its competencies, the Ministry of the Environment initiates various legislative, technical and financial efforts to improve the quality of air in Poland.

·  To support initiatives in progress pursued at the province and local levels, the Ministry of the Environment announced the National Programme for Air Protection in 2015. Most action areas identified in the National Programme for Air Protection were also embraced in recommendations drafted by the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers, the so-called “Clean Air” Programme adopted by the Council of Ministers on 25 April 2017. Recommendations focus on key areas, including funding activities relating to the protection of air quality, designing adequate legal tools to boost the effectiveness of measures implemented across all air quality management levels as well as raising public awareness that is so essential to ensuring the effectiveness of undertaken measures.

·      A key role in this respect will be played by implementation of the Regulation of the Minister of Economic Development and Finance of 1 August 2017 on solid fuel boilers that came into force on 1 October 2017, as well as the introduction of quality requirements for solid fuels used in the municipal and household sector to the national legal framework.

·      The Act of 5 July 2018 amending the Act on the Fuel Quality Monitoring and Control System and the Act on the National Treasury Administration was signed on 8 August by the President of the Republic of Poland (it is expected to be published by 28 August 2018). The act introduces a ban on the marketing of flotoconcentrates, coal sludge and fuels intended for household use which fail to meet the standards specified in the Regulation of the Minister of Energy on quality requirements for solid fuels.

·      Within the framework of the Act – Environmental Protection Law amended in 2015, commonly referred to as the “Anti-Smog Act,” from October 2015 onwards, local governments may determine the requirements for fuels and heating devices used in households. These regulations have provided the legal basis for 12 anti-smog resolutions adopted to date, which cover the total area as well as designated areas within the following provinces: Małopolska, Śląsk, Opole, Mazowsze, Łódź, Dolny Śląsk and Wielkopolska. Work on anti-smog resolutions in Podkarpacie and Lubusz provinces is nearing an end.

·      The government of the Republic of Poland has responded to the existing issue of low emissions not only by launching the National Programme for Air Protection, but also by embarking in 2017 on the “Clean Air” Programme that envisions drafting a bill amending the Act on support for thermal upgrading and repairs and the Act on management of packaging and packaging waste, as well as the Act on personal income tax. The draft act provides for the introduction of support measures for owners of detached houses in terms of thermal upgrading of buildings and replacement of heating devices in 23 municipalities from the World Health Organisation list of 50 European cities with the most polluted air. Implementation of this measure will be ensured by the National “Clean Air” Package designed by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.

·      Overall, the ‘Clean Air’ Programme will focus on the replacement of old generation coal-fired heat sources used for central heating or central hot water installations with heating networks, solid fuel boilers, electric heating systems, gas condensing boilers, heat pumps and their installations, as well as thermal upgrading of residential buildings. The programme is slated for implementation in 2018-2029. The programme budget amounts to PLN 103 billion.

·      The National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management is a beneficiary of the project known as the national scheme of advisory support for the public sector, housing and enterprises in terms of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

·      The Ministry of the Environment has designed a series of training courses to be implemented across all municipalities in Poland. These events will enable residents to learn where to apply for funding from the “Clean Air” Programme. Meanwhile, a nationwide information and education campaign is being designed to communicate good practices related to reducing the negative impact of air emissions. The campaign will be rolled out at the turn of September and October 2018.

·      The Act of 11 January 2018 on electric mobility and alternative fuels came into force on 22 February 2018 (Journal of Laws of 2018, item 317). The act envisages the introduction of preferential taxation for passenger cars with electric drives, hybrids and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles in the form of an exemption for such vehicles from excise tax.

·      The act enables municipalities to establish clean transport zones. Access to such clean transport zones would be restricted to electric vehicles, hydrogen and natural gas-powered vehicles, as well as a list of other vehicles specified by provisions of the act. In its resolution establishing the zone, the Municipality Council will be able to introduce additional exclusions in consideration of the interests and needs of local communities and may adapt zones to its public transport policy.