Coal burning banned in Warsaw to fight air pollution
Burning coal for household heating – one of the main causes of air pollution in Poland, which is one of the worst in Europe – will be banned in Warsaw from the beginning of October. next year. In areas surrounding the capital, the ban will come into force in 2028.
The decision was approved yesterday by the local parliament of the Mazovia province in which Warsaw is located, with 26 votes in favor and 22 against. A similar ban introduced in Krakow in 2019 would have played an important role in cleaning up what was once one of Poland’s most polluted cities.
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“It’s a very important day for people in Warsaw and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Piotr Siergiej, spokesperson for Polish Smog Alert, a campaign group. “The chances of breathing clean air in the capital have just increased dramatically.”
Unlike Krakow’s stricter ban, burning wood will still be allowed. However, the installation of coal and wood heaters in new buildings connected to district heating systems will be prohibited.
In recent years, Warsaw has already implemented a program to subsidize the replacement of coal-fired ovens. But the maximum safety levels of airborne particles harmful to humans are regularly exceeded by two or even three. This happens for about a third of the year, according to Smog Alert.
Dzień dobry Warszawo😷 pic.twitter.com/xyn7rkWkiC
— Warszawski Alarm Smogowy (@Warszawski_AS) December 12, 2021
The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates that around 47,000 people die each year due to poor air quality in Poland, which remains dependent on coal not only for around 70% of the production of electricity, but also to heat many houses.
The national government has sought to tackle the problem in recent years through its Clean Air programme, which aims to replace old heaters and insulate homes. But the results have been mixed, with relatively low take-up of the grants on offer, which have recently been increased.
The climate ministry is also working on introducing a nationwide coal burning ban. It would apply in cities from 2030 and in rural areas from 2040, Business Insider Polska reported in February.
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In 2019 Krakow became the first place in Poland to ban the burning of coal and wood for heating. It has also launched a mobile app allowing residents to report people they suspect of burning materials – not just wood and charcoal, but also often household waste – illegally.
These measures are considered a success, with Krakow’s overall air quality improving over the past three years. The concentration of PM10 particles and benzo[a]pyrene is down 40% since the ban took effect, according to Smog Alert.
However, the city still experiences days with extremely high levels of harmful pollutants, a situation that many attribute to stale air coming from surrounding neighborhoods where the ban is not in place.
Under a local anti-smog law, old heaters not only in Krakow, but in the entire province surrounding it, must be replaced with modern, state-subsidized ones by January 2023. However , with around 19,000 heaters still to be replaced, some officials have sought to extend that deadline, reports RMF24.
Yesterday, the municipalities of the Krakow metropolitan area passed a resolution opposing any delay. We want “to have clean air as soon as possible, not only in Krakow itself, but also in the surrounding neighborhoods,” Zabierzów village mayor Elżbieta Burtan told RMF.
Poland’s national smog sheet stems from its use of coal for home heating https://t.co/jfUkdFTXos
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) January 31, 2021
Main image credit: Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Alicja Ptak is an editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.