Poland still struggling with its post-Soviet environmental heritage

Deputy Minister for the Environment Michał Kurtyka interviewed by Poland IN says present efforts to combat smog are unprecedented.

To watch the full interview, click here. Michał Kurtyka, Deputy Minister for the Environment said that Poland was still facing its environmental heritage from Soviet times in its quest to clean up its air and combat smog. “36 out of the 50 most polluted cities in Europe are in Poland”, admits the official.

According to Mr Kurtyka the challenge is not only dependence on coal and the burning thereof. The problem Poland is struggling with is the number of old boilers and illicit burning of waste. This is why the government’s clean air programme was investing heavily in replacing these old boilers.

The COP experience and the burning issue of coal

Michał Kurtyka was the Polish chairman of the UN Conference of Parties (COP) that was held in Katowice last year. He recalled the challenge of defending Poland’s reliance on coal for its energy at that gathering.

Poland has been unable to diversify its energy mix in communist times and was forced to rely on coal to an extent that no other of the communist countries were. This is why it had to invest so much in cleaning up after that period over the last 30 years.

That dependence on coal was best evidenced by the fact that Poland still gets 75 percent of its energy from coal whereas France gets 75 percent of its supplies from nuclear power. Poland needed time to develop its renewables capacity as well as nuclear power.

The EU would have to help Poland with achieving zero emissions by providing the capital required for a major expansion of renewables. Some analysts point out, however, that these alone would not suffice to remove dependence on coal and only nuclear power could do that.