Poland

   

Environmental Policies

#35
Key Findings
With emissions policy a particular weak point, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 35) with regard to environmental policy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.9 points relative to 2014.

A political consensus that economic growth should take priority over the environment has led to a lack of ambition and weak implementation of environmental policy. The government has sought to protect the domestic coal industry. Renewables account for only 1% of energy production, and efforts to reduce burning of low-quality coal in domestic boilers have remained half-hearted.

A new climate ministry has been created. The government plans to reduce the share of coal in energy production to 50% by 2030, while increasing the use of renewables, shale gas and nuclear energy. However, the details of this plan are not clear.

Biodiversity is threatened by rapid infrastructure development and intensive agriculture. The government has acted as a brake within the EU, joining with several other to block an EU declaration aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Environment

#33

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
4
Poland has enshrined the principle of sustainable development in Article 5 of its constitution, and has broadly adopted EU environmental standards. However, there is a political consensus in the country that economic growth should be given priority over protection of the environment, which has translated into a lack of ambition and the weak implementation of environmental policy. Moreover, all governments have been keen on protecting the domestic coal industry, which is a large employer and reduces the country’s dependence on Russian energy, an issue that has taken on even greater prominence since the Ukrainian crisis.

The resource productivity of the Polish economy has been low. While the updated National Waste Management Program prioritizes separate collection and recycling, landfill has remained the dominant form of waste treatment. Municipalities often lack power or incentives to enforce waste legislation.

The strong reliance on fossil energy has kept environmental pollution high. In September 2019, ClientEarth, an international NGO that seeks to protect the environment through legal action, took a subsidiary of the state-owned Polska Grupa Energetyczna to court over emissions at the Bełchatów plant due to its enormous burning of brown coal. Attempts to end the combustion of low-quality coal in substandard domestic boilers remain half-hearted. Despite substantial investment in building necessary infrastructure, including projects co-financed by the European Union, Poland missed the final deadline in 2015 for achieving compliance with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Over 1,000 agglomerations require an estimated €6.1 billion in additional investment in collecting networks and treatment plants.

As international climate debates and protests have reached Poland, the PiS government has reconsidered its stance on climate policy. Following the 2019 parliamentary elections, a separate climate ministry has been established, which is headed by Michal Kurtyka, the former COP24 president. While the details of the new strategy are not yet clear, the PiS government now plans to reduce the share of coal in energy production to 50% by 2030, and increase the share of renewables (currently a meager 1%), shale gas and nuclear energy.

While Poland has made some progress with drawing up plans for managing Natura 2000 sites, the protection of biodiversity has not featured very prominently on the government agenda. Biodiversity is threatened by the rapid development of infrastructure (e.g., roads), the regulation of rivers for navigation, flood defenses and intensive agriculture. The logging of the Białowieża primeval forest, a protected Natura 2000 site, only stopped following a European Court of Justice decision in April 2018.

Citations:
Court of Justice of the European Union (2018): Judgment in Case C-441/17, Commission v Poland (Białowieża Forest). Press Release No. 48/18, Luxemburg (https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-04/cp180048en.pdf).

European Commission (2019): Environmental Implementation Review 2019. Country Report Poland. SWD(2019) 128 final, Brussels.

Meier, F. (2018): Polen will ein bisschen weg von der Kohle, in: Klimareporter, November 8 (https://www.klimareporter.de/klimakonferenzen/polen-will-ein-bisschen-weg-von-der-kohle).

Global Environmental Protection

#33

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
4
Poland has been active on the international scene. In 2018, it hosted the World Climate Council (COP 24) in Katowice and chaired the so-called Talanoa Dialogue forum (jointly with Fiji), which aims to find compromises to help countries fulfill their climate-protection goals. In Katowice, Polish representatives presented an initiative called “Forest Coal Farms,” which focused on reforestation efforts as a means of combating climate change. Poland has become a party in the Global Pact for the Environment process, launched by the U.N. General Assembly in May 2018, and coordinated by the European Union for EU member states. Within the European Union, the primary focus of Poland’s environmental policies, Poland has taken a restrictive stance. At the European Council summit in summer 2019, Poland, along with Estonia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, blocked a declaration to achieve environmental neutrality by 2050. The Polish government is not enthusiastic about the European Commission’s commitment to developing a new green deal.
It has always insisted on an acknowledgment of its special situation arising from its energy and economic dependence on its coal industry.

Citations:
Riedel, R. (2019): Die polnische Klima- und Energiepolitik. Polen-Analysen Nr. 230, Darmstadt/ Bremen (http://www.laender-analysen.de/polen/pdf/PolenAnalysen230.pdf).
Back to Top