Poland: Sustainable Energy Plan for Warsaw in the Perspective of 2020 (SEAP)
“There are no effective national policies” currently in place that have any ability to reduce Poland’s greenhouse gas emissions, says Kuba Gogolewski of Development YES–Open Pit Mines–NO (DY–OPMN), an NGO that is looking to stop the country’s continual investment in coal mining and transition Poland to an economy based in renewable energies. “The policies that are most efficient are the regional policies for the development of low emissions strategies and renewables energies, rather than central strategies,” he goes on to say.
The most prime example of this is the country’s capital. With a population of 1.7 million, Warsaw is going down a much cleaner path than the rest of the country. The current ruling conservative right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) has committed the national government to coal for Poland’s energy future. Conversely, Warsaw’s Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a member of the more centrist Civic Platform Party, is an advocate of both sustainable development and climate action. She has also been repeatedly outspoken about Poland’s pro-coal status, and has criticized the “undemocratically” and “unambitious” decisions made by the Polish government concerning decarbonization efforts and clean energy targets.
Since she was first elected into office in 2006, Gronkiewicz-Waltz has made sure her city reflects her beliefs. In 2009, the city became a member of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, a coalition of regional and local European leaders committed to implementing EU standards for climate protection and energy efficiency. Gronkiewicz-Waltz managed to make Warsaw a leader in local renewable energy use through efforts set forth in the Sustainable Energy Action Plan for Warsaw in the Perspective of 2020 (SEAP) (2011).
Though SEAP had the political powerhouse Gronkiewicz-Waltz behind them, it was ultimately the residents of Warsaw that decided to go down this clean path. Much of the EU’s most polluted air is found in Polish cities, turning it into a national health issue. The plan addresses the concerns of residents and provides an outline for air quality improvements.
SEAP is a unique plan that directly lays out what the local government needs and doesn’t need to do, not just make nebulous suggestions like many national policies before it. Based on EU standards, SEAP’s goals aim for Warsaw to cut it dioxide emissions by 20%, reduce energy consumption by 20%, and increase the use of energy from renewable sources by 20%, all by 2020 (compared to the base year of 2007).
With €2 billion of investments, in 2014, Warsaw made its way to the halfway mark of achieving these goals. Transportation, which is responsible for 15% of Warsaw’s total greenhouse gas emissions, has been modernized to not only make it more appealing over private transportation, but to include energy-efficient trains, and electric buses and trams when possible. Public bike stands have been set up to reduce private transport. Hybrid vehicles have replaced usual city vehicles (such as garbage trucks). The housing sector was also made more energy efficient through lighting upgrades, energy efficient appliances, and thermal retrofit (insulation to save on heating). Together this is meant to cut back on heat and electricity which make up 78% of Warsaw’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Lastly, the most important part of these plans is the cultural change Warsaw is promoting. Through education and public awareness (such as educating students on energy issues in the classroom and Warsaw Energy Day), the city is shifting the view citizens have on clean energy and climate change.
Despite Warsaw’s shining example, and similar policies that already exist in Germany and other Nordic countries which could easily apply to Poland’s similar climate (particularly when it comes to their wind energy potential), other regions in Poland haven’t gotten the message. In theory, these policies could be extended to the national level.
However, “there just isn’t the political dynamic for change,” as Kuba Gogolewski puts it. “I don’t think either this election or any election will bring any changes on the central government.” He goes on to describe how there will only be a real change brought about by economic incentive. This could happen in two ways, either clean energy will flood the market with cheap energy, and drive more expensive coal out. Another way could be what is also happening in Warsaw right now, where policies that promote energy efficiency lead to economic outcomes that residents approve of such as a cheaper electric or heating bills.
Because of this and Poland’s status as a post-communist society, measures that would involve every citizen aren’t always warmly welcomed. While Poland’s policies might try to softly incentivize people to participate and attract support through economic breaks, countries without a similar past could probably be more direct when it comes to changes in citizen’s lives that would benefit the clean energy and climate protection sectors.
Lastly, one unique aspect of Poland that might affect how this policy could be adopted in other countries is state-ownership. Public transportation, power plants, even some housing are all state-owned, which can have its benefits and pitfalls. In Warsaw, it allowed for easy transition to make homes more energy efficient, because government officials didn’t have to negotiate with private owners. However, outside of Warsaw, state-owned coal power plants are protected, leading to no true effective national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Poland.
Read more about SEAP at: http://mycovenant.eumayors.eu/docs/seap/19658_1432717790.pdf
Read more about what the Mayor of Warsaw has to say about “Financing Sustainable Global Cities of the Future” http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/03/financing-sustainable-global-cities-of-the-future/
Read more about Warsaw’s leading sustainable energy policies are an inspiration for LED