Polish pollution breaks EU limits: ECJ
Poland broke European Union law on air quality by continuously exceeding pollution limits from 2007 to 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.
The court called told the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government to step up efforts to improve air quality and reduce health-threatening levels of PM10, particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers, which can damage health.
The Central European country remains reliant on coal because southern Poland’s economy is still dependent on the polluting fuel.
Campaigners have demanded PiS take action to improve air quality, which in some areas. especially in the south, can be more severe than in Beijing and Delhi, the world’s most polluted cities.
Poland claimed that its economic and financial situation, partly a legacy of communist rule, made an immediate introduction of EU limits difficult.
But activists said PiS had been slow in introducing anti-smog regulations and reported the issue to Brussels.
Bulgaria also faced similar charges to Poland in April last year.
The ECJ said over the eight-year period, Poland’s daily PM10 levels exceeded limits in 35 out of 46 tested sites, while annual limits were exceeded in nine test areas. It was deemed a permanent breach of the EU’s 2008 ambient air-quality directive.
The ECJ found Poland’s plans to cut air pollution were ineffective, saying the existing policies would not bring air quality in line with EU standards between 2020 and 2024.
The European Commission, which sought the court verdict, may now fine the Polish government if it does not address its air quality.
“[Poland] cannot, in itself, justify such long deadlines for putting an end to those excesses,” the court ruling said.
Piotr Wozny, the air-quality minister, blamed former governments for neglecting the issue and announced a policy to help 22 of the most polluted urban areas.
PiS would spend US$220 million to help poorer households make their homes warmer with subsidised, eco-friendly furnaces, Wozny said.
Warsaw launched a “stop smog” campaign yesterday (Thursday) limiting the burning of coal and garbage for domestic heating, which is believed to be the largest source of air pollution.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said subsidised domestic thermal insulation would get “homes warm and air clean” by allowing citizens to cut reliance on coal by half. He thanked efforts of environment groups to raise awareness of the issue.
“Fighting smog is one of the government’s priorities. But we will not be able to do it within a year,” he told the media in Warsaw.
The new prime minister said Poland was targeting the EU requirement of supplying 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Krakow. Picture credit: PXHere