On 15 January 2016, Krakow implemented a ban on using solid fuels for heating in households. Hazardous air quality is a common problem in Krakow, particularly during the colder months when many residents use solid fuels (mostly coal) for household heating. The European Environment Agency rates Krakow the third most polluted city in the EU. Annual levels of benzo(a)pyrene are around 10 ng/m3 and PM10 ranges from 50-100 µg/m3. (The NZ annual air quality guidelines for benzo(a)pyrene and PM10 are 0.3 ng/m3 and 20 µg/m3 respectively).
The ban was adopted by the Regional Assembly of the Province of Małopolska (equivalent to New Zealand’s regional councils). This is the second time in three years that such a law has been enacted. The first law was overturned in the courts in 2015.
The current law goes much further than the first, including a comprehensive ban on the use of solid fuels with very few permitted exceptions. The ban will start from 2019, to give residents time to adapt. It also provides various means of funding to support the transition.
Poland depends on coal for nearly 90% of its electricity, and its defence of the fuel has been an ongoing bugbear in European climate negotiations. The ban follows significant efforts by nongovernmental organisations to mobilise public protest against air pollution and support for policy change. Campaign attention is now turning to plans for new district heating networks, revamped public transit networks and limiting vehicle access to the city centre.