Air pollution involves the introduction of particulates and other biological molecules into the atmosphere thereby resulting in the death of humans, other living things and damage to other resources like crops. It involves the interaction of different pollutants which eventually affect the environment, health and even the climate. These pollutants are emitted almost from all economic and social activities. The most cases of air pollutants are; Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Particulate Matter, Ozone, Ammonia, Non-methane volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide, lead, heterocyclic, chlorinated hydrocarbons, phenol and Methane amongst others.
Emission of many air pollutants has decreased across Europe as a whole resulting in improved quality while on the contrary; air pollution remains a major health threat in Poland with 45000 early deaths (Binkowski & Sawicka-Kapusta, 2015). As any other East European country, Poland has suffered from the environmental negligence inherent in the central planning approach to resource development. Five ecological disasters were designated in 1991 in Poland. Public health indicators like infant mortality, circulatory and respiratory disease and cancer incidence were dramatically higher than indicators for Western Europe clearly showing that the level of damage caused by the pollution. The current air pollution problems encountered in Poland include the following:
Current air pollution problems facing Poland
1. Domestic solid fuel furnaces
This kind of air pollution problem has been majorly experienced in Krakow, southern Poland. This air pollution which includes nitrogen dioxide, benzo(a) and particulate matter has posed a significant danger to human health and life in Krakow. This city has been rated among the most polluted in the world in a World Health Organization report. In this report, Krakow was ranked 8th among 575 cities (Binkowski & Sawicka-Kapusta, 2015).
It has been established that this hazardous air quality is frequent especially during the colder months when most of the residents use solid fuels (mostly coal) for their household heating. Burning these fuels cause a larger emission of pollutants into the air. Even though it is illegal to burn garbage, sometimes users of this stoves go ahead to burn them thereby adding more pollutants to the atmosphere. Each year, pollution level increases during the autumn and reading for PM 10 are regularly surging above100 µg/m3. For example, in December 2012, Krakow experienced only three days of “clean air” i.e. with the 24-hour mean PM 10 concentration below 50 µg/m3. And on December 9, air pollution monitoring devices recorded levels of PM 10 as high as 269µg/m3, 335µg/m3 and 402µg/m3 (Binkowski & Sawicka-Kapusta, 2015).
Domestic solid fuel in Krakow, Southern Poland (Binkowski & Sawicka-Kapusta, 2015).
2. Motor vehicle use
Air pollution from a motor vehicle is divided into primary and secondary. Primary/Major pollution is emitted directly into the atmosphere whereas secondary pollution results from the chemical reaction between pollutants. Motor vehicle use involves the combustion of fossil fuels to produce energy. Un-burnt hydrocarbons and incomplete carbon reactions are responsible for air pollution. The principal pollutants into the atmosphere from the motor vehicles are; particulate matter, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, Sulphur dioxide, soot, various liquid and solid vapor, lead and other greenhouse gases.
Fossil fuel used especially in transport sector varies from city to city. Rapid growth in the number of private automobiles has been experienced in Poland, and this has contributed to increasing mobile source emission and urban congestion. The motor vehicle as sources of air pollution is the second important in Poland responsible for 25% of nitrogen oxides and 60% of carbon monoxide emissions (Andersson, 2014). As per the current projections, it is indicated that the number of vehicles per capita will be comparable to many countries in Western Europe soon (Andersson, 2014).
Motor vehicle pollution in Krakow, Southern Poland (Binkowski & Sawicka-Kapusta, 2015).
3. Mining activities
In Poland, mining causes a great devastation on both aquatic and terrestrial environments on the local and regional scale. Usually, mining and smelting impose harmfully irreversible effects on the air. Recently, approximately 700 million tonnes of mineral commodities have been exploited in Poland (Andersson, 2014). Among the most important minerals include; bituminous and brown coals, copper, zinc and lead ores, native S and rock salt.
The size of mining activities in Poland (Andersson, 2014).
Hard coal mining has recently taken place in three districts of Poland. These regions are; the Upper Silesian Coal Basin (USCB) which includes Katowice, Rybnik areas; the Lower Silesian Coal Basin (LSCB) including the areas of Walbrych and Nowa Ruda, and Lublin Coal Basin (LCB) which is to the East of Lublin. These mining activities impact negatively in these areas and this is majorly recognizable in the Upper Silesian Coal Basin as a result of the intensive exploitation of coal in this region of about 150a. 62 coal mines in the Upper Silesia Region extracted 190-200 million tonnes of coal per year in the 1980s (Andersson, 2014).
4. Coal-fired power plants
A bigger percentage of air pollution emanating from power plants in Poland is evident in coal-fired power plants. A substantial amount of the coal extracted is burnt in several power stations and in heating power plants of Silesia agglomeration which have almost 4 million residents. Combustion of brown-coal results in the mass emission of gases such as; Carbon dioxide, Sulphur dioxide, Nitrogen oxides, and dust composed mainly of A1203 and Fez03 with the admixture of heavy metals (Zn, Pb, and Cd). Sulphur concentrations of 0.5 -1.1% is shown in coals mined in Poland (Pawłowski, 1991). This Sulphur is bonded to organic matter during combustion thereby resulting in massive amounts of Sulphur dioxide which eventually released into the atmosphere. The release of Sulphur dioxide subsequently leads to acid rainfall leading to degradation of soils by acidification and death of living animals.
Coal-fired power plants pollution in Krakow, Southern Poland (Binkowski & Sawicka-Kapusta, 2015).
5. Particulate Matter
In most of the European countries like Poland, air pollution as a result of particulate matter (PM10) has been substantial and has never been resolved. Particulate matter forms one of the most important air pollutants in relation actions undertaken as defined in the 96/62/EC Directive aiming at the protection of human health (Pawłowski, 1991). Despite the fact that many measures have been made in many places in Europe and especially in urbanized areas, PM10 levels exceeding the defined limits have been experienced.
Approximately one-third of the Poland population exposed to inhaling particulate matter acquires a long-term respiratory disease that leads to the illness of circulatory system and at times cancer. The excesses of the allowable concentrations of PM10 particulate matter in the air is experienced over the whole country and more particularly in industrial and urban areas during the different seasons of the year. It can be perceived that the structure of energy source utilization in Poland has not undergone a substantial change.
The table below shows data for PM10 concentrations from the stations of the Warsaw area in 2002-06 (Majewski & Przewoźniczuk, 2009, p. 294).
Solutions proposed to the pollution problems in Poland
A Ministry of Environmental protection and natural resources was established by Poland in 1985 even though it never had a significant impact since it exerted little authority (Binkowski & Sawicka-Kapusta, 2015). To ensure that environmental pollution is dealt with, the government came up with policy that carefully steered away from measures that would sacrifice economic development. Policy makers debated the appropriate standards for comparing immediate economic growth with the estimated longer term gains of beginning a rigorous cleanup program.
There has been the proposal to curb pollution posed by the use of domestic solid fuels like coal burning. First proposal is preparing an energy poverty alleviation program by the city authorities as this will subsidize energy bills for the poorest thereby reducing the usage of domestic solid fuels. Building social understanding and acceptance for the burn on the use of solid fuels for households heating in home burning appliances in Krakow and the entire Poland can also be adopted. Furthermore, initiation of a wider budget debate on the political process to implement the ban on coal can also be applied. In addition to that, a six-fold increase in the local for the replacement of coal-based heating appliances and allocating Euro 120 million from structural funds 2014-2020 to air quality programs (including measures like subsidies to replace coal stoves and grants for energy efficient investments in the housing sector) is also advisable.
Several steps are being proposed recently by Poland government to simultaneously address mobile source pollution and even harmonize with the directives of the environment from the Europe. There are key measures that are currently proposed. These include incentives for the greater use of unleaded fuel by the automobile owners, reduction in the lead content of leaded fuels by the manufacturers, reduction in Sulphur content of fuels, requirements for catalytic converters, higher fuel and vehicle taxes, and policies to limit vehicle access to the city.
Some attempts have been undertaken to characterize the emission field of the PM10 particulate matter in the area of Warsaw. It has been tackled by taking measurements of particulate matter concentration using different measuring methods differing not only in measuring principle but also in accuracy, sampling frequency and dust fractions separation. A Large network of measuring PM10 Particulate Matter concentrations, consisting of four automatic and seven manual stations has been built by Warsaw since 1 October 2003. Such a system of measurements makes the monitoring of the spatial distribution of this pollution possible, as well as drawing conclusion on relationships between particulate matter concentration and meteorological parameters at those stations.
Significant progress to bringing fuel and energy end-use prices towards market level has been made by Poland. Considerations should, therefore, be given to ensuring the energy efficiency is improved. Among the proposals include: first is an effort to reduce emissions of air pollutants from small source combustion of coal. It can be achieved by taxes and fuel standards favoring the use of quality coal and through local and national plans to coordinate improvement of heating systems and expansion of natural gas networks. Second is, full analysis for the control of environmental cost associated with coal mining. The third proposal is that there should be an expansion of research and development in alternative energy sources with a focus on coal-bed methane biomass and possibly wind power. In addition to the above listed proposals, there should be a launching of a national program purposely to overcome barriers to energy efficiency in generation and distribution majorly in the commercial sectors, residential sectors and industrial sectors.
Industry being one of the major areas that pose a significant threat to the Poland’s environment as far as air pollution is concerned; certain considerations have to be taken to ensure that the risk is minimized. The pressures of atmospheric emissions are reinforced by outdated technology, wasteful use of raw materials, specialization in heavy industry and concentration of industries in a few spots. The recommended proposals to curb these industrial threats include the following: first is the integration of environmental protection measures into the practice of industrial management through encouraging environmental audits. It is purposely to identify low-cost solutions for environmental improvement and by promoting environmental labeling. Second is by strengthening the institutional integration between the relevant ministries at the stage of industrial policy formulation. Third is by further enforcement of environmental permits and related fees and penalties concerning air emissions from industrial enterprises. Final proposals involve stabilization and clarification of the framework of environmental regulations fines and fees for industrial companies to reduce uncertainty about policy development and allow for medium term planning.
Being that Poland’s atmospheric emissions of pollutants such as Sulphur remains very high compared with European OECD countries (Binkowski & Sawicka-Kapusta, 2015). The following proposals have been considered to ensure that the air pollution burden is reduced: first is formulation aimed at the implementation plans to improve air quality in local areas beginning with urban areas that are highly polluted. These methods comprise of the intermediate target levels for the air quality and cost effective measures to reach the levels including fuel switching initiatives and energy efficiency. Second is reforming the legal and regulatory system for air pollution control aimed at improving its effectiveness and enforcement which can be realized through the harmonization of air pollution regulations with EC directives and Poland’s international commitments such as UN-ECE protocols. For a long term, the sectorial air pollution reduction plans should be formulated with participation from relevant ministries, enterprises and other interested parties, specifying intermediate and final target levels for emissions by sector and emphasizing the introduction of clean technology and energy efficiency.
Alternative economic incentives that might be used to solve air pollution problems in Poland
Economic incentives involve cost and benefits that motivate the mitigation process of air pollution. Environmental regulatory instruments can be classified according to two criteria. First is whether they dictate how much to abate and what abatement technology to use or just create financial incentives for firms to decrease, and second, is whether a regulator is required to monitor emissions. Economic incentive instrument can be classified as either direct or indirect. Direct economic incentive instruments include emission fees and marketable permits while indirect financial incentives tools involve imposing environmental taxes.
Environmental taxes: Due to the constraints of environmental regulations, there is a higher chance for the effectiveness of environmental taxes as an indirect instrument since they are less demanding of regulations as compared to primary tools. Three types of environmental taxes can be used in this context include: taxes on final products associated with pollution such as motor vehicles, taxes on goods used as inputs into a polluting activity such as coal, and taxes on polluting substances contained in materials such as the Sulphur contained in coal. These taxes, however, have advantages and disadvantages. Environmental taxes are advantageous in that they have a fiscal (they raise revenue) and environmental impacts. However, the dominance of an impact is dependent on the elasticity of demand for the taxed good. For example, if the demand for gasoline is inelastic (i.e., the price increase have little effect on demand), then the tax will generate revenue but will not significantly reduce gasoline consumption or vehicle emissions. But if the demand for gas is elastic (i.e., price increases significantly curtail demand), then taxes will generate relatively little revenue but will reduce gasoline consumption and vehicle emission. The elasticity of the demand increases when taxes are narrowly targeted. For instance, the demand for high Sulphur coal is likely to be more elastic than the demand for coal, and demand for leaded gasoline more flexible than the demand for gasoline. It can, therefore, be concluded that narrowly targeted taxes are more likely to have a significant environmental impact than broadly targeted taxes.
Emission fees and marketable permits: These direct economic incentive instruments are associated with some benefits like static efficiency, dynamic efficiency and flexibility concerning dealing with environmental pollution. The fact that firms are free to choose abatement technology that minimizes cost given their individual circumstances renders direct incentive instrument statically efficient. By contrast, under CAC technology and emission standards the regulator more or less dictates the whole classes of firms choose certain technologies. More importantly, direct economic incentive instruments create incentives for individual companies to determine levels of abatement that minimize the aggregate costs. To be precise, firms with low abatement costs have the drive to undertake more abatement than those with high abatement costs. Direct incentive policies ensure a dynamic efficiency thereby enabling companies in these incentives to increase profit by reducing emissions. Such programs provide continuing incentives for emission- reducing innovations. In CAC, there is a contrast in that the incentive to innovate is often offset by the enforcement risk associated with using a non-approved technology. Economic incentives also ensure flexibility in that it easily accommodates change, whether of environmental standards, economic conditions or abatement technology. In a CAC system, the regulator must formulate and promulgate several rules concerning different types of polluters. On the contrary, in an economic incentive system, firms retain control over facility- specific abatement decisions while the regulator only sets fees or permit quantities to achieve an environmental quality standard. Consequently, changes in response to new technologies and economic conditions are spontaneous and decentralized implying the regulator needs to take no action at all. It is relatively easy to change the environmental quality standard. In conclusion, it can be said that in an emission fees system, all that is required is to alter the prices while in a commercial permit system, all that is needed is to change the number of permits needed.
Andersson, M. (2014). Change and continuity in poland's environmental policy. New York: Springer.
Binkowski, A., & Sawicka-Kapusta, K. (2015). Lead poisoning and its in vivo biomarkers in Mallard and Coot from two hunting activity areas in Poland. Chemosphere, 127, 101-108. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.01.003
Majewski, G. and Przewoniczuk, W. (2009). Study of Particulate Matter Pollution in Warsaw Area. Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, 18(2), pp.293-300.
Pawłowski, L. (1991). Recenzja książki. W. Grodziński, E. B. Cowling, A. I. Breymeyer (Red.), 1990: Ecological risks. Perspectives from Poland and the United States. Washington, National Academy Press. 415 str. Acta Theriol., 36, 237-238. http://dx.doi.org/10.4098/at.arch.91-23