Poland – Greening the European Economy: responses and initiatives by Member States and social partners

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 17 September 2009

Piotr Sula

The environmental protection in Poland in comparison to the situation in other EU countries is a peculiar challenge. This peculiarity mostly results from neglect and an economy that extensively used and abused the environment before 1989. More than 10 years of efforts greatly co-financed by external funding brought about a significant reduction in the amount of pollutants permeating into the environment. At the same time, however, the fundamental resource of Poland’s energy sector is still the coal. Because of that Poland is now facing two sorts of challenges: negative (reduction of carbon based power engineering) and positive (creating greener workplaces).

This mapping and inventory exercise will help to take stock of what the different Member States and social partners are doing to mitigate the effects of climate change and harness the potential of the green economy. It will also help to identify particularly interesting and successful initiatives which can be shared and disseminated as positive practice examples.

Mapping Member State responses, initiatives and tools

Please describe the main actions and policy strategies of your country in the following areas:

1) In the context of the current global recession, has an economic recovery program or strategy been launched by the national government in the last 12 months? If so, what coverage, attention, actions are envisaged with a view to greening the national economy, with a focus on employment, as a way of emerging from the present downturn? If there is a wide range of issues, please focus on the main issues.

In response to the threats that have emerged due to the economic global recession the Council of Ministers presented on 30 November, 2008, “The Plan for Stability and Development”. The plan implies actions that provide security and financial guarantees to entrepreneurs who might have difficulty getting bank loans.

The plan also tackles the problem of municipal investments that could have positive impact on the natural environment and at the same time increase the number of jobs in the construction sector. In addition, the plan contains an item called “Supporting renewable energy source investments”, which postulates creating a mechanism that would enable the implementation of renewable energy source investments, despite the fact that due to recession banks have tightened their loan standards. In the opinion of the authors of this project restrictive loan standards of the banks can be especially harsh to companies which undertake renewable energy source investments, because they are usually established as special purpose vehicles and therefore have neither credit history nor income from other operations. In this situation supporting this type of investment with loans granted from public funds seems particularly justifiable. Funds in the amount of some 1 billion PLN have been guaranteed for this purpose in the 2009 budget of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management (Narodowy Fundusz Ochrony Środowiska i Gospodarki Wodnej, NFOSiGW).

2) Have there been any specific ministries or government departments set up to deal with green issues? If so, what is their mandate and remit?

The structure of the Council of Ministers does include the Ministry of Environment. Its actions are regulated by the Act of 1997 on Government Administration Departments. Article 28 of this Act states that the areas of interest of the Minister of Environment include:

  • environmental protection and management with the purpose of rational use of natural resources;
  • protecting nature, also by means of national parks, landscape parks and natural reserves, as well as safeguarding protected species of plants and animals, forests, wildlife and natural formations;
  • management of natural resources;
  • enforcement of environmental protection regulations and keeping watch of the state of the natural environment;
  • forestry;
  • protection of forests and forest grounds;
  • supervision of hunting.

Based on the abovementioned legal act the Minister of Environment has authority over the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection (Główny Inspektorat Ochrony Środowiska, GIOS) and the General Management of Environmental Protection (Generalna Dyrekcja Ochrony Środowiska, GDOS). The Minister of Environment is also in charge of the NFOŚiGW, which is the chief Polish institution that grants financing to environmental protection projects. The legal basis of its operations is the Environmental Protection Law Act of 27 April, 2001, and its chief task is to support projects connected with:

  • waste management and protection of earth surface;
  • use of local renewable energy resources and introduction of environmentally friendly power media;
  • production of biocomponents and biofuels;
  • ecological forms of transport;
  • ecological farming.

The aforementioned actions are achieved with the help of the following instruments:

  • granting interest loans;
  • subsidising interest on preferential loans and credits;
  • granting subsidies.

3) Have any tripartite social dialogue structures and/or procedures been set up to deal with green issues? If so, what is their aim and how do they operate? If there are a wide range of structures and procedures, please focus on the main ones.

Social dialogue institutions in Poland are extremely rarely preoccupied with the problems of environmental protection. One among the few of such initiatives was the position of the Voivodeship Social Dialogue Committee (Wojewódzka Komisja Dialogu połecznego, WKDS) in Podlasie region of Poland on the matter of the ecologists’ protest in the Rospuda Valley on 22 February 2007, where the regional social dialogue partners declared their support for the local authorities and residents’ actions aimed at the fastest possible construction of the by-pass road in the town of Augustów in order to improve traffic safety.

4) Have there been any of the following initiatives or actions in your country: Where the answer is yes, please provide a brief account of each one, focusing on the main ones.

  • awareness-raising initiatives

One of the most spectacular initiatives inspiring the environmental awareness is the celebration of Earth Day. This year’s Earth Day’s motto was “Protect climate with energy”, and the majority of information campaigns, educational actions and workshops concentrated around it. During the Earth Day street party 1,500 used electric bulbs were collected along with 1,720 kilograms of batteries and 11,560 kilograms of electronic and electric waste. In addition 5,000 tree seedlings and more than 6,000 decorative plants were given out to people.

  • actions targeting specific sectors

As described above.

  • actions involving green procurement

Green procurement is an idea implemented both in the private and public sectors. The legal basis of all public procurement in Poland is the Public Procurement Act of 29 January, 2004. Its amendment of 2006 introduced changes that consisted in applying environmental criteria both with regard to the description of the object of procurement and in setting the criteria for the evaluation of offers. The need for considering environmental aspects in tender procedures and promoting a balanced development pressed the Public Procurement Office (Urząd Zamówień Publicznych, UZP) to issue a document called “The National Action Plan for green public procurement in the years 2007-2009”. From the point of view of this document the most important points of the plan are to:

  • create a catalogue or database of ecological criteria for specific groups of products or electronic dissemination of these data;
  • create a guidebook for domestic contracting authorities with guidelines regarding environmental aspects in public procurement procedures;
  • create a catalogue of ecological products and services.

Furthermore, a catalogue presenting environmental criteria for various products and services, including helpful information about environmental protection aspects was commanded by the Ministry of Economy and published on the website designed for environmental managers in Polish companies and public administration eko-net.pl, that was established in the framework of HERMES (Health, Environment, Risk Managers Educational Support), a project funded by the Leonardo da Vinci Programme and coordinated by the Centre for Environmental Studies of the Gdansk University of Technology (Centrum Ochrony Śodowiska Politechniki Gdańskiej).

Another initiative worth mentioning here is the internet portal called “ZZPortal. Eco-friendly purchases”, (Zakupy Przyjazne Środowisku, ZZPortal ) created and administered by the Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation (Fundacja Partnerstwo dla Srodowiska, FPS). ZZPortal provides information and links to products and services that meet the criteria of green procurement. Apart from information for companies and public sector, the authors of the portal provide information to retail customers on the producers and suppliers of green products.

  • financial support and stimulus packages to boost eco-innovation

In the years 1992 - 2009 financial support for eco-innovations was provided by the Eco-Fund Foundation (Fundacja Ekofundusz), which converted Polish debt to foreign investors into environmental protection investment. One of the types of projects co-financed by the Eco-Fund was the installation of solar collectors.

  • support for green start-ups and entrepreneurial schemes

Financial support is offered to already existing companies which plan on transforming their operations in accordance with the environmental protection requirements. The earlier mentioned NFOŚIGW plays the role of the Implementing Institution for Priority Axis IV Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment financed by EU funds. Until 20 July NFOŚiGW admits documentation for four contests:

  • Rationalisation of resource and waste management in enterprises;
  • Supporting enterprises’ implementation of best available techniques (BAT);
  • Supporting enterprises’ water and sewage management;
  • Supporting enterprises operating in the area of recycling and neutralising non-municipal waste.

Another important initiative is the project called “Propagating clean business in Poland” (Program Czysty Biznes) scheduled for the years 2007 – 2010 by the FPS in partnership cooperation with the Norwegian organisation Green Business Norway and with the financial support of the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism. The aim of the project is to promote and implement the rules of balanced development. It provides aid to small and medium companies in raising the effectiveness of using natural resources. “Propagating clean business in Poland” is expected to bring tangible effects. Its authors estimate that enterprises engaged in this project should reduce their consumption of energy by 10% on average, water (20%) and materials (5%) and produce smaller amounts of waste and emissions by 10% on average.

  • training programmes to prepare the workforce for the transition to the green economy

No data.

  • investment schemes in emerging products and services that could lead to the creation of green jobs in the future

One of the programmes advancing the creation of green workplaces is the agrotourism loan offered by the Bank for Environmental Protection (Bank Ochrony Środowiska, BOS), coming from the funds of the European Fund for the Development of Polish Villages (Europejski Fundusz Rozwoju Wsi Polskiej, EFRWP). The loan is targeted at farmers and their families, self-employed natural persons, commercial companies, rural communes and villages. The loan can be granted for start-ups or existing agrotouristic enterprises in villages and towns of up to 20,000 inhabitants. The list of ventures eligible for the loan involves for instance the construction, development and modernisation of:

  • lodging;
  • eating places;
  • recreation, sports and cultural resources, including touristic equipment rental shops, beaches, kayak harbours, marinas, ski lifts, as well as galleries presenting local arts and crafts.

Agrotouristic loans can also be spent on entire furnishings of the constructed or modernised structures.

  • any other relevant initiatives or actions

Mapping social partner responses, initiatives and tools

Please summarise the main unilateral and bipartite initiatives in your country in the following areas:

5) Positioning and stance in relation to the green agenda (e.g. any position papers)

Social partners show a positive attitude towards all actions aimed at environmental care. They also support most initiatives undertaken by the government and state agencies. At the same time, part of the trade unions who represent coalmining and power sectors are sceptical about Poland’s implementing the energy and climate change package. However, in light of the EU’s financial support for the modernisation of the Polish energy sector and the fact that this process has been scheduled for a long period of time, the unions’ anxiety about for example, a violent reduction of employment, seems to be without merit.

6) Attitudes and approaches of the social partners in relation to the green agenda

Employer associations unanimously emphasise the importance of undertakings aimed at the environmental care. However both the Confederation of Polish Employers (Konfederacja Pracodwców Prywatnych, KPP), in its statement about the draft act on the greenhouse gas emissions management system and the Business Centre Club (BCC) in its report called “Environmental Risks as a Challenge for Economy”, and the Polish Confederation of Private Employers Leviathan (Polska Konfederacja Pracodawców Prywatnych Lewiatan, PKPP Lewiatan) in its “Climate Manifest”, have all stressed the need for more intensive work on the domestic level with the purpose of better co-ordination of the actions connected with the environmental protection.

7) Any unilateral and joint strategies and actions, including:

  • awareness-raising campaigns for members

Social partners undertake a few awareness raising actions among their own members. One such noteworthy event was a seminar organised in Warsaw on 12 November 2007 by the Office for European Programmes and Trainings and the Social Policy Bureau of the National Committee of NSZZZ Solidarity (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy Solidarność, NSZZ Solidarność) trade union. The seminar was called “Toward Green Workplaces” and was devoted to the promotion of the idea of balanced development.

  • bilateral dialogue structures, including those at sectoral level


  • capacity-building initiatives


  • training programmes for members


8) The main initiatives for reviving the economy and promoting the green agenda, both general and sector-specific

Actions aiming at the economic revival and the promotion of environmentally friendly business were mentioned above.

9) Any relevant studies and research

10) Any other relevant responses, initiatives or tools

Views of the national centre

The picture emerging from the above information prompts a thesis that the significance of the so-called green economics has been systematically increasing in Poland, in spite of certain structural limitations (carbon based energy). This fact can be explained by the high degree of activity in non-governmental organisations and existing financial incentives, offered both by the European Union, the EEA states and Poland’s creditors, who had agreed to remit part of the debt on the condition that the dues be spent on environmentally friendly undertakings. Undoubtedly, it will be a challenge to observe the “green directives” in times of a global recession. Hence the question whether the costly investment in environmental protection will become a remedy during crisis or whether they will be seen by decision makers as an unwanted burden. The answer is probably coming soon.

Piotr Sula, Institute of Public Affairs

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