The European Union’s top court ruled last week that Poland had not upheld air quality standards, as prescribed by wider EU regulations, trying to fight deaths from airborne pollution, which, it estimates, kills 400,000 people annually. Environmental groups have called on Warsaw to take action and improve air quality, which is in some parts of Poland worse than in New Delhi or Beijing – the world’s most polluted cities. Critics say that the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party had been slow in introducing anti-smog regulations.
The issue adds to a long list of disputes between Warsaw and Brussels as the EU’s top court advisor also said that Poland had breached the law with increased logging in the ancient Bialowieza Forest. The European Commission took the country to court over its timid response in addressing poor air quality caused by extensive coal and rubbish burning in homes. The court ruled limits to regulate the amount of pollutants in the air as it had been persistently exceeded.
Poland exceeded the daily legal amount of pollutants in 35 of its 46 “air quality zones” and nine of those zones also did not pass an inspection of the annual legal limit, the court opined. “Fighting smog is one of the government’s priorities. But we will not be able to do it within a year,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki commented regarding the court ruling. The government and local authorities are planning to spend 750 million zlotys ($220 million) to help low-income households make their homes warmer. They also want to provide subsidies to households to purchase more eco-friendly furnaces.