Air quality issue

Southern Poland is one of the most polluted regions in the EU. Over the past decade, the population of the Małopolska region has been exposed to very poor air quality, particularly during the winter season, with high concentrations of coarse (PM10) and fine (PM2.5) particulate matter and benzo(α)pyrene (BaP), exceeding EU standards. The major source of air pollution in Małopolska is the burning of coal in obsolete household boilers and furnaces for domestic heating. In parts of Małopolska, the EU limit value for NO2 is also exceeded as a result of emissions from road traffic. 

Example of measures taken

An air quality plan was drawn up for the region of Małopolska in 2009. An investigation into the source of air pollutants in the provincial capital, Kraków, identified domestic heating using coal and other solid fuels as the principal source. In 2013, the air quality plan was updated to include a ban on solid fuels, which came into force in September 2019. To support the transition away from solid fuel use, authorities established a programme to replace coal boilers and modernise household heating systems. This was supported by funding from the LIFE Programme and the National Fund for Environmental Protection and awareness-raising campaigns. Kraków adopted an anti-smog resolution in 2016.

A LIFE integrated project was initiated in 2015, with the aim of accelerating the implementation of the air quality measures set out in the Małopolska air quality plan. Actions included:

  • establishing a network of eco-managers and a regional-level excellence centre to provide training
  • strengthening support services for Kraków residents to eliminate stoves and solid fuel boilers
  • conducting awareness-raising campaigns
  • supporting efforts to improve and monitor air quality in the region. 

Costs and trade-offs

For the period 2012-2019, the cost of replacing domestic heating systems in Kraków was estimated at approximately €76 million. During that time, 25,182 coal and wood devices were replaced with gas-fired boilers, district heating, electric heating, heat pumps and oil-fired boilers. The local shield programme - which provides funding to improve the quality of life of local communities - subsidised the increased costs of heating for residents, at a cost of over €3 million. It supported over 11,000 households over the period 2015-2020. The cost of inspecting domestic heating systems was about €2.6 million.

In the Małopolska region outside Kraków, the replacement of solid fuel heating systems is still ongoing. All together 36,660 solid fuel boilers have been replaced until the end of 2020 and an estimated 400,000 boilers still needs to be liquidated.

Who was involved?

The Regional Assembly of the Małopolska Region adopted anti-smog measures, with implementation at the municipal level. The pace of boiler replacement largely depended on the municipality’s involvement in the process. Non-governmental organisations had a key role in supporting the anti-smog resolution.

Lessons learnt

  • The introduction of anti-smog measures influenced the market for domestic heating systems in the region, with more eco-friendly devices now available.
  • Social engagement of the citizens of Kraków was key. Large numbers of people protested against poor air quality in 2013 and, in response, regional authorities initiated work on measures to reduce air pollution.
  • Replacement of obsolete heating systems was effective at reducing emissions. Levels of particulate matter and BaP have decreased significantly. In 2020, the EU’s annual limit value for PM10 was exceeded at only one monitoring station in Małopolska.
  • An analysis of the air quality plan for the Małopolska region indicates that the measures prevented more than 1,400 deaths, 662 hospitalisations due to cardiovascular disease and 451 hospitalisations due to respiratory illness per year. This translates into financial benefits of €350 million per year.
  • The replacement of coal-fuelled domestic heating devices has reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.

Kraków and Małopolska region, Poland
Type of measure
Regulatory measures to control emissions from residential heating
Target pollutants
Particulate matter with a diameter of 10 microns or less (PM10)
Particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5)
Benzo(α)pyrene (BaP)
Pollution source targeted
Domestic heating
A short description of the anti-smog resolution
LIFE integrated project implementation of air quality plan for Małopolska region


Geographic coverage


Filed under:
Filed under: smog
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