Poland country briefing - The European environment — state and outlook 2015

Briefing Published 18 Feb 2015 Last modified 23 Nov 2020
9 min read
Photo: © Małgorzata Bednarek, 2014

Main themes and sectors addressed in the national State of Environment report

The purpose of the State of Environment (SoE)[1] report is to present objective information about the state of environment in Poland for decision-makers and the general public. The Chief Inspector for Environmental Protection is obliged by law to prepare a SoE report at least every four years[2]. The report should consider in particular data from the State Environmental Monitoring (SEM)[3]. The general structure of the report refers to priorities identified in national environmental policies[4].

The report addresses the following environmental issues: resource use and waste, biodiversity and forests, air pollution, water quality, noise, electromagnetic fields, ionizing radiation, ozone layer and climate change. Each chapter begins with information about the state of the environment followed by drivers and pressures and their impacts.

Key findings of the State of Environment report

Over the previous two decades Poland has made significant progress in the area of environmental protection and reduced the pressure on the environment. Despite such successes some problems remain.

Poland remains one of the most material- and energy-consuming economies of the European Union (EU) in terms of efficiency. The rate of increase in final energy use is much lower than the rate of increase in GDP[5]. Domestic material consumption has been growing intensively in correlation with economic growth[6]. The latter results mainly from the use of non-metallic materials for infrastructure projects.

For the last decade the total amount of industrial waste has remained at a relatively similar level. Its main source is mining, quarrying and manufacturing. Since the mid-2000s the amount of municipal waste generated has been slightly decreasing and has now reached 314 kg per capita (2012). The use of landfill sites remains the main method of municipal waste disposal[6].

Poland achieved and maintains valid national emission ceilings for air pollutants (Fig. 1). Continuous development of the Polish economy in the last two decades has not led to increased emissions, and in some cases a systemic reduction has been observed (sulphur dioxide).

In spite of the improvement of air quality in Poland, exceedances of target value for tropospheric ozone in the summer season and exceedances of limit values for PM10, PM2,5 and benzo(a)pyrene in the winter season remain a serious problem. The latter is particularly related to emission from domestic heating for households and obsolete transport options[9].

Figure 1. Emissions volumes compared with national emission limits for 2010


Note: Figure shows substances stated in the Treaty of Accession of the Republic of Poland to the EU, in the scope of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive 2001/81/EC[7

Source: Ministry of the Environment, National Centre for Emission Management[8]

The pressure on water resources has been decreasing. Since the early 2000s, water abstraction has reminded stable. Municipal waste water discharges decreased by 12% whilst the percentage of the population able to benefit from waste water treatment plants increased from 53% in 2000 to 68.5% in 2012. After a significant reduction in the early 1990s, the use of mineral fertilizers stabilized in the mid 2000s. There was, nevertheless, a slight increase in nitrogen fertilizers beween mid 2000s and now (2012)[6]The negative impact from various industrial sources was limited as well.

As a result of action taken in the area of water management, nitrogen and phosphorus discharges flowing through rivers in Poland to the Baltic Sea have decreased. Nevertheless the quality of surface water in some areas is insufficient. The chemical status of groundwater is good in 80% of measurement points covered by SEM.

A steep increase in the number of cars since the beginning of this century has resulted in an increase in a traffic noise from roads. According to noise maps prepared for agglomerations under the 2002/49/EC directive[10] about three million inhabitants are exposed to exceedances of noise limits for the day-evening-night time period and two million for the night time period alone.

Despite disadvantages of the current structure of fuel consumption (over 50% of total primary energy consumption is from coal), during the period 1988-2012 Poland managed to reduce GHG emissions by almost 29% and met its Kyoto protocol[11] requirements with a surplus of 24%[12].

At the same time the country is characterized by an exceptionally rich nature and landscape. The fact that Poland is a natural habitat for rare species on Europe-wide scale, makes it particularly responsible for the protection of natural heritage. 32.5% of the territory of Poland is protected in one way or another, usually related to natural or scenic importance. Forest cover has been permanently increasing since the mid 1990s and reached 29.3% of the country's territory in 2012[6].

Main policy responses to key environmental challenges and concerns

Poland has undergone constant and intensive economic growth during the last two decades. Therefore one of the major challenges is to achieve sustainable development through such growth and environmental protection requirements.

Reflections on the green economy are included, inter alia, in the following documents:

  • National Development Strategy 2020[13] based on a sustainable development scenario;
  • Energy security and the environment strategy – 2020 perspective[14] - interlinks quality of life and state of environment with the sustainable development of the energy sector, the energy security of Poland as well as the effectiveness and competitiveness of the Polish economy;
  • National Programme for the Development of Low-Emission Economy[15] - aims to support improvement of energy- and resource-efficiency, waste prevention and better waste management, and promotion of new consumption patterns.

National Waste Management Plan 2014 specifies
 objectives and measures in this area[16]. Waste management plans are also elaborated for 16 voivodeships (regions). The national waste prevention programme was adopted in 2014[17].

The National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management launched a nationwide programme (KAWKA) dedicated to problems of emissions from individual heating for households. It financially supports initiatives aiming to reduce emission in residential areas, increase energy-efficiency and develop diffused energy sources. It will help to achieve air quality standards and limit exposure to air pollution[18].

Achieving good status of water is supported by various documents including, inter alia, 10 water management plans[19], the Water and Environment Programme[20], and the National Programme for Municipal Waste Water Treatment[21]. Limiting the impact on water resources from agriculture is supported by various rural development programmes[22] aiming to reduce nutrient loads in freshwater bodies and the sustainable use of fertilizers.

The Polish National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change by 2020 aims to ensure sustainable development and the efficient functioning of the economy and society in a changing climate. The document specifies objectives and adaptation measures to be taken in the most vulnerable sectors and areas: water management, agriculture, forestry, biodiversity and legally protected areas, health, energy, construction, transport, mountainous, coastal and urban areas[23].

Protecting biodiversity and the landscape is important. The national strategy for the protection and sustainable utilisation of biodiversity and The action plan for the period 2007-2013 aim to support this[24]. They will be amended to consider the Aichi Targets for the period 2014-2020.

Country specific issues

Sustainable development can be supported by investments in innovative projects, especially green and clean carbon technologies. Development of green technologies in Poland is supported, inter alia, by the following:

  • GreenEvo – Green Technologies Accelerator[25] is an innovative project initiated and managed by the Ministry of the Environment. It promotes Polish environmental technologies and supports the development of this sector at home and abroad. Environmentally sound technologies are selected with a view to foreign export. Participation in the project offers companies training and consulting services as well as support to meet the expectations of foreign contractors. So far 62 winners have been selected in 5 separate editions of the project. In 2013 overall sales from companies which have taken part in the project grew on average by 36%. Sales abroad increased by 50%. Meanwhile employment increased by 40%.
  • Participation (on a voluntary basis) in an EU established Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) pilot programme[26]. This program is a new tool is to help innovative environmental technologies reach their target markets. The Institute of Technologies and Life Sciences from Poznań and the Institute of Environmental Protection - National Research Insitute operate as Polish verification bodies. The Ministry of the Environment is also looking to create instruments of support for entrepreneurs who wish to benefit from the ETV.


[1] Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection, State of the environment reports for Poland; 2014, "State of the Environment in Poland – 2014 report" (Stan środowiska w Polsce - raport 2014);

[2] act of 20 July 1991 of the Inspection on Environmental Protection (Journal of Laws 2013, item 683 as amended);

[3] Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, 2012, "The State Environmental Monitoring Programme for the years 2013-2015" (Program Państwowego Monitoringu Środowiska na lata 2013-2015); 

[4] Ministry of the Environment, 2008, "The National Environmental Policy for 2009-2012 and its 2016 Outlook" (Polityka Ekologiczna Państwa w latach 2009-2012 z perspektywą do roku 2016), accessed 21 July 2014;

[5] Central Statistical Office, 2013, "Energy efficiency in 2001-2011" (Efektywność wykorzystania energii w latach 2001-2011), accessed 21 July 2014;

[6] Central Statistical Office, 2013, "Environment 2013" (Rocznik Ochrona Środowiska 2013), accessed 21 July 2014;

[7] EC, 2001, Directive 2001/81/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2011 on the national emission ceilings for the certain atmospheric pollutants (OJ L 309, 27.11.2001, p. 22);

[8] Ministry of the Environment, National Centre for Emission Management, 2014, "Reports under directive 2001/81/EC. National inventory of SO2, NOx, NH3 and NMVOC emissions for 2012" with annexes, accessed 21 July 2014;

[9] Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, 2013, Air Quality Portal (Portal o jakości powietrza), accessed 21 July 2014;

[10] EC, 2002, directive 2002/49/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2002 relating to assessment and management of environmental noise (OJ L 189, 18.7.2002, p. 12);

[11] UN, 1997, Kyoto protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change;

[12] National Centre for Emission Management-Institute of Environmental Protection, 2014, "Poland’s national inventory report 2014. Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 1988-2012" (Krajowy raport inwentaryzacyjny 2014 zawierający dane o krajowych emisjach gazów cieplarnianych za lata 1988−2012), accessed 21 July 2014;

[13] Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, 2012, National Development Strategy 2020 (Strategia Rozwoju Kraju 2020), accessed 17 March 2014;

[14] Ministry of Economy, Ministry of the Environment, 2014, "Energy security and the environment strategy – 2020 perspective" (Bezpieczeństwo energetyczne i środowisko – perspektywa do roku 2020), accessed 21 July 2014;

[15] Ministry of Economy, Information on the National Program for the Low-Carbon Economy, accessed 24 March 2014;

[16] Ministry of the Environment, 2010, National Waste Management Plan 2014, accessed 21 July 2014;

[17] Ministry of the Environment, 2014, "National waste prevention programme" (Krajowy program zapobiegania powstawaniu odpadów); accessed 21 July 2014;

[18] National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, information on KAWKA Programme, accessed 21 July 2014;

[19] National Water Management Authority, information on water management plans (Plany gospodarowania wodami w dorzeczach), accessed 21 July 2014;

[20] National Water Management Authority, 2010, Water and Environment Programme (Program wodno-środowiskowy kraju), accessed 21 July;

[21] National Water Management Authority, information on National Programme for Municipal Waste Water Treatment (Krajowy program oczyszczania ścieków komunalnych), accessed 21 July 2014;

[22] Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, information on rural development programmes, accessed 21 July 2014;

[23] Ministry of the Environment, information on Polish National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change by 2020, accessed by 21 July 2014;

[24] Ministry of the Environment, 2007, The national strategy for the protection and sustainable utilisation of biodiversity and The action plan for 2007-2013 (Krajowa strategia ochrony i zrównoważonego użytkowania różnorodności biologicznej wraz z Programem Działań na lata 2007-2013), accessed 21 July 2014;

[25] Greenevo, accessed 24 March 2014;

[26] The Environmental Technology Verification (ETV), accessed 31 March 2014

Photo: a stork at the Narew River.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.


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