In order to protect human health and the environment, the Council of the European Union drew up a directive with air quality standards in April 1999. With the act of 13 April 2012 amending the Act on the Environmental Protection Law and other acts (Dz.U. of 2012, item 460) the Government transposed the EU directive into national legislation. Accordingly, the limit value for particulate matter was set at 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, which may be exceeded on a maximum of 35 days a year. The average annual value for nitrogen dioxide was set at 40µg/m3.
Air Quality Action Plans
The EU Air Quality Directive was transposed with two-year-long delay and its implementation has not been full. For example Article 23 (1), the second sentence of the CAFE Directive, stating that “in the event of exceedances of those limit values for which the attainment deadline has already expired, the air quality plans shall set out appropriate measures, so that the exceedance period can be kept as short as possible.” should be regarded as improperly transposed into Polish legislation. The national provisions on air protection programmes do not require these documents to ensure that the period in which limit values are exceeded is reduced to the minimum. The Regulation of the Minister of the Environment on air protection programmes and short term action plans states that air protection programmes have to comply with “a schedule of measures and expenses, including respective medium term measures, drawn up for a period of no longer than five years, and long term measures, for a period of no longer than ten years,” which clearly counters the purpose of Article 23 of the CAFE Directive.
Moreover, the amendments to the Act on Environmental Protection Law, introduced by the Act of 28 May 2012, stipulate that with respect to the zones for which air protection programmes have been adopted and where air quality norms have been exceeded, the Board of the Voivodship (administrative district) is obliged to prepare a review of the programme within three years of the day on which the resolution of the Voivodship Parliament on the air protection programme was adopted. The three-year-long period during which air quality norms are exceeded clearly will not ensure that the period with exceedances is as short as possible. Air Quality Plans were prepared for each zone and agglomeration, but sometimes with some delay. Sixteen air quality plans have been prepared for each administrative district. The time to comply with the limit values differs in each plan. For example in Air quality plan for Małopolskie and Śląskie voivodship compliance is planned to be achieved in 2020. Usually all the measures set in air quality plans have been implemented. Nevertheless there are some doubts whether these measures where adequate and effective or whether setting them complied with the aims of the Directive.
In the last two years several regions adopted anti-smog resolutions, imposing limitations on the use of solid fuels in domestic heating. In most cases they introduce quality standards for coal and allow only 5th class/ecodesign boilers and stoves for operation, after a transitional period for the replacement of existing installations. Furthermore, a total ban on burning solid fuels was adopted for the city of Kraków, coming into force in 2019, as well as for the city of Wrocław and health resort towns in Dolnośląskie voivodship. In 2017, a regulation was introduced on national level allowing only 5th class boilers on the market. The Ministry of Energy is currently working on a new law to introduce obligatory quality standards for coal.
There are no Low Emission Zones in Poland, however, the act on electromobility adopted by the parliament in January 2018 contains a similar measure called Clean Transport Zones, where only electric, hydrogen and natural gas powered vehicles are allowed to enter - with a number of exemptions.