Poland needs a strategy for moving to a lower-emission economy


23/04/2015 - Poland has combined robust economic growth with reducing some of the pressures on its environment since it joined the EU in 2004. It has also brought environmental laws closer to European norms. Poland now needs to lessen its economy’s reliance on fossil fuels and make growth greener, according to a new OECD report.


The OECD’s Environmental Performance Review of Poland finds the country has made visible progress in decoupling greenhouse gas emissions, air pollutants, waste generation and water withdrawal from economic growth, as well as surpassing its Kyoto targets. Over 2000-12, Poland’s greenhouse emissions rose just 1% alongside a 56% jump in GDP.


Poland still has the 4th most carbon-intensive economy of OECD countries, however, due to the dominance of coal in its energy mix. Greenhouse emissions from road transport are up nearly 70% since 2000 and rising as higher incomes enable more people to drive cars.


Poland has increased its use of biomass but fossil fuels still make up 91% of its energy supply versus an EU average of 73%, and it remains the EU’s top producer and consumer of coal. The Review recommends investing in cleaner energy and transport, and reviewing how energy is taxed and subsidised to help shift to an economy less reliant on fossil fuels.


“When Poland joined the European Union, its economy and environmental management made impressive progress,” said OECD Environment Director Simon Upton, presenting the Review in Warsaw. “Poland now needs to build on that progress and decide how it is going to make the transition to a resource-efficient, low-emission economy.”


Total primary energy supply 1995-2013


 Download the data


Poland’s CO₂ emissions were 0.42 tonnes/GDP unit in 2012 versus an OECD average of 0.31 tonnes.


Poland also had Europe’s highest level of air pollution from fine particulates in 2012. Outdoor air pollution causes thousands of deaths every year by worsening breathing and circulatory disorders. Indoor air pollution from inefficient coal heaters also creates serious health risks.


Given that the bulk of EU cohesion and structural funds invested in Poland since 2007 went into road transport, the Review suggests prioritising rail infrastructure with future allocations.

The Review praises the sustainable forest management practices that have allowed Poland to increase timber harvesting while not compromising its natural capital and conserving forest biodiversity. However, to achieve its ambitious commitment under the EU’s Natura 2000 protected areas network, Poland will have to better align policies affecting land use.


The Review welcomes a major waste management reform in 2013 that offered a better basis for providing household waste services and increasing the separate collection of recyclable waste. It recommends strengthening municipal-level waste capacity and data collection.


The Review’s 28 recommendations include:


  • Adopt measures to reduce environmental damage from coal use.
  • Shift investment incentives towards cleaner energy sources and forms of transport.
  • Review green taxes and charges to ensure they properly price environmental damage.
  • Tax diesel at the same rate as petrol and remove exemptions on coal taxes.
  • Make local land use plans obligatory and consistent with nature protection.
  • Introduce mechanisms for monitoring the results of environmental policies. 


Download an embeddable version of the Review.


Download Highlights of the Review in English or Polish.


Read more on the OECD’s Environmental Performance Reviews:


For further information, or to arrange an interview with the author, journalists should contact Anna Biernat  n the OECD Media Office (+33 1 45 24 97 00).


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