Ecology has been a priority for the Kraków authorities for years. The main goal is to reduce air pollution and achieve sustainable development policy, in order to ensure better comfort of life to the inhabitants by enlargement and revitalization of green areas, and access to alternative forms of transport.
Fight against smog
A fight against burning garbage in domestic furnaces initially began in 2009. Later, actions were taken to remove coal waste from the market, as well as ban combustion in obsolete boilers that are non-compliant with emission standards. Another step was to strive to eliminate burning coal and wood in the city area. Ultimately, on 1 September 2019, Kraków totally banned burning these fuel resources. It must be noted that it was the first city in Poland that introduced such radical anti-smog solutions. The liquidation of coal furnaces almost immediately improved the quality of air, which is shown in data from the urban monitoring station. Moreover, at the beginning of 2021, on the initiative of Kraków, the authorities of fourteen municipalities, associated in the Kraków Metropolis Association and the Polish Smog Alarm, made a joint initiative whose aim is a significant acceleration of the exchange of old heat sources and the full implementation of the Małopolska antiSmog resolution. This resolution prohibits the use of non-classed devices that use coal and wood. The next priority is to reduce emissions through the development and diversification of urban transport, construction of an infrastructure supporting it, development of alternative transport infrastructure (e.g. bicycle paths), promotion and development of electromobility, as well as the implementation of initiatives building and promoting pro-ecological behaviours among residents.
In the second half of 2019, the project “Zero-Emission Kraków” was initiated, joining the Deep Demonstrations programme, created by the Climate-KIC and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Kraków was the first Polish city that took such a challenge, consisting in achieving the condition of climate neutrality, i.e. zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. One of the projects included in Zero-Emission Kraków, which was introduced in 2021, is to implement the concept of “15-minute city” by Carlos Moreno, Professor of Paris Sorbonne and the world-famous city planner. In the “15-minute city”, every resident can realize most of their life needs, such as: school, work, shopping, recreation and entertainment; within a radius of a 15-minute walk or a bike ride from the place of residence. This translates into minimizing the need to use cars, lowering energy consumption and a smaller number of pollutants. The result is not only convenience, but also climate protection. Cities that have adopted this not just a theoretical concept, are e.g. Aspern Seestadt in Vienna or Rive Gauche in Paris. In Kraków, this urban project will be implemented first in the area of Kazimierz and Grzegórzki under the name “Climate quarter”. It is to reduce car movement and improve public transport. At the same time, the reconstruction of streets and infrastructure in terms of facilitation for pedestrians and cyclists will enable development of areas obtained thanks to these changes, such as parking lots and streets, for green or leisure areas. This will limit the residents’ need to travel, improve the quality of their lives and health, which will be influenced by physical activity promotion, as well as improve air quality, while reducing exhaust emissions and increasing the amount of greenery. As a result, these amendments will strengthen the good relationship among neighbours and support the development of local entrepreneurship, focused on implementing the needs of the local community. “Climate quarter” will create a place where residents will want to not only live, but also spend their free time, having a greater impact on the shape of their district.
Kraków Climate Panel
2021 has also brought about another project: a civic panel under the name Kraków Climate Panel, whose inaugural meeting took place on April 10, after earlier consultations that took place at the turn of January and February. Civic Panel is a form of deliberative democracy, i.e. a way of making a decision important for the city by a randomly selected, albeit numerous and representative, group of its inhabitants. The aim of six panel meetings, devoted to climate change and climate neutrality of the city, was to develop an answer to the question: “How can the city of Kraków and residents reduce energy consumption and increase the use of renewable energy?”. The actions related to the panel were carried out on June 30, 2021, and the voices of residents and non-governmental organizations in the scope of joint actions in the area of climate challenges were collected in the form of recommendations. The effect of several months of work of the panel was over 100 recommendations, out of which 35 were ultimately put to a vote, and 32 obtained a minimum of 80 percent support, and thus are binding. Among them, there were some of the following recommendations:
- Preparation of the Kraków Climate Strategy by the end of 2022 to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.
- Development and implementation of an educational and information programme for residents, taking into account the needs of various groups of recipients.
- Establishment of a group of energy advisors who would help residents in the implementation of investments related to thermal modernization and renewable energy installations.
- Creation of a “zero-emission” building of the Centre for Education and Climate Consulting
- Organization of education, information and counselling on climate-related issues at the level of districts in Kraków.
Recommendations developed during the 1st Kraków Climate Panel were also used as part of “Youth Krak Hack. In a good climate!” – the fifth edition of the hackathon of social projects addressed to youth and students from Kraków. As part of the event, they created educational and informational social campaigns aimed at the inhabitants of Kraków, the purpose of which is to shape pro-climate attitudes. The winning projects will be implemented by the Municipality of Kraków.