Poland must speed up fight against smog: report

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish institutions are not acting fast enough to improve air quality in Poland, which is among the worst in Europe, the country’s Supreme Audit Office (NIK) report showed on Tuesday.

Cities in Poland, especially in the south, sometimes have denser smog than New Delhi or Beijing, mostly due to citizens burning low quality coal and rubbish to heat their houses.

Poland has taken steps to improve air quality, including imposing a special anti-smog heating tariff and adopting new coal quality standards.

But NIK and environmentalists said the solutions had loopholes and are inconsistent with the government’s general 100-billion zlotys “clean air” program announced this year.

NIK, which reports to the Parliament and has been run by Krzysztof Kwiatkowski since 2013 when the former government was in power, said that if Poland fights smog at the current rate it will take up to 100 years for some areas to achieve the required levels.

“Poland still has one of the worst air qualities in the European Union,” NIK said, criticizing the energy ministry and environment ministry for failing to take steps adequate for the size of the problem.

“The energy ministry’s proposal regarding quality standards for solid fuels secures to a much greater extent the interests of the coal lobby, than striving to protect Poles and the environment from the negative effects of air pollution,” it said.

The European Environment Agency says pollution leads to more than 44,000 premature deaths in Poland a year. Polish government officials have downplayed the issue of smog before, with the energy minister saying pollution does not cause premature death.

Poland, which generates most of its electricity from coal, hosts United Nations climate talks in December, when around 200 government environment ministers will meet to discuss details from the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, editing by Ed Osmond