Danish-Polish Environmental Co-operation 1991-2000

Chapter 1
The Danish-Polish Environmental Co-operation

Overview and results

Overview and results

During the last decades, Poland has developed from a country hidden behind the iron curtain and into an open society on its way to membership of the EU. An important aspect of this development has been a profound change in attitude towards the environment. Over the last 10 years, Poland has used considerable resources in improving its environment and has developed a fruitful co-operation with neighbouring Denmark in the process. Denmark has thus become one of the biggest donor country by contributing more than 35 per cent of the total bilateral environmental assistance to Poland. It is the "Danish Co-operation for Environment in Eastern Europe", DANCEE, who co-ordinate the Danish efforts, which among other things have had a positive effect on air and water quality, the treatment of waste and the protection of the natural treasures in Poland.

Until the nineties, many regions in Poland had to live with the not very flattering description of the environment as being in a "state of environmental disaster", but since the early nineties, things have changed radically. Today, Poland is a country with success in environmental protection. Apart from a lot of good and measurable environmental results, the will to improve the environment is shown by the fact that Poland, between 1991 and 1999, covered about 90 per cent of its own environmental expenditures. In terms of Gross National Product, GNP, the share of environmental investments has increased from being 0.7 per cent in 1990 to 1.4 per cent in 1999. The latter figure corresponds to USD 2,457 billion.

Important steps towards a better environment

Since the political and economic transition in the early nineties, the state of the environment has improved. This development has mainly been the result of both the transition to market economy and the establishment of a system of local governance in Poland. Both the independent economic policies and the local governments are thus main actors in the environmental success in Poland.

The fact that the Polish Parliament, in the beginning of the nineties, adopted many documents of fundamental importance for the environmental protection also played an important role for the Polish environmental status.

One of the most important documents was the "National Environmental Policy Statement of 1991" - NEP I which was adopted by the Polish Parliament in 1991. The NEP1 contained a commitment to clean up the environmental negligence of the past and to introduce a policy based on the principles of sustainability. One of the many priorities was given to environmental awareness raising and education.

The national environmental policy gave direction to all the actions in environmental protection in Poland throughout the nineties. Short, medium and long term objectives were developed in order to resolve the most important issues to control the tendencies to environmental deterioration, to improve the quality of the environment, to rationalise the use of its resources and to integrate environmental aspects with economic and social issues. In that connection, a decision of central importance was to establish the system of environmental funds to collect resources from obligatory fees and fines for the use of the environment thus implementing the "polluter pays" principle.


Integration of environmental issues

At the end of the nineties, it was recognised that both the constitutional level of environmental protection and the new challenge that Poland faced, e.g. the process of its accession to the European Union, required the adoption of new programming documents. This gave rise to "The Second National Environmental Policy", NEP II. This document defines the principles of environmental policy, formulating its main objectives which had not been clearly identified when the first environmental policy was drawn up. For instance, how to achieve the objectives and fulfil the standards specified in the environmental acquis communautaire. According to Parliament, the NEP II should also be extended to include other sectors such as the economic sector, industry, energy, transport, agriculture, tourism, fishery, building, trade and municipalities as well as the health and social welfare sector, labour market and the educational sectors. This will allow a full integration of the environmental, the economic and the social aspects.

As a consequence of this work, a new legal system was developed in Poland, a system based on European Union legislation in this field. The accession into the EU was initiated by the "National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis" - the NPAA, which, in Poland, was called the "National Programme for the Preparation of the Membership" - the NPPM.

An environmental landmark

The year 1991, with the adoption of the first National Environmental Policy Statement, was an environmental landmark for Poland. It was also an important year for the Danish activities in the Eastern European countries. The Danish Parliament adopted the "Act on Subsidies for Environmental Activities in Eastern European Countries" and in addition to that, the "Danish Environmental Support Fund for Eastern Europe" was subsequently established.

In 1993, the fund was incorporated into the new "Environment and Disaster Relief Facility" (EDRF), which was a new facility for the support of environmental projects and disaster areas in Eastern Europe and in the developing countries. The funds were distributed equally to the environmental and disaster areas.

A small country - a big help

The Danish strategy for the environmental efforts in the Central and Eastern Europe are mainly geographically focused on the Baltic Sea Region. Denmark is one of the largest contributor amongst the bilateral donors in Poland by contributing more than 35 per cent of the total bilateral environmental assistance to the country.

The Danish-Polish co-operation is based on working group activities supervised by a steering committee. It is the steering committee that formulates the general policy for the cooperation as reflected in the Country Programme - Environmental Programme Priority Areas. The funding is perceived as a means of promoting self-support. Projects involve the beneficiary's own funds or in-kind contribution, whether the beneficiary is an enterprise or a governmental agency.

In the period from 1991 to 2000, a total of 232 projects have received DKK 635 million (USD 73 million) as grants from the "Danish Co-operation for Environment in Eastern Europe", the DANCEE. The Danish support has again released an additional DKK 5.1 billion (USD 0,58 billion) as co-financing. This means that DANCEE has been involved in projects with a total amount of DKK 5.7 billion (USD 0,65 billion) in Poland.

48 per cent of the supported projects concerned water pollution, 21 per cent concerned air pollution. The remaining 31 per cent of the projects are more or less equally distributed in the categories:
solid and hazardous waste
nature protection
institutional strengthening
others primarily related to EU accession

The environmental effects

Most importantly, the Polish-Danish cooperation has had considerable environmental effects. An extract of the total environmental effects of the supported projects is summarised in the following figure.

Economic growth and environmental development

Even though Poland is in a difficult process of economic transition, benefits to the environment as well as to the economy can be achieved if environmental projects can be integrated in the on-going economic restructuring process. Therefore, support has primarily been given to projects that demonstrate financially and technologically appropriate solutions to environmental problems. It is crucial that the transition period from planned economy to market economy does not lead to a general degradation of the natural resources because the combination of natural and economic resources form the prime basis for long term economic growth and development in the country.

A DANCEE supported waste water treatment plant in Krakow

An environmental status

Poland has scarce water resources. Therefore, it is important that the water consumption in the nineties has fallen. This is a result of the rationalisation of water use by water consumers and suppliers. However, more than 80 per cent of the water abstracted is discharged to the surface waters as waste water. Regarding waste water treatment, a significant progress has been made but the amount of waste water discharged to the environment without the required treatment is still excessive both in the urban and the rural areas.

Monitoring of the groundwater quality suggests that the degree of pollution of these resources has not changed significantly over the last few years. The quality of the groundwater is generally much better than that of the surface water. However, available data indicate a widespread and locally severe occurrence of manmade pollution in the groundwater.

The industrial waste quantities have been reduced substantially during the nineties but due to changes in the economy, production of industrial solid and hazardous waste changed significantly during the period 1985-1997 from 170 million to 125 million in 2001.

Municipal waste combined with the backlock in the construction of modern landfills and water facilities, is one of the greatest problems of the Polish society whose consumption increasingly grew in the nineties. The damage done by waste to the environment primarily takes the form of water and soil pollution and the destruction of aesthetic and landscape values.

Emissions of the main air pollutants are declining or stabilising according to the balance for the period up to 1997. For instance, due to efforts in the field of energy saving, modernisation of technology and the installation of air pollution controls, the nineties brought about a systematic drop in CO2 emissions and a reduction of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen emissions. The dust emissions to the air were halved and so were the total emissions of heavy metals.

Bilateral assistance to Poland within the field of environmental protection by countries in the period 1990 - 1999

As neighbours Denmark and Poland shares the same sea - The Baltic Sea

Despite the changes that human pressure bring upon the environment, Poland is still one of the European countries with the highest level of biological diversity. This is linked with favourable natural conditions and variable human impacts which, in spite of local problems, are generally of lesser intensity than in other European countries.

In some areas the wealth of flora and fauna is unique not only to Europe but also to the whole world. In order to protect its natural treasures, Poland has created a system of protected areas, national parks, landscape parks, areas of protected landscape etc. This extends more than 26 per cent of the country and there are plans to bring further valuable areas under protection.

Public awareness is the keyword

The plans for the future Polish environment cannot succeed without public support and awareness. Therefore, individual actions and decisions by citizens with increasingly growing environmental awareness have had an important effect on the results. It was early acknowledged that improvement of the general environment requires approval by the public - and willingness and ability to act on the part of the largest possible group of citizens. Therefore, high priority is given to environmental education conducted in schools, at universities, as well as the mass media, the nongovernmental and church organisations.

In the future environmental co-operation between the Denmark and Poland priority will be given to areas that influence the future Polish membership of the EU.