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Kraków Metropolitan Area, Poland

Region: Kraków Metropolitan Area
Country: Poland
Leader: IGSMiE PAN

About the case study

Krakow (CCT region of the Krakow Metropolitan Area (KMA) is one of Poland’s oldest cities. Apart from its rich history, universities and cultural institutions, KMA has also been an important industrial centre for centuries. Sectors such as metallurgy, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, machinery, clothing, food, electrical engineering, printing, leather and footwear industries developed in Krakow.

In communes belonging to the KMA, more than 50% of households still use hard coal to heat their houses. The decommissioning of old coal-fired boilers has been ongoing in these municipalities since 2015. Although the introduction of Anti-Smog Resolution in the city of Krakow contributes to positive changes, the effect remains insufficient. The challenges require decisive measures toward changes in regulations not only in communes adjacent to Krakow but also at the level of the entire province or country. However, the ecological challenges are related to social and economic challenges. Low incomes, high heat and energy costs, and low energy efficiency in buildings result in the energy poverty phenomenon in some households. The Krakow power and district heating systems are also based on hard coal. Although the coal phase-out is expected in the coming years, natural gas turbines are planned instead.

The main objective of the KMA case study was to answer the question of what are the main socio-economic, socio-technical, socio-ecological, sociocultural, sociopolitical, socio-psychological and gender-related challenges facing coal and coal-intensive regions in transition, what are the most effective strategies to deal with them, and what policy or policy mix would be most appropriate to regain the bonds of territory and communities in coal and coal-intensive regions, while supporting their transition towards clean energy. To answer these questions, we undertook several parallel research strategies. We collected relevant socio-economic data from national sources, Eurostat and regional entities. We also explored ‘strain situations’ through a focus group with eight local stakeholders. The socio-psychological component was investigated through a questionnaire completed by 234 regional residents. The socio-political component was explored through text analysis in several types of sources. The socio-ecological and technical component, focusing on the region’s capacity for transformation, was explored through mixed quantitative-qualitative interviews with seven stakeholders.

The main findings / results so far are the following:

  • The examination of socio-political aspects shows the greater involvement of local policymakers in the transformation process compared to the national governments. The national government often introduce documents that implement documents of European coping strategies in the context of the energy transition, whereas the local resolutions respond to the grassroots initiatives. Moreover, the provincial government is dependent on the current ruling party and also stands in opposition to the city administration.
  • The region faces four main challenges, including (1) intensive and unsustainable development, which includes (2) the shrinking of green spaces, (3) consequences of being a pioneer of decarbonisation in the country, and (4) conflict between the city and adjacent municipalities. The local governments undertake the following coping strategies to address these issues. They develop local strategies, transport policies, and programs to encourage citizens to pay their taxes in the region. They also create conditions to increase the involvement of inhabitants in the sustainable development of the Krakow Metropolitan Area.
  • The energy transition takes different forms depending on the region since the needs and interests of the city (CCT region) and province (PAR region) vary significantly. The most advanced level is observed in Krakow, where regulations banning the use of solid fuels in households and public buildings have been introduced in 2019. The city is a leader – also at the national scale – in introducing innovative solutions aimed at reducing emissions. The other communes of the province were obliged to introduce the anti-smog law by 2023. However, the most recent energy crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia reopened the discussion about the deadline for these regulations. This being the case, the decarbonisation of households can be postponed to 2024.
  • Although energy policies should have long-term goals, the implementing acts and coping strategies should have greater adaptability. The regulations and framework should address the current issues and propose solutions to the decarbonisation challenge with consideration to the emerging problems. In addition, the changes should be more transparent and available to society. The increasing awareness and involvement of individuals about transformations should not be stopped by inconsistent regulations and a weak flow of information. The analysed case study, therefore, emphasises the importance of the dilemma of whether the institutional system should show greater adaptability to changing conditions in the energy market, or whether it should focus on the durability and predictability of the framework for all actors of the ongoing transformation.

Local support

Deputy Marshal of Małopolska Region (Provincial Government of Małoposka Region), Kraków Metropolitan Association, Kraków Smog Alert


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