Bielsko-Biala: Where Poland shows that "low-carbon" is possible

By Miriam Eisermann on 29 October 2015

Poland’s parliamentary elections last Sunday had one winner: the eurosceptic and fossil-fuel friendly Law and Justice party. It is to be feared that, as of now, European Union efforts to move to lower carbon energy will be even more dependent on committed local authorities.

The City Council of Bielsko-Biała is one of them. Last August, it unanimously approved the city’s "Low Carbon Economy (LCE) Plan and Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP)", reaffirming its intention for switching to new forms of energy.

Bielsko-Biała, which is also a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors, thus confirmed that it wants to move towards an energy-conscious urban society, covering everybody from companies to residents.

With this ambitious step, Bielsko-Biala is acting voluntarily: In Poland there is no obligation by law for cities to develop a low carbon economy plan. The Plan was a decision of both the local government and its local community, aware of the benefits of working with a long-term strategy. On the short run, the LCE helps obtaining easier access to funding. On the long-term, once implemented, it will improve the quality of life of the residents.

The idea of creating low carbon economy plans for Polish municipalities was born in 2013. The National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management which initiatied this idea - with no legislative pressure- was inspired by the "Sustainable Energy Action Plans" (SEAP). The SEAP is required for cities-signatories to the European "Covenant of Mayors". Bielsko-Biała has developed and adopted its SEAP in 2010, a year after joining the Covenant of Mayors.

The city’s extraordinary efforts were rewarded at the beginning of this month, when Bielsko-Biala won the ECO-CITY competition in the "energy efficiency in buildings" category. The prize was handed over to the city Mayor by the French ambassador Pierre Buhler during a ceremony at the French Embassy in Warsaw.

The jury highlighted the host of actions that the local government of Bielsko-Biała is carrying out to improve the city’s overall energy efficiency. One of them is the comprehensive modernisation of the district heating system that has brought about a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by over 70,000 tons per year.

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