A new report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development cites the Polish system of financing environmental protection as a good example for Europe and the world. Experts in the OECD, which numbers 30 highly developed countries, including Germany and Canada, said that Polish institutions enjoy a universal and clear environmental financing system.
The Polish system consists of a multilevel group of Environmental Protection Funds and Water Management, a National and Provincial Environmental Protection Bank and an Ecofund. Protection funds collect environmental-use fees and penalty fees for pollution. Charges are paid by each company, for example, for taking water and for draining refuse water. Penalty fees are paid for exceeding emission norms.
The Ecofund is a foundation financed by exchanging part of Poland’s international debt for its support of environmental protection enterprises. Polish environmental projects are supported by EU means as well.
“The biggest advantage of the system is that funds for environmental protection are connected with water management,” said Grzegorz Gajewski, an environmental protection manager from Krakow. “The funds spent for proper development of water management of sewage systems allow us to protect the rivers and, as a consequence, the ecosystems.”
Since 1990, regardless of the political and economic changes in our country, Polish institutions have improved the financing of environmental projects. One of the biggest achievements is the permanent assurance of a “national contribution” to EU projects, without which the projects would not be possible. The EU never finances 100 percent of a project; a portion of it must be covered by the National Fund of Environment Protection.
The Polish system has some disadvantages as well. One of them is a lack of consistency for the financial laws covering ecological enterprises. Each of the Polish Environmental Protection Funds has different rules and criteria for granting the money.
“The diversity of fund rules very often appears to be the cause of excessive arbitrariness or even a lack of rules,” says Andrzej Zwawa, a journalist for Zielone Brygady. “At one fund there can be a 40 percent project donation and at another, 90 percent. The Polish system of financing of environment protection is too bureaucratic.”
Another problem is a lack of grassroots lobbying for the environment. Without the ecological consciousness of each citizen, even the best system of environment protection financing does not always protect itself against ecological disaster.
Polish ecology is worth the investment. Poland is not heavily urbanized, and there are many surviving natural areas worth protecting.