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Clean Our
Air
2023 Finalist

Polish Smog Alert

Nominated by:

One of the world’s most effective clean air campaign groups, Polish Smog Alert, helps secure policy change and air quality improvements across Poland and has goals to do the same across Central and Eastern Europe.

Some 40,000 Poles die each year from pollution-related illnesses. Indeed, Poland has some of the most toxic air of all EU nations, with 23 of the 50 most polluted EU cities located in the country. Much of this air pollution comes from common household boilers that burn wood and coal. Emissions from cars and factories exacerbate poor air quality and lead to many thousands of avoidable deaths every year.

In 2012, Kraków, one of Poland’s biggest cities, was the third-most polluted metropolis in the entire European Union. Frustrated and alarmed by slow political action, a group of friends launched a campaign emphasizing the impact of air pollution on health. By 2015, the campaign had become a national movement: Polish Smog Alert.

Polish Smog Alert's Solution

Considered one of the most effective campaign groups in the world, for over a decade Polish Smog Alert has convened local organizations to secure unprecedented legislative changes. In 2016, Kraków became the first Polish city to pass a ban on coal and wood in household boilers which went into effect in 2019. Coal bans have since been approved, but not yet begun, in 20 more towns and cities. Today, anti-smog regulations cover more than half of the country and billions of Euros have been allocated to help people switch to cleaner heating.

Polish Smog Alert’s success has been driven by the joint effort of experts from across multiple fields. They have inspired action by using scientific rigour to change the hearts and minds of people and politicians.

The campaign enlists lawyers dealing with air quality protection and doctors from renowned pulmonary and cardiac clinics to make the case. It engages the public through education, including touring a giant two-metre model of human lungs made of white fabric that slowly turn from white to grey around Polish towns to mimic the effects of pollution. And the group’s results are indisputable: in Kraków alone, particulate matter concentrations and pollution from combustion have fallen by half since the ban on coal and wood burners went into effect.

Their Impact

More than 50 local clean air initiatives have joined Polish Smog Alert to fight together against pollution. By 2026, Polish Smog Alert hopes to eliminate coal burning in one million homes across Poland and bring air quality in line with WHO standards by the end of the decade. The group also has plans to expand into neighbouring countries, cleaning the skies of Central and Eastern Europe and improving the life chances of millions.

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