Panels organised on 29 June at the Cities’ and Towns’ Stand during the World Urban Forum were dominated by themes associated with green and ecological cities. We also discussed thermal waste processing.

The first Wednesday panel concerned the “Heat and Electricity from Municipal Waste” covenant to be entered into by and between the Association of Polish Cities and such entities as i.a. the Polish District Heating Chamber of Commerce (IGCP), Polish Development Fund (PFR), National Chamber of Waste Management (KIGO), and Bank of Environmental Protection (BOŚ).

The Association of Polish Cities has been campaigning for years for the pre-RDF (oversize) fraction to be used as renewable Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF) in heat and electricity generation. The status quo of local district heating in multiple cities and towns requires urgent heat source modernisation, the current energy crisis driving the market towards alternative fuel sources, a condition conducive to swift decisions in the field. On average, Europe generates approximately 20% of electricity using waste, the Polish performance reaching a mere 8%. This goes to show that our country is distinctly behind and suffers from thermal waste processing installation underfunding in comparison with other European Union member states.

We need legislative changes, funding, and a local project support programme. A financial model (in-house grant system) has to be developed to improve the chance for resolving the issue. The panel was joined by director for Local Government Investments at the Polish Development Fund Marcin Borek, CEO of the National Chamber of Waste Management Tomasz Uciński, representatives of the BOŚ Bank, and delegates of cities and towns: mayor of Gliwice Andrzej Neumann, mayor of Starachowice Marek Materek, and chairman of the Municipal Council of Rzeszów Andrzej Dec.

The absence of any adjustments in the field is further associated with the fact that district heating companies frequently fear change, whereas mayors of cities and towns are not only suffering from a shortage of sufficient funding for such investments – they are also forced to face local community protests, as waste incineration triggers forceful public reactions, as recently found out by Olsztyn. The matter was discussed by Andrzej Porawski, Executive Director of the Office of the Association of Polish Cities.

Local governments in Poland continue struggling with municipal waste management, waste incineration combined with heat and electricity generation offering them an opportunity of “killing two birds with one stone”, remarked Marcin Borek of the Polish Development Fund. A correct number of evenly spaced out waste incineration plants has to be developed across Poland to provide fuel as the required feed while avoiding high transportation costs. Such plants should ideally be set up at locations where coal-fired district heating plants have not been modernised yet. Such investments can involve the PPP mechanism (Olsztyn, Poznań) or Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) companies. Borek believes that raising public awareness regarding waste incineration is a must.

Local government representatives emphasised that project underfunding – while a major issue – is not the only one: local authorities find it hugely important for the system to become more predictable and thus conducive to more rational decisions.

During the URBAN ECO-FUTURE panel, deputy mayor of Ostrów Wielkopolski Mikołaj Kostka and former deputy mayor of Ruda Śląska Krzysztof Meyer showcased their local experience in building an integrated approach and permanent commitment of assorted entities and communities to action supporting the urban environment condition. For more, please see presentations attached.

The experience of industrial urban communities developing their green future was described by representatives of the following cities and towns: mayor of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski Jarosław Górczyński, mayor of Starachowice Marek Materek, and Jolanta Kowalewska of the Municipal Authority of Stalowa Wola. All three are Central Industrial District locations striving to build their development by using the potential and traditions of heavy, automotive, chemical and similar industries while drafting state-of-the-art programmes and integrated strategies of natural environment protection and modernisation. City and town representatives spoke of challenges associated with the green future of their respective areas, and good practices implemented to date.

During the GREEN CITIES panel, deputy director of the PPP Department at the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy Michał Piwowarczyk delivered a presentation on National Recovery Plan funding available to cities and towns for green project purposes. Charged with tasks associated with implementing the National Recovery Plan in the field of comprehensive green urban transformation, the PPP Department has already begun collaborating with stakeholders of this National Recovery Plan section (monitoring pre-committee). Panel attendants were provided with detailed information concerning the Green Urban Transformation Mechanism which offers loans (including a full redemption option) of up to EUR 2,800,000,000, the call open while funds last, for no less than 344 projects (for more, please see presentation attached). Preparations for the effective use of aforementioned tools have been joined by METREX, Wrocław as the partner on Poland’s side.

As part of the DIRECTION: ECO-TOURISM panel, mayor of Ustrzyki Dolne Bartosz Romowicz and mayor of Sejny Arkadiusz Nowalski presented visionary plans for the transformation of both their respective towns.