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Responding to Climate Change 2011

Home | Regions & Cities | City of Warsaw Cities: adapting and mitigating

Cities: adapting and mitigating

City of Warsaw

City of Warsaw image

Poland has experienced heat waves, windstorms and heavy floods over the past two decades, which have affected thousands of people and caused millions of euros worth of damage. The rainfall in July 2010 was in some parts of Poland about 200% higher than average in 1971-2000. The temperature was higher than average by about 3.3ºC. July 2006 was the warmest in Poland since the beginning of the meteorological measurements in 1779. Heat waves have a huge impact on public health: they often worsen a variety of health conditions. Cities intensify heatwaves because of their traffic and buildings. Early action will save on damage costs later.

The City of Warsaw is one of the greenest capitals in Europe, with green areas and forests constituting about 23% of the metropolitan area. Warsaw has pursued many activities to improve the environment and fight climate change. The Climate Protection Team under the leadership of the city’s Mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, was set up in July 2008, to reduce CO2 emissions, lower energy use and coordinate information initiatives. The Mayor said, “Our main goal is decreasing carbon dioxide emissions by at least 20% until 2020 in accordance with the Covenant of Mayors signed by Warsaw. We will focus in particular on improving energy efficiency in municipal buildings, introducing environmentally friendly means of transportation and developing renewable energy sources.”

The most significant activity for the city is reducing carbon dioxide emissions. To achieve this, Warsaw is improving energy efficiency in buildings (under a thermal retrofit programme), applying new LED technology in traffic lights, installing energy efficient street lighting and promoting railway transport and cycling. We are also looking at new generations of fuel and engines, as well as introducing environmentally friendly practices in water and sewage management and waste management, encouraging inhabitants to save energy, reduce waste and recycle.

Understanding energy efficiency

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In Poland combined heat and power plants, typically powered by coal or natural gas, are increasingly being supplied with biomass. The cogeneration technology is especially well-developed in the Warsaw area and saves 30-37% of coal, providing the city with 3.5TWh of energy annually. The share of biomass combusted in Warsaw CHPs shall increase from 2% in 2009 to 7% in 2011 and 15% in 2020. Thanks to cogeneration, Warsaw now emits two million tonnes less CO2 per year.

The heat from cogeneration is used in Warsaw’s central heating system, one of the largest in Europe – covering 1,700km of main pipes and satisfying 75% of the city demand. In the future, the plans are to support decentralised cogeneration, especially in areas not covered by central heating system. This will give some security in times of blackouts caused by the centralised electro-energetic grid.

Answering mobility needs

As the busiest transport hub in Poland, promoting sustainable urban mobility requires a spectrum of innovative and efficient solutions that meet the diverse individual needs of mobility.

Public transport in Warsaw is well-developed compared to similar places, but has plans to expand the existing networks, adding 860 trams and 1,700 buses. This requires huge investments across the board. Dwindling fossil fuels resources, increasing reduction of GHG emissions and technological advances are all influencing the city’s choices.

Warsaw is already introducing projects connected with electric vehicles and charging points. The electric vehicles have been already tested by the municipal services. Some charging points will allow for transmission of electric energy back to the grid. This is key to future plans for electric cars to be used as emergency reservoirs of electric energy, e.g. in case of blackout.

The combination of introducing renewable energy, improving energy efficiency (electric cars are more efficient) and constructing smart grids is the best way towards more cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy sector and transport in cities of future. Warsaw’s Mayor reminds us, “Cities should act to increase social awareness, especially since built-up areas emit almost 80% of human-originated carbon dioxide.”

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City of Warsaw

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