Krakow: transforming the city towards climate neutrality

Poland’s former capital and one of its oldest cities, Krakow, is embarking on a transformative journey towards fast decarbonisation.

The city is taking part in EIT Climate-KIC’s Deep Demonstration of Healthy, Clean Cities, and has set ambitious goals to become carbon neutral and inclusive. The past year has seen a major breakthrough in the city council’s approach from siloed to systems thinking, leading to a series of experiments developed to bring the city closer to carbon neutrality.

In Poland most energy is still derived from coal, which plays an important role in heating homes but results in high levels of air pollution. The residents of Krakow were the first in Poland to realise that a massive improvement in air quality was needed, as air pollution levels were far above World Health Organisation recommendations. A joint effort by residents and local authorities led to the creation of Clean Air Programme, resulting in a ban of burning coal and wood in homes from September 2019.

Towards a holistic, city-wide plan

The Clean Air Programme has given Krakow an appetite for greater change. In 2019, EIT Climate-KIC brought together a diverse group of local stakeholders, led by Andrzej Łazęcki, Deputy Director of Municipal Services Department and an engineer with over 30 years of experience. The group also included officials such as Andrzej Kulig, the First Deputy Mayor.

The common goal of EIT Climate-KIC and the city of Krakow was to expand the city’s existing initiatives, link them together and fill strategic gaps to build a portfolio of experiments. They started with a series of meetings and workshops on systems thinking, policy innovation and much more. A study trip to Leuven in Belgium was organised so that the Krakow authorities could take a close look at the city, which is known for its innovative transformation.

Leuven, Belgium

Leuven, Belgium

“This process was born out of the idea that it is crucial to have a long-term vision for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to be convinced that our actions are aimed at making a greater impact on the climate situation. Participation in this process is of strategic importance to us. When we joined Deep Demonstrations two years ago, we had high expectations for this programme and the opportunities that were presented to us exceeded our expectations,” says engineer and Deputy Director of the Municipal Services Department, Andrzej Łazęcki.

“The first period was dedicated to social initiatives involving citizens, for example, ‘Tables of the Future – how do you imagine Krakow in 2050.’ Then, in the second half of 2020, experiments were developed, we focused on mobility and retroitting. We also created a citizen’s assembly in 2021 to find out how the city and residents can increase the level of renewable energy and energy efficiency. This is very innovative and goes five steps beyond what other cities here can eve imagine,” Łazęcki adds.

Economic models as a lens for the city’s capabilities

One of the first steps Krakow took was to build a business case for decarbonisation, using the scenario analysis model offered by EIT Climate-KIC partner Material Economics. The local team worked closely together to collect and analyse data to identify the most effective ways to achieve environmental impact in a financially and socially sustainable way at a city-wide level. The analysis revealed that Krakow emits an estimated 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year from transport, buildings, heating and electricity.

“We have a very interesting economic model that was created by our design partners. But the results are not very optimistic, because we concluded that even if we try hard, we can only reduce emissions by about 25 per cent by 2030. And that shows the scale of the problems we face, because the challenges are beyond what the city can achieve. Without government regulations, we’re going to be stuck at that 25 per cent. That’s why it’s so important to show the breakthrough of this way of thinking on a national level.” Łazęcki says.

Multi-level experiments to scale up the potential for change

The emerging portfolio of experiments aims to enable rapid learning and create the opportunity to scale the actions that will enable Krakow to achieve its net zero target by 2030.

The portfolio is characterised by themes that reflect critical ingredients for developing new transformation pathways for the city. These themes, which derive directly from the city’s barriers and challenges, include citizen engagement, clearer and more holistic approaches to internal municipal governance and organisation, accelerating action in response to Covid-19, and a positive decarbonisation narrative for future scaling and support. Krakow has also set a goal to increase the amount of green space in the city. The city government will take a leading role in developing and implementing the portfolio of experiments.

Neighbourhood on the Vistula River in Krakow, Poland

“Action is needed to strengthen the local community. Talking about a global problem is not very convincing, it is crucial to bring the problem down to the local level, to issues that residents can engage with,” says Łązęcki.

“In our case, for example, it is the concept of ‘Green Neighbourhoods as a Service’, the aim of which is to start the process of thermo-modernisation on a mass scale, to engage with quarters, housing estates, and to combine this with participation to relieve property owners of the burden of investment. Mitigation cannot be separated from adaptation. You cannot act without talking to people,” he adds.

The Green Neighbourhood retrofit project aims to make existing buildings fit for the future and provides a perfect opportunity to embed circularity and throughout the construction value chain.

Engaging citizens in experimentation

Another example of experimentation in Krakow focuses on mobility and supports a city-wide shift to public transport, walking and cycling. The idea of developing a Climate Quarter within Krakow’s second ring road in the city centre could offer potential for decarbonising mobility. Behavioural changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the focus on cycling as part of the national recovery plan also offer the opportunity to accelerate this change. The Climate Quarter and improved cross-district bike routes will serve as a testing ground for this experiment.

“We plan to begin these experiments this year and to develop them over the next two years. Also, in 2021, we will consider whether to launch more experiments. We have just launched Krakow Climate Panel, which aims to engage a randomly selected group of citizens in discussions about climate action. Their task is to decide on initiatives to reduce energy consumption and increase the use of renewable energy, taking into account the common good. This group is intended to reflect the general population,” says Łazęcki of Krakow’s transformational approach towards sustainability.

“This could be a green turnaround for the whole city. Awareness of the climate crisis has grown tremendously in the last two years, both among residents and city officials. We have recognised this gap and are ready for far-reaching changes.”

More information about Krakow’s path to neutrality

 
Location
Poland
Related Focus Area
Urban Transitions
Related Goal
Goal 3: Accelerate clean urban mobility
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation Awards for Climathon and ...

EIT Climate-KIC has launched a call for ideas on sustainable, inclusive...

EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation Awards for Climathon and hackathon participants
In The News
Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures
In The News
Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience

Glasgow, which is hosting this year’s UN Climate Change...

Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience
In The News
Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability

Gipuzkoa, the smallest Spanish province located in the Basque...

Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators

The EIT Climate-KIC Week of Action will celebrate, recognise...

EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses

As companies and practitioners around the world are looking...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses
In The News
NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-ze...

Starting in October 2021, the new project NetZeroCities will...

NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-zero emissions by 2030
In The News
In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President...

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined her...

In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President von der Leyen
In The News
New IPCC report reveals urgent need for climate innovation

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report has launched. The report...

New IPCC report reveals urgent need for climate innovation
In The News
Moving beyond ‘brown coal’ in Europe’s rural regions

Together with Partners, EIT Climate-KIC is leading a process...

Moving beyond ‘brown coal’ in Europe’s rural regions
In The News
EU’s “Fit for 55” to spur policy innovation for climate action

The European Commission has released its “Fit for 55”...

EU’s “Fit for 55” to spur policy innovation for climate action
In The News
Munich Re and ERGO invest in EIT Climate-KIC carbon removal programme

Major German corporate group sets the ambition to accelerate...

Munich Re and ERGO invest in EIT Climate-KIC carbon removal programme
In The News
23 pilot projects selected by EIT to unlock higher education’s innovation po...

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

23 pilot projects selected by EIT to unlock higher education’s innovation potential in Europe
In The News
Investing in start-ups scales the offering of climate adaptation solutions in ...

A partnership between EIT Climate-KIC and CDC Group, the...

Investing in start-ups scales the offering of climate adaptation solutions in African and South Asian countries
In The News
Irish Aid extends support for innovation and development from the ground up

The Government of Ireland’s development assistance programme, Irish Aid,...

Irish Aid extends support for innovation and development from the ground up
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC showcases climate innovation at R&I Days

EIT Climate-KIC participated in the European Commission’s Research and...

EIT Climate-KIC showcases climate innovation at R&I Days
In The News
Branch Magazine wins Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity

Branch Magazine, a collaboration between EIT Climate-KIC, Mozilla Foundation...

Branch Magazine wins Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity
In The News
Cross-KIC project to boost circular economy in Western Balkans

The circular economy concept is of crucial importance to...

Cross-KIC project to boost circular economy in Western Balkans
In The News
Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice

Enrolment is now open for placement hosts and participants...

Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice
In The News
Circular bioeconomy start-up receives €2 million from European Innovation Co...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Lixea (formerly Chrysalix Technologies) has received...

Circular bioeconomy start-up receives €2 million from European Innovation Council Fund
In The News
Embracing a new approach to climate change in Moldova

Moldova is one of Europe’s most modest contributors to...

Embracing a new approach to climate change in Moldova
In The News
Is Europe doing enough to tackle climate change?

On 23 April, EIT Climate-KIC CEO Kirsten Dunlop spoke...

Is Europe doing enough to tackle climate change?
In The News
EU Commission publishes sustainable finance taxonomy

The European Commission has published its EU-wide classification system for...

EU Commission publishes sustainable finance taxonomy
In The News
New European Bauhaus: what kind of future do you want to live in?

On 22 and 23 April, the first conference dedicated...

New European Bauhaus: what kind of future do you want to live in?
In The News
Estonian innovation to help stabilise grid as renewables increase

EIT Climate-KIC supported Estonian start-up Sympower has raised €5.2...

Estonian innovation to help stabilise grid as renewables increase
In The News
Five EIT Climate-KIC community members in Forbes 30 under 30 list

Twelve entrepreneurs from across the EIT community have been...

Five EIT Climate-KIC community members in Forbes 30 under 30 list
In The News
These eleven organisations are building a greener Europe

Google, in partnership with EIT Climate-KIC, launched the €10...

These eleven organisations are building a greener Europe
In The News
New equity crowdfunding programme unearths cleantech start-ups

Found by us, funded by you, a new start-up...

New equity crowdfunding programme unearths cleantech start-ups
In The News
From start-up to 100-person industry player in 18 months: air up is launching ...

It’s a beverage revolution: Healthy hydration while fooling your...

From start-up to 100-person industry player in 18 months: air up is launching in new markets
In The News
#TurnItAround: an event for all climate solutions seekers, suppliers and enabl...

As part of the fifth SDG Global festival of...

#TurnItAround: an event for all climate solutions seekers, suppliers and enablers