Silesia under the blue sky

This is a special region where, due to the high degree of urbanization and industrialization, man has an above-average impact on the environment. However, the voivodeship is awaiting future transformation, but today is already placing more emphasis on improving air quality. 

The Silesian Voivodeship’s industry structure and the EU ambitious climate objectives enforce the transformation of the region towards a modern low-carbon economy. It is intended to ensure socio-economic development and high quality of life for residents while respecting the environmental needs. Concern for the environment and the quality of life of the inhabitants of the region is also a priority of the voivodeship board.

The scale of challenges of the socio-economic transformation is huge, among others, because of the need to carry out costly actions, the effects of which will only be seen in a while. In the case of Silesian Voivodeship, the extent of the changes concerns the largest number of entities in the country, because in Silesia there is a great amount of (electric and thermal) energy, there is a cumulative industry (including the largest share of steel production), coal fields and an extensive system of entities revolving around the mining industry. The costs of these changes will be borne not only in the economic sphere (which involves rebranding, the need for development investment, the increase in energy produced from OZE), but also in the social sphere (mining municipalities have a high level of employment in this sector). Responsible economic transformation is therefore one of the biggest challenges facing us in the future years.

Katowice, view towards Chorzów incl. at Osiedle Tysiąclecia, Silesian Park, Silesian Stadium, photo: Radosław Kaźmierczak, UMWS archive. 


In Silesian Voivodeship, as in other regions of the country and around the world, climate change is increasingly being felt. These changes, as shown by climate scenarios by 2050, will result in increased hot days and heatwave intensity, as well as an increase in days with high rainfall. The observed increase in the average annual air temperature promotes an increase in the intensity and frequency of unfavorable weather events for people and the environment.

In 2015-2018, the level of local threats in Silesian Voivodeship was most affected by hurricanes, strong winds,tornadoes (75.1% in 2018), and rapid precipitation. Other phenomena, such as lightning discharge, soaring floods, and ice jams, were much rarer (at the level: 0.6% in 2018).

Occurrence of local threats in the Silesian Voivodeship in 2015-2018: 

Types of phenomena by years





torrential rainfall





soaring floods, ice jams





hurricanes, high winds, tornadoes





lightning discharge





Source: Source: Development Strategy of Silesian Voivodeship “ŚLĄSKIE 2030”, ZIELONE ŚLĄSKIE, p. 44. Own study on the basis of “Urban and Industrial Areas against Climate Change on the Example of the Cities of the Central Part of Upper Silesia - Zagłębiowska Metropolis” Institute of Environmental Engineering of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Zabrze 2019.

The effects of climate change can have a serious impact on infrastructure and associated living systems (energy, transport, sewerage, food supply, etc.). In addition, these adverse trends affect the hydrological situation in the region, as Silesian Voivodeship is struggling both with excess water and its shortage, which is associated with the emergent periods of heavy rains and droughts.

The problems caused by climate phenomena are particularly acute in urbanized areas, where they are compounded by human activity. In the case of Silesian Voivodeship, this is due to bedrock sealing related to the site development, changes in the terrain topography, planning and land use errors, contamination of surface water and uncontrolled drainage of the catchment. Consequences of these actions are new city-specific phenomena, e.g. urban heat island resulting from lack of adequate proportions between built-up areas and urban green spaces, as well as problems with flooding or droughts, for which the solution should be to increase retention.

Due to the high level of urbanization, Silesian Voivodeship will be particularly vulnerable to these adverse phenomena. That is why it is so important to take action in the region to mitigate climate and adaptive changes.

The first step towards informed adaptation to climate change is to develop documents identifying the actions needed to be taken in this regard. The voivodeship municipalities are very active in these measures. Among the 44 municipalities  between 2017 and 2019, the Ministry of Environment developed plans for adaptation to climate change in cities over 100 thousand inhabitants (MPA 44), as many as 16 were in Silesian Voivodeship. They have selected the most serious climate threats and planned a number of adaptive measures to reduce their adverse effects.

The local government of Silesian Voivodeship recognises the need for informed action in this regard and is preparing to start work on a regional climate change adaptation plan in 2022.

Katowice, Strefa Kultury, fot. Radosław Kaźmierczak, UMWS archive. 

Source: Development Strategy of Silesian Voivodeship “ŚLĄSKIE 2030”, ZIELONE ŚLĄSKIE, p. 45. Urban Climate Change Adaptation Plans for 44 Polish Cities,


The Voivodeship Board shall program corrective actions, i.e. environmental quality improvement tools, and financial measures to support these activities, and carry out projects in this field.

In October 2020, the most important document setting the directions for the regional development, i.e. the Development Strategy of the Silesian Voivodeship until 2030 was updated under the name “Zielone Śląskie” (Green Silesia). The strategy is to a large extent. A response to the environmental challenges facing the region, and its records serve to create appropriate living conditions for both current and future generations of residents. “Green Silesia” is a comprehensive transformation of the region using funds from the European Union.

Among the environmental challenges, poor air quality in the region is still coming to the fore, which directly affects the quality of life and health of residents. In view of the huge needs and limited resources for actions to improve this disadvantage, it becomes necessary to concentrate on actions in order to make efficient use of the available support. The Green Silesia strategy shows that the region is ready to seize this opportunity and launch a change in the way we live and work in the region.

Photo: Katowice, Hala Widowiskowo-Sportowa Spodek, fot. Radosław Kaźmierczak, UMWS archive. 

Specific measures to improve air quality are indicated by the “Air Protection Programme for Silesian Voivodeship” adopted by the regional government. Implementation of the programme should result in a noticeable improvement in air quality and the achievement of its quality standards in the region. However, it should be emphasised that, by virtue of their competence, the municipalities of the region are primarily responsible for these activities.

The key action set out in the programme is the elimination of out-of-class coal boilers used for heating apartments, and one of the important tools for its implementation is the provisions of the so-called anti-smog resolution.

The anti-smog resolution in the Silesian Voivodeship has been in effect since September 1, 2017. It introduces both throughout the voivodeship, among others, the prohibition of the use of lignite, mules, coal flotocentrates, and wet biomass. It only permits the operation of installations that meet the minimum emission standard in accordance with the 5th class. The inhabitants of the voivodeship had a designated time to comply with the provisions of the resolution.  So by the end of 2021, all over 10-year solid fuel boilers that do not meet any emission standards should be eliminated from the voivodeship area. This period is still ongoing, so it is difficult to accurately assess the degree of implementation of the resolution.

Chart No.1. Number of decommissioned out-of-class boilers in 2016-2020
Source: Own study on the basis of the reports of municipalities on the implementation of the Air Protection Programme

Chart No 1 shows the number of listed old, inefficient heating installations since 2016, even before the implementation of the resolution, up to 2020. The source of this data is the municipal reports on the implementation of the actions indicated in the “Air Protection Programme for Silesian Voivodeship: These values apply only to exchanges registered by individual local governments — they should take into account exchanges made by residents from their own funds, without any funding and not declared in the competent municipal office (due to the absence of such obligation). As it can be seen, the number of exchanges in the period considered increased nearly fourfold. Over 76,000 exchanges were carried out in less than four years of the resolution. It can be hoped that there will be more and more in the following years and with the arrival of the 2027 resolution, air quality in the Silesian Voivodeship will significantly improve and no longer exceed concentrations of particulates and benzo(a)pyrene.

The map below (Figure 2) shows the state of air quality in the 2015 base year and the quality expected in the forecast year, i.e. in the final year of the current Air Protection Programme.


Figure No 2. Average annual concentrations of PM10 dust in 2015 and 2027
Source: Variants of the introduction of restrictions on the operation of solid fuel combustion installations prepared in the framework of the Air Protection Programme for the Silesian Voivodeship aimed at achieving levels of permissible substances in the air and exposure concentration threshold, Katowice 2017, p. 15.

The achievement of the envisaged environmental results would not be possible without EU and public financial support.

The Management Board of the Silesian Voivodeship as a managing institution has planned a broad environmental package in the Regional Operational Programme of the Silesian Voivodeship 2014-2020 (RPO WSL) for the period 2014-2020 (RPO WSL) amounting to almost half a billion euros. These funds from the European Regional Development Fund supported energy efficiency projects, including renewable energy generation (RES) with connection to the distribution/transmission network, as well as energy efficiency improvements in public and housing sectors through their deep comprehensive energy modernization. Projects for the construction and modernization of plants for the production of energy in high-efficiency cogeneration could also count on funding. Furthermore, collective transport infrastructure activities (e.g. integrated switching centres, including bus and rail stations, Park&Ride and Bike&Ride car parks, bicycle lanes), purchase of bus and tram rolling stock, implementation of ITS smart transport systems - including SDIP and replacement of lighting in municipalities for installations with higher energy efficiency.

During the implementation of the RPO WSL, a wide range of measures to combat low emissions were joined by other environmental project financing mechanisms, developed with the European Commission in the framework of the renegotiation of the Programme. Their effect was the launch of comprehensive coal boiler replacement activities, as well as the out-of-competition funding of the InfoSMOG-MED regional project to create an e—service in the area of monitoring air quality and its impact on the health of residents. As part of the project implemented by Silesian Voivodeship in cooperation with the Institute of Ecology of Industrialized Areas and the Silesian Heart Diseases Centre in Zabrze, among others, an application was developed informing the inhabitants of the region about the current and forecast air quality, the impact of pollution on the well-being of residents and health recommendations for people who are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of pollution.

The package of anti-smog activities in the region was also joined by a joint initiative of Silesia Voivodeship and the National Centre for Research and Development in the form of a research agenda called “Silesia under the Blue Sky”. The agenda allowed a special pool of funds (PLN 50 million each in the WSL RPO and the National Innovation and Development Programme) which supported research work for new markets for environmental and energy technologies and ICT. These solutions are designed to reduce the energy-and resource-intensive processes and emissions of pollutants in the region.

Union funds managed by Silesian Voivodeship in pro-environment activities are also supported by the actions of the Provincial Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Katowice, which has significantly increased the amount of funds contracted in the region for this purpose in the last few years.


Source: Data from the Provincial Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Katowice:

With the interest to ensure that the implementation of the anti-smog resolution is the most effective tool for regional environmental policy, the voivodeship board estimated the financial needs to well program EU support for 2021-2027. The region intends to continue to support for low-emission eradication projects in line with the assumptions of the anti-smog resolution. In accordance with the draft regulations for Cohesion Policy 2021+, it is planned to continue support for investments related to deep energy upgrades of public and residential buildings (single-family and multi-family), including the replacement of heat sources or the connection to heating networks. It will also be possible to provide extensive support for the production and distribution of energy from renewable energy sources. There are also plans to fund dispersed energy through the support of cooperatives and energy clusters and the promotion of prosumentism. In addition, it is envisaged to support energy efficiency projects in SMEs, including energy intensity reduction, replacement of lighting for leds, upgrading the heating system, minimising heat loss, closed circuits, etc.

The local government of the Silesian Voivodeship initiates and implements environmental projects with regional scope to support the implementation of anti-smog and pro-climate activities. One such endeavor is the project “Śląskie. We are restoring the Blue”, with the aim of the comprehensive implementation of the “Air Protection Programme of Silesian Voivodeship” in 2022—2027. The project with a value of less than €16.5 million submitted in March 2021 for evaluation under the LIFE programme, has been prepared by 90 partners and is to be carried out in the area of the entire Silesian province. 

Figure 3. Eco-consultancy system as part of the project “Śląskie. We are restoring the Blue”
Source: Own study for the application of the project “Śląskie. We are restoring the Blue”

Among the project activities were the following:
  • the creation of an eco-consultancy system in the region,
  • setting up and running a regional eco-information system of the resident,
  • developing models for reducing environmental impact in public buildings and their demonstrative implementation in 5 locations (5 investments in public buildings in the municipalities selected during the project),
  • development of models for increasing the green area and their demonstration implementation in 5 locations (later for them the concepts of development and green space development).


In the context of global and European action to prevent climate change, the transition to a low-carbon economy and, therefore, an economy based on renewable energy sources is particularly important. There are huge challenges facing the Silesian Voivodeship, which is because it is the most coal-dependent region in Poland.

Mining continues to play an important role in the regional economy, although due to declining productivity and low profitability, a gradual decline in the share of the mining industry in the Gross Value Added Value (WDB) of the region is evident: from 9.8% in 2000 to 5.6% in 2016, the mining sector still employs employability. Approximately 72.5 thousand people, representing approximately 4.9% of total employment in the region (2018 figures), with one mining job generating between 2 and 4 jobs in the sectors revolving around mining, according to estimates.

Although mining activity is strongly concentrated in the central and western parts of the region, the  impacted are of the coal mining sector is much wider due to the place of residence of those working in the sector. The high geographical concentration in a limited area means that these sites will incur most of the economic and social costs of phasing out coal. In this context, it should also be borne in mind that mining companies are responsible for an important part of tax revenues in many mining municipalities, the liquidation of mines can therefore affect the limitation of the investment capacity of municipalities, charging them with a possible increase in social security expenditures and the elimination of the environmental effects of mining activities.

In view of the European Union taking a new direction for socio-economic development, Silesian Voivodeship is very hopeful about the creation of a new Fund for Fair Transformation in the current EU financial outlook 2021-2027. It aims to mitigate the economic, social and environmental impacts of the transformation towards a climate-neutral economy. The initial amount for this goal for Poland is €3.5 billion (€17.5 billion for the whole EU). According to the proposal of the Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy, €2.066 billion is to come to our region.

In order to make optimal use of these measures, the voivodeship is working on the Territorial Plan of Transformation, also preparing specific actions. It is working on the use of numerous post-mining and post-industrial areas in the region, including implementing with the Main Institute of Mining the project “Expansion of the Management System of Mining Areas in the Territory of the Silesian Voivodeship”, in which a new public e-service will be created in form of a database of post-mining areas, together with the valorization of these areas in support of the process of conversion and reuse.

We concentrate our financial support for businesses around regional smart specializations identified in the Regional Innovation Strategy. It is worth emphasizing here that it was in the voivodeship of Silesia that the first such strategy was established in the country. The voivodeship has extensive experience in development programming and implementing its tools that these experiences will enable it to effectively undergo the process of socio-economic transformation of the region.


One must also remember that the key role in shaping the environment is played by the inhabitants themselves — their way of life, their daily decisions and their informed choices.

This is why it has been crucial for years to shape proper awareness and social attitudes. In the region, the campaign “I can! Stop the SMOG!” and “GRO2wing in a Positive Atmosphere”. In recent years, two editions of the project “I can! Stop SMOG — Preschooler, catch a breath”, under which educational and awareness activities included 61 thousand preschoolers. Educational information also went to caregivers in kindergartens and parents. As part of shaping environmental awareness, 571 kindergartens received 1379 air purifiers.

Conscious actions are present in many projects undertaken. They produce positive results and are as important as investment in environmental infrastructure.

Proof that in pro-environment behaviour, public awareness and starting a change from each other is the importance of waste management in the region.

We are proud that it is in Silesia, thanks to our people, that more and more waste accumulates selectively (chart number 5) and the most in the whole country is subjected to
to be recycled (chart No 6).

Source: Annual report by the Marshal of the Voivodeship on the implementation of tasks in the field of municipal waste management.

Wykres nr 6
Source: Central Statistical Office publication for 2019 environmental protection.

Author: TOGETAIR Editors