In 2020, Warsaw was the first Polish city to join the EBRD Green Cities, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) flagship urban sustainability programme.
During the New Mobility Congress in Łódź that took place on 12-14 September, we sat down with Tali Trigg, Principal for Electric Mobility at the EBRD Green Cities to hear about Warsaw’s progress since its decision to join the initiative and get his insights on the broader sustainable transition in Poland.
Starting off the discussion, Mr Trigg praises Warsaw for adopting a “holistic approach” which focuses on green policies across different departments.
“One of the great things that Warsaw is doing is adopting a holistic approach which sees cross-departmental green policies being adopted across different departments in the city’s local government,” he says.
Electric mobility is a key area in which Warsaw is taking leadership as the city recognises the importance of energy and transport.
One of the areas that many public administrations in the CEE region, as well as globally, often find difficult is to strategically demonstrate the benefits of green transformations to local residents in their cities. On that topic, Mr Trigg mentions that the EBRD seeks opportunities to engage with a range of different stakeholders, building on the above-mentioned holistic approach. Among the stakeholders are civic organisations which are key in highlighting the benefits of areas such as energy and transport for Warsaw’s residents when they think of the need for such initiatives.
When asked about any challenges on the ground that have posed challenges throughout the programme, Mr Trigg points to the difficult task of tackling air pollution, which is a broader issue in the whole of Poland.
A key challenge in Warsaw’s goal of becoming a clean city is the local air pollution, which more broadly, Poland aims to tackle on a national level.
The EBRD is actively involved in many other projects related to the Green Cities initiative in Poland, with prospects for future cooperation with other Polish cities seeking to accelerate their green policies.
“In 2020, Wałbrzych was another city in Poland which joined the EBRD Green Cities initiative,” says Mr Trigg. “In terms of others, the door is, of course, open. However, a key criterion for the EBRD is first a city’s population size and, second, a trigger investment. Our main goal is a sustainable investment.”
Thus, how has Poland’s perception and approach towards smart mobility and other green policies changed over the years? Mr Trigg mentions the importance of thinking “pragmatically” when it comes to building confidence in e-mobility, which most commonly is predicated on a gradual progress.
“A very important thing to consider when implementing smart mobility is building confidence in e-mobility, in most cases, gradually and incrementally. We take a pragmatic approach,” he states. “However, it is key to note that investments are primarily client driven and our main role is to assess their potential and ability to offer a successful green transformation of cities.”
As part of EBRD’s client-led green policy dialogue in Poland, EBRD also actively supports policy innovations to ensure that the above investment projects are possible.
Regarding Poland’s current perception, Mr Trigg notes that the country recognises the importance of smart mobility, which can be reflected in many areas of its economy.
I think Poland recognises the value of smart mobility, this is visible from the country’s acceleration of battery manufacturing to utilising the value of recycling in the green transformation.
Furthermore, Mr Trigg touched on the West-East dichotomy commonly referenced in debates on the differences in approach to green policies between the traditional Western States and the post-communist region of Europe. He challenges the necessity of such a distinction in future discussions.
“More broadly,” he says, “I do not believe the West-East dichotomy is necessary. We have to remember that countries which accelerated their green transformations before Poland and the CEE region, also had their share of shortcomings before becoming success stories. Poland’s green ambitions should in no way be hindered from this perspective.”
Notwithstanding, Poland naturally demonstrates differences in comparison to other countries – albeit this may offer more opportunities than challenges in the future. Mr Trigg highlights Poland’s geo-strategic position which represents a great incentive for electric mobility.
From a long-term perspective, Poland’s scale, educated population and location make it particularly strategic. This strategic alignment may, for example, see new logistical routes, which naturally present new opportunities for smart mobility. Looking at Poland’s current market, I can see a real appetite for building retrofits. Naturally, this presents opportunities for an acceleration of EV charging points.
Mr Trigg concludes by underlining that the above developments, both in the short and long term, position Poland towards becoming a success story of the green revolution, saying that “Poland is thus well placed for green value chains.”
Separate from the EBRD’s Green Cities programme, the EBRD approved a long-term 250-million-euro loan for the construction of a new electric vehicle (EV) battery gigafactory in Wrocław, Poland in 2019. In total, the EBRD has or is in the process, of allocating around 500 million euros in the Polish EV sector.