The Clair City project brings people together - the mutual learning workshop of residents and decision makers as the key to better cities

The workshop took place in January, when the air pollution over Polish cities often exceeds allowed norms.

February 23, 2018 | By Barbara Grzebulska

The improvement of the network of cycling paths and rental of city bikes is one of the most frequently mentioned needs of residents. (CC0)

Why Sosnowiec?

Sosnowiec is one of the six cities of the Clair City project. It is part of the Silesian Agglomeration, which has polluted air in the winter months. Since 2017, the Śląskie Voivodeship has a new law: the Anti-Smog Resolution - a document thanks to which changes for the better have been initiated. The quality of life, especially concerning air pollution is a very popular subject now among public administration and NGOs. The Clair City project provides an excellent discussion panel and tools for this purpose.

The January event was divided into two parts - a lectures and workshops. It is worth mentioning that the organizers managed to gather representatives of various environments: public administration, city authorities, health, transport and communication specialists, representatives of housing cooperatives, senior associations as well as non-governmental organizations such as Smog Alarm.

During the first part, the participants listened to specialists who spoke about topics related to the state of the environment and urban infrastructure, their impact on health, the strengths and weaknesses of the city. The Voivodship Inspectorate for Environmental Protection presented alarming monitoring data regarding the air condition in Sosnowiec, which is one of the most polluted places in Poland (even several hundred percent of PM2,5 and PM10 exceeded as well as benzo (a) pyrene).

On the other hand an achievement was presented of the Department of Energy of Sosnowiec. They managed to purchase the street lighting from an energy company in 2017. That will lead to the saving of energy thanks to installation of energy-saving LED bulbs. In addition, there are several investments in public transport (transfer nodes, electric trams, city bike rental, first bus lanes). It is worth stressing that there was no need to convince anyone that bicycles or public transport are more important than the so-called "capacity" of car traffic on city streets.

The workshop part of the event was devoted to the construction of scenarios for the desired development of Sosnowiec: by 2020, by 2030 and by 2050. The discussion was monitored by Municipality of Sosnowiec and REC.


What will 2020 bring

In scenarios by 2020, the ideas were rather cautious, related to the knowledge about current investments in Sosnowiec. Participants expected mainly changes concerning finishing improvement of  public transport and city bike rental, but also electric cars charging stations.

Education of the society was indicated as the key issue. Increasing the awareness of the effects of individual activities is an important factor for higher acceptance of reforms.

However, not all elements of improving the air condition depend on the residents themselves. Workshop participants mentioned the necessity of connecting residential buildings to the central heating system of the city, creating new mechanisms for replacement of heaters and regulations on the prohibition of introducing poor quality fuels.


Bold scenarios for 2030

The horizon of the next twelve years has allowed participants to speak boldly about the desired direction of their city's development. There were statements regarding the restriction of personal car traffic in the city center.

The comprehensive development of the green and blue urban infrastructure system has also emerged as the desired direction of development. This can be related to encouraging people to move to city centers, while currently city centers are getting depopulated due to their inconvenience.


Long-term changes by 2050

The prospect of the next 30 years of Sosnowiec's development allowed the workshop participants to develop their imagination. The complete withdrawal from the energy of fossil fuels and the switch to renewable energy were mentioned as desirable. The new infrastructure would be energy-efficient: passive houses and zero-emission projects.

What is very interesting,  the group agreed that by 2050 a revolution of approach to life is needed that would discourage the consumption of society and increase the sense of responsibility of the individual. The need to strengthen social ties seems to be a very important element for the success of changes.


The main obstacles and how to overcome them

The participants tried simultaneously, with the indication of the barrier, to give ideas for solving it. As a result, many new ideas appeared that seem to be feasible. Barriers hindering the implementation of the scenarios indicated by the participants of the workshops can be divided into three groups: legal, financial and related to the awareness of residents. The current legal system regarding renewable energy requires stabilization and makes it difficult to make long-term decisions to invest in new technologies. Although the participants came from different environments, they presented surprisingly convergent views on the needs of residents. Absolutely for everyone, health is a priority. Participants agreed that for the successful development health should be a priority at all legislative levels.