How EU susbisides are wasted on environmentally harmful activities
Poland has consecutively illustrated the lack of coherence with national and EU targets and objectives when programming and financing projects. In 2011, the EU contributed EUR 34 million from the European Regional Development Fund’s (ERDF) environment budget to finance a “clean coal technology” research centre. Clean coal technologies are not only extremely expensive; they do not tackle the problem at its source, and have had, so far, very little positive impact to the environment.
In the Ner Valley, the Polish government was able to spend funding dedicated to the environment to instead deteriorate it even further. Ner Valley is one of the Natura 2000 sites with peatlands and it hosts the Aquatic Warbler, a globally threatened bird. In 2007, EUR 1 million was used by the Regional Management of Reclamation and Water Devices in Poznań to regulate and deepen the Ner river bed and construct a parallel dam along the Warta River. The aim of the project was to limit the flooding of the river on pastures and meadows in the valley and intensify agriculture there. Not only did the project not receive a proper impact assessment, but the project also drained surrounding wetland habitats, destroying the vegetation while also enlarging water flow down the valley. The Aquatic Warbler suffered significantly after draining of the fen mires. Furthermore, due to the change of habitat, farmers became less eligible to receive their social benefits for implementing agri-environmental schemes on valuable nature areas.
How EU funds can be invested into future benefits
Ironically, between 2005 and 2010, EUR 5 million from the EU’s LIFE programme was spent protecting the globally threatened Aquatic Warbler. The project, carried out by OTOP (BirdLife in Poland), promoted active habitat management to maintain and restore open fen mires. The project also introduced the use of hay from wetlands to produce carbon-neutral biofuel. These management activities make this project especially important to tackle climate change in Poland, as these grasslands also act as carbon stores. Moreover, OTOP successfully supported the establishment of a special agri-environmental programme rewarding farmers who manage their grasslands in a friendly way for the Aquatic Warbler. The number of Aquatic Warblers has increased by 20% in 5 years since implementing new management practices. Poland has also set up other beneficial and effective opportunities for the financing the environment. For example, payments for agri-environmental schemes are 20% higher if implemented in Natura 2000 sites. Also, preparation of Natura 2000 Management Plans in Poland has been 80% co-funded through a European Regional Development Fund project (EUR 6.5 million).