Helping Polish ex-coal mining city of Wałbrzych revitalise its economy
The Polish city of Wałbrzych, a former coal mining centre, is kick-starting its urban regeneration by joining the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s flagship urban sustainability programme EBRD Green Cities.
A first PLN 134.7 million (€30 million equivalent) loan provided by the EBRD will finance a new bypass road and retrofit municipal buildings. Both projects are part of a comprehensive urban regeneration programme that the city is undertaking as it moves away from its coal mining past and invests in revitalising its economy.
Wałbrzych in Lower Silesia is the second Polish city after the capital Warsaw to join EBRD Green Cities and has become its 45th member overall, formalised with the signing today of a Memordandum of Understanding and a Waiver Letter by Mayor Roman Szełemej and Treasurer Ewa Kłusek for Wałbrzych, as well as the EBRD’s Director, Regional Head of Central Europe, Grzegorz Zieliński.
On joining the sustainability programme, cities undertake a trigger project with EBRD finance – in Wałbrzych’s case, the thermo-modernisation of municipal buildings – and also draft a Green Cities Action Plan (GCAP 2.1), setting out further actions to improve the local environment.
Wałbrzych will now embark on developing a tailor-made GCAP, acknowledging its legacy tied to fossil fuels by incorporating plans for a just transition to a low carbon future that includes everyone. It will also aim to incorporate participatory land use planning. Technical cooperation support for the development of the GCAP is expected to be provided by the TaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the government of Poland.
Wałbrzych, the second largest city in Lower Silesia with around 112,000 inhabitants, has been identified as an area eligible to receive financing under the EU’s Just Transition Mechanism. This will provide financial support to areas where people are affected by the transition from high-carbon industries.
The EBRD financing for Wałbrzych is divided into three parts.
· A first PLN 54.2 million (€12.1 million) will finance the construction of around 6 km of bypass road. This is a critical part of the city’s transport hub, and of efforts to reintegrate underdeveloped areas and improve interconnectivity with the region.
· A further PLN 22.5 million (€5 million) is already committed to finance the thermo-modernisation and related retrofitting of municipally-owned residential buildings.
· A third tranche of PLN 58 million (€12.9 million) will be committed alongside a parallel lender financing the same pool of thermo-modernisation investments.
The comprehensive refurbishment of municipal buildings will deliver energy savings of around 75 per cent, reducing residents’ energy bills and cutting CO2 emissions by almost 80 per cent.
Wałbrzych’s thermo-modernisation project is the city’s and EBRD’s contribution to an EU initiative to accelerate the decarbonisation of buildings, known as the renovation wave. Buildings in the EU cause around 40 per cent of the union’s total CO2 emissions but only 1 per cent undergo energy efficient renovation every year. The renovation rate must rise threefold to meet Europe’s goal for climate-neutrality by 2050 and the residential sector is the key.
To date, the EBRD has invested nearly €11 billion on 453 projects in Poland, with a focus on promoting the low carbon economy and the private sector.
Globally, cities account for three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions and represent a prime opportunity to tackle climate change. The €2-billion-plus EBRD Green Cities programme, set up in 2016, helps each member city tailor solutions to its environmental needs with a unique combination of measures designed to move towards a lower-carbon and more liveable future.