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Notes on the workshops including notes from participants

03.02.2023 - Artikel

Workshop 1

Topic: „ Abundance of information vs low public interest in sustainability. Where is the missing link?“

  • Better communication and cooperation between stakeholders (companies, science, authorities, civil society) is necessary
    • Business is in many cases far ahead of others with green transformation and might be even a good motivation & inspiration
    • The problem from the companies' point of view: Efforts and research are not perceived as genuine even if they make big advancements, because the public suspects vested interests
    • Science has the facts & figures, but is missing the communication platform & channels to put their messages across. Often science does not feel responsible to communicate its findings – which is a pity in the age of information where everybody (business, politics, celebrities etc.) wants to send their message to the public
    • Compared to big companies, society (such as the young activists participating in the group) often does not know the whole tool box of lobbying and influencing the politics and policy makers
    • Idea for future cooperation: regular rounds of talks between interested students and Bayer Polska on the topic of sustainability, so that students are able to raise their concerns and Bayer Polska is able to include those in their approach to sustainability
  • Regulation: hold decision-makers accountable
  • Benefits for action: make change attractive for the population, e.g. by reinvesting additional taxes/levies, so that citizens can benefit from these investments

Workshop 2

Topics: „ Understanding sustainability“ (morning) - „Sustainability and education“ (afternoon)

  • Context:
    • No single definition of sustainability
    • Sustainability does not offer a clear solution, but is a complex and broad concept
    • No stringent communication of the concept between the different levels
  • Challenges:
    • Sustainability is perceived as a hurdle rather than an opportunity.
    • There is a lack of systemic and interdisciplinary approaches and cooperation
    • In Poland: low trust in institutions (esp. in municipalities with strong coal economy)
  • Proposed solutions:
    • Include more grassroots movements and democratic elements, such as involvement of the public in decision-making processes
    • Coherence of words and actions, also coherence of society and government (because currently there is the feeling that the government does nothing about the concerns of the population regarding climate change)
    • Interdisciplinary education with the aim of solving problems (SDG No 4).
      Good practices: Excursions, hands-on activities, discussion platforms, art.
    • Communication on sustainability with focus on benefits and positives, narrative crucial for mobilisation

Notes from dr Aleksandra Kardaś (expert speaker)

1. Understanding sustainability

Sustainability is a broad issue, encompassing a set of ideas and not pointing to one single solution, which makes it difficult to communicate. The concept of sustainability is derived from an understanding that the resources of our planet are limited and humanity must think about the way it uses them, so that human civilisation and its activities may be sustained. However apart from purely technical considerations, the term sustainability is also connected to economical and social issues, as economical and social processes often play role in how we use the resources. Understanding of this term is made even more difficult by the fact that its translations into different languages are often not literal and emphasize different aspects of the idea.

The barriers preventing from the implementation of sustainable practices mentioned in the discussion were e.g. the common tendency to treat environmental protection as an obstacle for development. The lack of a systemic approach and interdisciplinary thinking (separation and lack of communication between the managers of systems such as water, power, food supply, waste management etc., scientific community, engineers, policymakers etc.) as well as low trust in institutions.

As ways to overcome these barriers, participants proposed grassroot democracy as well as emphasis on inclusivity in decision making on all levels, consistency of words and actions (especially in case of government policies), interdisciplinary education concentrating on problem solving and also using the language of benefits.

2. Educating on sustainability

Polish formal education is traditionally rivalry oriented and conforming to strict divisions between disciplines. Since sustainability is an interdisciplinary issue and requires cooperation, teaching about sustainability may actually help us in forwarding one of the sustainable development goals, which is quality educations. The participants feel, that rather than introducing a new subject at schools, sustainability concepts and examples should be introduced during school trips, hands-on activities, study visits and at university level - as group projects aimed at solving specific problems. Education in sustainability should include discussions and learning from each other on all levels of formal and informal education. The discussants noted the important educational role of regulations and subsidies, which should be consistent with promoting sustainable practices. Also art may be used to make people aware of environmental problems threatening human existence and promoting sustainable solutions. In all activities, one should always think about the narrative, which should be motivating and inspiring rather than discouraging from action.

Workshop 3

Topic: „ Security of power grids“

  • 2 key points to improve energy security: System efficiency & renewables
  • Efficiency of the system:
    • Good management of the power grid as a prerequisite for e-mobility and to reduce energy losses
    • Energy grid should be a mix of centralised (e.g. for hydrogen) and decentralised (e.g. for photovoltaics and biogas) elements: local solutions as places of innovation, decentralisation for more resilience, centralisation for more efficient control and distribution
  • Renewable energies: (green) hydrogen as a solution for industries that cannot switch to electricity
  • In general it is important not to outsource the polluting industries to non-European countries and to have a diverse energy system

Workshop 4

Topic: „How science relates to sustainable energy transition“

  • Deployability of (new) technologies (renewables + nuclear + grid).
  • Reduce the complexity of the energy system to reduce costs
  • Construction and maintenance of infrastructure, support for operators
  • Educating and raising awareness, e.g. through the concept of carbon footprints
  • Funds already approved (e.g. EU Horizon) can be used for energy transition
  • Flexibility and adaptation of laws to the current situation and needs (e.g. regarding PV systems, hydrogen)
  • Emission neutrality must be achieved within 10 years, as the atmosphere cannot absorb more emissions à Focus on areas where the greatest savings can be achieved most quickly: Industry, transport, housing

Workshop 5

Topic: „Perspectives of carbon sequestration in forest ecosystems in time of energy transition“

  • Forests cannot compensate for all emissions - in any case, a reduction of emissions is necessary.
  • In POL, forests absorb 1/3 of emissions; approx. 32% of Poland's surface is forested
  • Problem: the open ground after deforestation and before afforestation emits a lot of CO2, but natural afforestation is very costly/not economical
  • Statistical problem in Poland: some forest areas are not legally recognised as such, because this would lead to obstacles in the use of the land (not in the interest of the owners)
    à Proposed solution: small financial payments per ha of forest area as an incentive to register all forests
  • In Poland: nepotism, politicisation and corruption in the state forestry organisations prevent the implementation of new approaches
  • EU Biodiversity Strategy: 10% of a country's forests should be protected by law by 2030 - in POL it is currently 2% à in order to protect older forests in particular (biodiversity), proposal for a new strategy: rather cut down middle-aged (50-60 years) instead of old (80-120 years) trees for the timber industry (also makes sense from a market economy point of view, as old trees do not bring in more money, produce more timber waste and are also less in demand now)
  • Foreign tree species (which may be more resilient to climate change) may only be planted in private forest areas in POL, not in state forest areas

Workshop 6

Topic: „ A 2035 map of transport sector changes – the technological revolution which will reduce emissions“

  • Aviation:
    • Proposition: Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in the short term, electricity in the medium term, hydrogen in the long term.
    • Tax paraffin in the EU (still one of the few regions where paraffin is tax-free) to make flying less attractive
    • Influence the development of airlines, in which the state holds shares, towards sustainable innovations
  • Public transport and urban mobility:
    • Positive: Warsaw has the third largest fleet of e-buses in Europe
    • Need to improve the connection of rural areas to the rail network
    • Expand the public transport network, establish more car-sharing services and more low-emission zones in cities
  • Heavy transport:
    • Particularly relevant in POL: 20% of trucks in the EU come from Poland
    • heavy transport in distances of less than 500km is suitable for e-mobility à makes up 80% of heavy transport in the EU
    • The remaining 20% should be transferred to rail (would also be more economical): the hurdle is currently limited the rail capacity.
    • Expand the public transport network, if necessary separate the rails for passenger and freight traffic
    • For the shorter routes: Investment in e-trucks, construction of appropriate charging stations at junctions.
  • Charging infrastructure:
    • Linking it with existing structures: e.g. supermarkets, conversion of petrol stations
    • Cities and municipalities should support the construction of charging stations (fast charging stations not absolutely necessary)
    • Regulation for reinvestment of profits of companies in the expansion of the electricity grid (as in other EU countries)
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