Sustainability and Social Justice

Can Poland's Success in Environmental Policy Reforms Translate Into Technological Innovation for Environment?

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Book Chapter


At the end of the first decade of transition to democracy and market economy, Poland has reversed the pattern of disregard for the environment, and achieved significant improvements in environmental quality, as measured by such indicators as air and water pollution and the pollution-intensity of GDP. These improvements in the environment have been achieved alongside of strong industrial growth and enhanced international competitiveness in many sectors of industry2. The rate of growth of Poland's GDP during the 1990s has been among the highest in Europe (U.S. Department of Commerce 1999). Poland is now on the brink of accession to the European Union. How have these changes been achieved? Can the environmental improvements continue into the future? What is Poland's capacity for major technological changes towards environmental sustainability? I address these questions from two entry points: institutional and cultural drivers of the improvement in environmental protection during the past decade; the status of the national system of innovation in Poland. The analysis draws on two sources: our four-year study of Poland's environmental transition during the 1990s; and recent data on the status of research and development sector and the knowledge base of the country's economy. The study we conducted included five detailed case studies of recently privatized firms, extensive policy and data analysis, interviews with key policy leaders, entrepreneurs and government officials, and a survey of over one hundred privately owned firms (Brown and Angel 2000; Brown et al. 2000). I conclude that the future direction of Poland's environmental performance and technological innovation for sustainability are uncertain. While the institutional resiliency and a strive to compete in the global economy favor further progress, the limited R&D capacity and the low political profile of environmental sustainability are of concern. I identify two approaches that may achieve progress in the near future: strengthening the links between industry and academia as well greater internationalization of Polish universities; and greater reliance on policy instruments that promote investments into innovation and clean technologies. The case of Poland should be of interest to other developing economies. © Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2005.

Publication Title

Towards Environmental Innovation Systems

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