The COVID-19 Pandemic Vs. the Economic Political Dimensions of the Problem of Air Pollution in Poland
Purpose: The aim of the article is (1) to investigate whether the short-term reductions of air pollution related to the COVID-19 lockdowns resulted in a significant improvement in air quality in Poland throughout 2020, and thus positively influenced the level of Poland’s compliance with the EU’s air quality directives, and (2) to analyze the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on air quality policy (AQ policy) in Poland. Design/Methodology/Approach: The air quality analysis is based on the 24-hour average concentration of particulate matter (PM10), i.e., the primary atmospheric pollutant in Poland, about the EU’s air quality standards. Data on surface concentrations of PM10 were retrieved from air quality monitoring stations of the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection. As regards the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on AQ policy in Poland, the analysis is conducted on a theoretical level, concerning: (1) the two-stage model of AQ policy development (Monks and Williams, 2020), (2) the theory of classification in policy-making (Rhinard, 2019), and (3) the research on the success and failure in public policies, tied to the theories of crisis management (McConnell, 2011). Findings: Research results show that the COVID-19 lockdowns positively impacted Poland's air quality in 2020, and it considerably improved the level of Poland’s compliance with the EU’s air quality standards. However, the unexpected (i.e., not exclusively related to air quality reforms) reduction of air pollution decreased the pressure to implement policy measures that could lead to a long-term air quality improvement. Practical Implications: Understanding how air pollution is affected by the restrictions on people's mobility and economic activity provides essential information for AQ policy development. Additionally, the article helps raise public awareness of poor air quality in Poland, which is also of great importance for AQ policy development. Originality/Value: This is the first study to investigate whether the short-term reductions of air pollution during the COVID-19 lockdowns helped Poland comply with the EU’s air quality directives.