Poland encourages people to collect firewood in forests amid soaring energy costs

The Polish government and state forestry agency have taken steps to make it easier for people to collect firewood, in an effort to ease the pressure created by soaring energy bills and shortages of coal.

“It is always possible, with the consent of foresters, to collect branches for fuel,” reminded deputy climate and energy minister Edward Siarka last week.

He noted that this year, amid “the war in Ukraine and turmoil on the energy market”, enquiries to local forestry units about obtaining permission to collect firewood have increased. “[Our] priority has been to ensure that local communities have precedence in the self-sourcing of wood,” Siarka added.

As such, State Forests (Lasy Państwowe), a state agency, has, at the request of the environment ministry, introduced new guidelines on the sale and gathering of firewood.

Previously such firewood – which is not specifically harvested by State Forests but is a byproduct of other activities – was available equally to businesses, institutions and individual consumers. Now, under the new rules, individuals are to be given priority. State Forests has also increased the amount of wood available.

Speaking to Polsat, State Forests spokesman Michał Gzowski reminded those wishing to gather such wood that they must first obtain permission from the local forestry unit – “even a phonecall is enough” – and that they can only take wood that is “already lying [on the ground]”. They cannot cut down trees.

Petrol and diesel prices in Poland have risen most in EU since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Previously, in mid-May, the development minister, Waldemar Buda, announced that the government was seeking ways to increase the availability of wood after imports from Russia and Belarus stopped completely and those from Ukraine fell around 75%, reported Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

Meanwhile, there has been a similar situation for coal, which many Poles use for home heating. Although Poland produces a lot of coal itself, previously it imported large quantities from Russia as well, especially for heating. But the government banned Russian coal imports in April.

Polish state coal firms have tried to make up the shortfall, including by making it easier for individual consumers to buy directly from mines, including through a new online ordering system. However, stocks are quickly selling out and prices are skyrocketing, reports the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

Yesterday, the environment minister, Anna Moskwa, announced that eight ships carrying over 700,000 tonnes of coal are on their way to Poland, which is importing supplies from Colombia, the US, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia to make up for the shortfall from Russia.

Main image credit:  Andreas Pajuvirta/Unsplash


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