Kraków is a city with a history spanning a thousand years. A walk through the medieval centre, with its Baroque churches, Renaissance castle and cobbled roads, is enough to make you believe that the city has resisted the passage of time. But for a long time, air pollution cast a dusty shadow over Kraków’s beauty, damaging the quality of life of its residents.
To change that, Kraków is working on an urban plan to transform into a climate-neutral and smart metropolis.
“We want to be perceived as a city of innovation, a scientific and research and development centre, a leader in sustainable urban development and climate action” says Andrzej Łazęcki, director of Kraków’s department of municipal management and climate.
It’s also a city with unexpected infrastructure pressure, because Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought approximately 270 000 refugees to Kraków. These arrivals created a bigger demand for public infrastructure and services, such as education, healthcare, and housing.
Despite the war in a country less than 300 km away, Kraków didn’t give up its ambitious climate goals. Instead, it wants to hit two targets at once—make the city greener and upgrade and renovate Kraków’s urban infrastructure to accommodate the needs of its citizens and the Ukrainian arrivals.
“We can learn a lot from Kraków’s approach to dealing with climate change and the current humanitarian crisis,” says Leonor Berriochoa, a senior engineer at the European Investment Bank, who worked on a €130 million (585 million zloty) loan to the city signed in 2023. “It could inspire many other cities to follow.”
Why is green urban development important?
For cities to prosper and grow, urban development is necessary. Modernising public infrastructure improves the quality of life for residents and boosts local economies. Well-planned urban development encourages innovation and fosters social cohesion and environmental sustainability, making cities more vibrant, inclusive, and resilient.
It can also help cities to adapt and deal with a humanitarian crisis.