Poland has the worst air quality in Europe, according to the head of the country’s central audit office (NIK), Krzysztof Kwiatkowski. He was speaking to journalists on December 7, ahead of the the COP24 climate summit in the southern city of Katowice.

Kwiatkowski warned air pollution was Poland’s greatest civilisation challenge and fighting smog must be the country’s “absolute priority”.

As reported by Radio Poland online, Kwiatkowski said Poland had the highest levels of benzopyrene and particulate matter in the continent.

“The fact that out of 50 most polluted cities in Europe 36 are located in Poland best represents the problem at hand,” he said.

In response, Poland’s environment ministry spokesperson Aleksander Brzózka told PAP that the Polish government is aware of the problem. He said this is why they launched the Clean Air programme in September. The initiative covers subsidies and loans for the thermal insulation of households and the upgrade of heating installations.

Some €24bn is slated to be spent on initiatives aimed to curb air pollution over the next 12 years.