The Western Balkans region has committed to decarbonise by 2050. In order to reach this goal each state in the region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) must set ambitious targets and timely action plans to achieve by 2030. This is the first stepping stone towards achieving climate-neutrality of the European continent.
The region is part of Europe and while it strives for integration to the EU, the shift in the policymaking is critically lagging behind. The regulatory framework in some states advanced in the past years with the adoption of renewable energy legislation and other strategic documents. Nonetheless, despite some progress in the development and adoption of integrated energy and climate policies, there is an overall lack of coordinated and interdisciplinary approach to ensuring that these policies are comprehensive and purported with specific, timely and realistic action plans that will guarantee their implementation across sectors.
The region continues to rely on coal as the primary source for power production. The energy sector in the Western Balkans is the leading sector for emitting greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for around 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the region (up to 80%, if we exclude Albania which has no coal in its energy mix). Apart from the climate related impacts, this sector causes significant environmental and health hazards.
Deathly pollutants emitted from 18 thermal power plants across the region pollute twice as much as the entire EU coal fleet, causing nearly 19,000 related deaths from 2018 to 2020. Due to the transboundary nature of air pollution more than half of deaths were in EU countries, almost 30% in the Western Balkans and the remainder in countries further afield. The cost of this catastrophic air pollution is shouldered by the taxpayer in EU and Western Balkan states – both via direct state subsidies to keep the coal machinery running, as well as via state and private health costs – amounting to between EUR 25.3 billion and 51.8 billion, recent data shows.
Continuing to feed these outdated pollutants will result in additional financial burden for the citizens and the economies of the region, as explained in our blog ‘Busting the myth: the chronology of coal use in Serbia’.
While we note some positive movements in the region towards planning a future beyond coal, there are still current plans to build another 5.9 GW of new coal power capacity. For latest updates see the Global Energy Monitor Coal Plant Tracker interactive map.
CAN Europe continues to advocate towards streamlining relevant policies in accordance with the EU legislation, relying on the Energy Community Treaty as the legal backbone towards climate neutrality, in line with the Paris Agreement goals.
We continue to rely on the EU’s commitment to be the leader in curbing climate change and greening the European continent, including the Western Balkans and beyond. The communication on the European Green Deal testifies to this end, which is echoed in the region via the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, a regional policy framework towards decarbonisation.
CAN Europe works for a European energy transition that puts energy efficiency first while switching to a fully renewable energy system. The WB region has a huge untapped potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency development. However implementation is a common flaw of regional policy making, which needs to improve significantly with more efficient use and support from the available funding.
Just transition is an integral part of the energy transition towards a wider societal transformation. Transparency and participation of all interested and affected stakeholders are the means to create successful locally tailored solutions that will leave no one behind. Our research from Serbia, about perceptions and understanding of the coal impacted communities across the region about what just transition effectively means, indicates the need to communicate better and more widely with all stakeholders. #EnergySuperheroes social media campaign was developed to start information sharing on the local level, and to build understanding of the impacted communities what this transition means and how they can be an active part of it.
Updated September 2022
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OP-ED By Mirjana Jovanović (Belgrade Open School), Mirko Popović (Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute) and Viktor Berishaj (CAN Europe) Busting the myth: the chronology of coal use in Serbia 28