Regional leaders need to put their political pledges into action and commit to a robust Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. The destructive effects of climate change, coupled with all present toxic air pollution, have been felt across the region with people bearing the cost of ineffective and slow government actions. The message is clear – all governments must set fixed and ambitious time frames to phase out the use of coal. Strong national policies, with action plans, are the backbone of ensuring a just energy transition while curbing climate change and its impacts.
Belgrade, Podgorica, Priština, Sarajevo, Skopje, 13 November 2021 – Last week more than 40 countries across the world committed to phase out the use of coal as part of the crucial COP26 negotiations. From the Western Balkan 6 only North Macedonia is on this list, despite multiple political commitments made by all regional leaders to curb emissions. What is urgently needed is clear political ambition and action to reach the long term decarbonization commitment by 2050. Environmental organisations from across the region call for all countries to set ambitious coal phase out targets by 2030, which includes creating bold National Energy and Climate Plans as a matter of urgency.
For the Western Balkan countries as developing nations, phasing out coal in the near future could not be more important. Nevertheless, six years after the Paris Agreement the plans to lower greenhouse gases (Nationally Determined Contributions) are either weak or still in the making. In addition, the process for adopting these is neither inclusive nor transparent, lacking many social and environmental aspects, and making their future implementation problematic.
Extreme weather events are impacting people’s lives in the region. Recent torrential rains caused devastating floods in the Sarajevo region, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, leaving entire neighbourhoods paralized and without electricity for hours.
Centre for Environment from Bosnia and Herzegovina:
“The current situation in Bosnia is very symbolic – with torrential floods happening at the time of the biggest climate conference in Glasgow. It just shows that our country, even though small, is also heavily hit by the climate crisis – which our politicians often like to overlook. We hear empty phrases without true commitments for reduction and prevention of the main cause of this environmental crisis – the coal industry. We demand that they urgently put a decarbonisation scenario on their political agendas, stop planning new coal projects and commit to a coal phase-out date.”
While there are different levels of action applied across the Western Balkans, even the most forward looking nations need to up their efforts. Although North Macedonia has been called a regional leader for setting one of the most ambitious climate and energy targets it lacks a clear plan on how to achieve them. On the other side of the spectrum, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are still planning to open new coal power stations, Kostolac, Kolubara B, Ugljevik 3 and Tuzla 37 respectively. Meanwhile Kosovo, despite not yet being part of the UN, is a member of the Energy Community Treaty, and is therefore obliged to show deep commitment to the coal phase out goals.
Green Home and Eco-team from Montenegro:
“Montenegro’s official announcement to cease further dependence on fossil fuels after 2035 is a welcome step, although we urge for more ambition. It is now imperative that the government adopts a clear roadmap to ensure the energy transition is just and that nobody is left behind. Decarbonisation and reorganization of the energy sector is already happening, so we need concrete actions, such as promptly putting into place the National and Energy Climate Plan (NECP) and the National Adaptation Plan (NAP)”.
Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute and Belgrade Open School from Serbia:
“Serbia is the last one of the WB countries to start developing the NECP, and without adequate public participation. Energy transition has been initiated without open and transparent public dialogue, goals and ambitions are not clear and societal and economic implications are not presented to the citizens. The entire process of energy and climate policy development is sending mixed messages, with development of NECP and Energy Development Strategy on one side, and keeping the door open for new 3GW of thermal power plants in Draft Spatial Plan, on the other side. Mixed messages are being sent from the authority figures as well, regarding the energy transition but one message rings louder than others – president Vučić announced to the world at Glasgow that Serbia cannot make any promises when it comes to coal phase-out dates. This does not leave us optimistic when thinking about a green future for our country.”
Our joint message:
“After weeks of COP26 negotiations one issue has reached a consensus – scientific evidence is clear and the world needs to limit global temperature rise by 1.5C in order to slow down climate change, primarily by cutting down on the use of fossil fuels. So far, regional efforts have been weak and are lagging behind in every respect. Our countries cannot afford this delay as the burden will be even heavier in health and damages costs caused by destructive impacts of climate change. More so, the COVID-19 crisis or any internal political situation cannot be used as an excuse to delay setting tangible goals and clear action plans to phase out coal in this decade, while ensuring a just transition. We are calling on all regional governments to honour their political pledges, to show responsibility and true commitment as leaders of their individual nations, and set the region on the path of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans”.
Centre for Environment, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Eko-svest, North Macedonia
Maša Perović, Communications coordinator, email@example.com, +381 63 8411566