Will we go from words to deeds?

         While the governments of the Balkan countries (again) calculate the losses from the consequences of climate change (losses in agricultural yields, floods and droughts), another so-called COP23 in a series of international climate negotiation sended. What exactly is agreed and how will climate change affect the political climate in our region?

         The 23rd Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) ended on 24th November in Bonn. This is the second annual conference since the adoption of the Treaty of Paris in late 2015, which is a political framework for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
         As usual, the devil is also in the details: as is often the case in international processes where different geopolitical, public and corporate interests intertwine, the manner of implementing the Paris Agreement is not precisely defined. It was agreed in what direction to go (to zero GHG emission), but it was not agreed how to get there. This year's negotiations were supposed to answer exactly this question: how? Therefore, the negotiations had a pronounced technical character.

So is there hope for climate?

         It was discussed how to measure and compare emission reduction measures in different countries, how to compensate for the consequences of climate change in the most vulnerable countries and how to provide adequate financial support for them. The good news is that technical negotiations on the implementation of the Paris Agreement were successful. However, nothing is done, and the finalization of the negotiations is expected to be next year at the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland.
         Unsurprisingly, most disputes are about money: that is, about the financial support that developed countries (conditionally polluters) should give to developing countries (especially those who have not contributed to climate change, and suffer disastrous consequences). This year, developing countries particularly insisted that developed countries commit themselves to long-term planning of their support in order for developing countries to be able to plan and work in a more positive environment. Unfortunately, all these efforts will be in vain if countries do not increase their greenhouse gas reduction targets and, more importantly, if they do not begin to apply measures to reduce them.
         Otherwise, expect a 3 degrees Celsius warmer planet. Earth's temperature is already 1°C hotter than the period before the industrial revolution, and we are already witnessing storms, floods and droughts that are more frequent and more intense. If you think about the urgency of the situation, just multiply your previous experience with 3, so you better understand the urgency of moving from words to deeds. The Western Balkans region is already suffering from damage exceeding billions of euros.
         That is why one of the biggest successes of this year's Bonn conference is the open-door agreement, in which all countries will participate in the assessment of their own climate goals. The fact that this will be a process of one year brings hope for greater ambition and faster reduction of harmful emissions.

Trump against the rest of the world (and some states in America)

         Again, great attention was paid to US President Trump, who announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. On the second day of this year's conference, Syria announced its participation in the Paris Agreement, and thus the United States became the only state that did not participate in the Paris Agreement.    
         However, many US states and companies have organized numerous events in Bonn to send a clear message that, despite Trump, America does not give up on fighting climate change, renewable energy and other clean technologies, such as electric cars, batteries for storage of greenhouse gases and the like.
         Among the political leaders is China, which at home is working hard on reducing pollution and investing in renewable energy, but in the Balkans funds the exploitation of the worst of all fossil fuels - coal. This is not good, nor needed by anyone, given the potential of renewable energy in our region on the one hand, and the Chinese achievements and technologies for their exploitation on the other.
         Canada and the United Kingdom at the end of the conference announced they would join the alliance of countries that leave coal for electricity generation. At the moment of writing this text, more than 20 countries have joined this Alliance. The aim is to have at least 50 members by the next year and to join some of the countries that still significantly depend on coal.

Balkan countries: Bonn’s "Idols", home’s "New Fossils"[1]

         Balkan countries at these conferences usually work closely with the European Union. For us, conferences of this type are more important from the aspect of exchange of experiences, learning and negotiating for technical and financial support. The conference also includes a segment of meetings at a higher level. Representatives of the Governments of the region had two regional meetings on the sidelines of meetings in Bonn, which had already been known: many stories and beautiful promises. Unfortunately, the situation at home is very different.
         Just two days after the end of the conference, a cornerstone was laid in Serbia for the start of construction of a new coal-fired power plant. In Montenegro, the government also plans to build a new thermal power plant and almost gave up the ratification of the Paris Agreement. In order to complement the composition of the "New Fossils", the Government in Macedonia also plans to build a new thermal block, and they believe it or not, using imported coal.

In Macedonia we are still playing "Hide ‘n'seek"

         The Energy Strategy has been kept behind closed doors for years and amendments to the Law for Energy and the Law for Energy Efficiency are being worked on. Although officially asked by environmental associations to be involved in the preparation of both the strategy and the laws, the authorities remain deaf. What is planned for Macedonia is not known, but what is known is that "fossils" are still relevant and current in the country. The feasibility study of ELEM for "modernization" of the Oslomej Thermal Power Plant is publicly available, with the plan of extending the service life for 30 years and for that purpose it is recommended to use imported coal!

Nobody knows who drinks and who pays (local proverb)

         How much the state is committed to climate change is shown by the fact that our delegations attending international conferences are mostly funded by foreign donors, not from the state itself. And although citizens are paying "environmental fees" on various grounds, environmental associations have been searching for an "Environmental Fund" for years, yet we remain to breathe the most polluted air in Europe, while competent institutions in closed circlesdraft laws and strategies and gamble with people’s health.
         It also shows the capacities of the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning to work in the field of climate change, but also to influence the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, so maybe it is too much to expect it to influence the Energy Strategy? At the end of the day, the strategy is not under the authority of the Ministry of Environment, but the Ministry of Economy.

Mission Impossible!?

         The ratification of the Paris Agreement in the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia, with all the votes FOR, is another proof of the power of "climate change", to accomplish the unfulfilled, "healthy and prosperous state", or VMRO and SDSM (the two biggest opposing parties) to agree on one thing. However, hope dies last, so we expect that our "Ministry" will encourage the already delayed Climate Action Act, which will unite all other strategies and guide the development of the country. This sounds very nice, and so it can be, only if we lift our eyes up to the sun and do not look down to the ground!

A fair transition to Europe without carbon is needed!

         No one disputes the complexity of the change from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The word "Transition" in the dictionary of this region is seen as a synonym of negative experiences and appears as a diagnosis of the chronic state of post-communist, post-Yugoslav, post-conflict societies in our region. The fact that the transition is not easy and that time is needed in our region is another reason why we need to open our ears and eyes even more.
         However, another so-called "fair transition" promises more understanding, international solidarity, opportunities for new employments and green economic growth. Macedonia is the only one that in its efforts calculates that measures in energy efficiency and low-carbon energy supply will open 6,000 or 50,000 jobs, in the optimistic scenario by 2030. Europe discusses the support and resources that it will invest in local communities for such a change to be implemented successfully for all parties, we should just use the funds available to us.
         The transition process to "Europe without Coal" is also the name of the campaign that is being implemented with our counterparts across the continent. Europe, however, will not achieve this if the "New Fossils" are popular in the southeast, instead of "Idols", and by 2030 it will not become a region of "No Smoking"[2]!


[1] Famous Balkan-renowned Yugoslavian rock bands – “Idols”is Belgrade’s, while “New Fossils” are Zagreb-based

[2] Another renowned band in the region that everyone knows, from Sarajevo - Bosnia


Wednesday, December 06 2017