Since many countries in East and Southeast Europe have much in common from perspective of climate policies and EU-integration development vector, Heinrich Boell Foundation Offices in Belgrade and Kiev organized a panel discussion entitled “EU enlargement: increasing the climate ambition?” on November 16, 2016 in Marrakech, during the Conference of Parties to UNFCCC UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22).
The overall idea of the meeting was to discuss existing obstacles and opportunities in raising climate ambition and of wider recognition of need for urgent climate action in countries of the region. So far, many states in Eastern and Southeastern Europe still do not have clear fossil phase-out strategies and have formulated National Determined Contributions (NDC) on greenhouse gas emissions in a way, which allows for a de-facto increase emissions.
Firstly, panelists have discussed, how do we move forward in designing more ambitious national climate policies. , Different options are available: e.g. designing a climate change strategies or adopting special legislation to name just a few.. From this perspective, one of the most important question is “Could and should the EU enlargement be a driving force in this process?” In the opinion of Danijela Bozanic, head of Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Serbia, the EU negotiation process still is a major driver, On the other hand, apart from the technical policy level, on the political level, there is often a lack of understanding that EU requirements are not only requirements we need to meet in order to become a member, but they rather because climate change policies are good for our countries..In that regard, it is important to introduce measurement, reporting and verification systems (MRV) not just in order to become part of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), but in order to understand what are the possibilities for reducing emissions in n different sectors.
Long term climate change strategies are also necessary to identify targets and gaps, and many countries have already achieved good results, but here the problem of subjectivity exists: if the process is led by a decision of one progressive person, there is no inheritance and sustainability in the realization of such a strategy. The example of Barack Obama and Donald Trump illustrates this perfectly. The answer to this is a nationally owned climate change policy which means – a bottom up driven vision backed by political will. Civil society engagement is crucial for this. Hence, NDCs should become part of a system that includes a climate change strategy, appropriate legislation and political will and not be a stand-alone proclamation..
Paradigm shift is necessary to achieve such a result. Iryna Stavchuk from Climate Action Network for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (CAN EECCA) thinks that people already understand climate change and its consequences, but the issue is not enough public debated around it. For example, ministers of environment talk about climate change, its importance and need for more ambitious in targets only at COPs, but do not raise this issue in their own respective countries, which is why the citizens do not take the issue seriously.
Paradigm shift is already happening in some areas, like tremendous development of renewables due to their competitiveness. Nowadays the idea of 100% renewables is no longer perceived as impossible, but as a matter of time only. Successful examples help people to accept the necessity of phasing out coal and fossils, and we need more of such success stories.
Boost of renewables is a good case for reconsidering the necessity of the above mentioned paradigm shift from costs and benefits angle. There is no better argument for 100% renewables then to calculate all hidden costs (e.g. nuclear waste utilization) and externalities (like health and environment costs of coal industry) for traditional energy. Unfortunately, in countries of the region there is still much to do in this direction, because cost analysis for different energy sources often lacks transparency and clear methodologies. Additional benefits such as new green jobs, , or infrastructure development, no, energy justice and decentralization should also be counted. Only after such an analysis ambitious climate targets will not be perceived as limit of economic development for countries. This should all be clearly addressed in NDCs of respective countries.
When NDCs were developed in 2015 for many countries in the region such approach was not adopted by experts, thus, countries were frightened to be more ambitious. Those NDCs were developed in many countries with the international financing and assistance, but the level of expertise provided was not sufficient and more importantly there was no sense of public ownership for these new goals. .
Factors as such as scarcity of fossil fuels, clean energy trends, health and/or economic reasons serve as a good precondition, but we then need to apply real stimulus for green industries - claims Andriy Konechenkov, vice-president of the World Wind Energy Association. These could be green tariffs for renewables, fiscal mechanisms as tax vacations or even development of real, fair and transparent market mechanisms. Then investments will flow in to the sector, banks and financial institutions will afford risks to support such developments. this money are already in the energy business, but we need to redirect it differently.
Another important issue raised by participants was the need of broad social coalitions which include business, civil society and government to ensure the sustainability of climate mitigation and adaptation processes. Moreover, such multilateral partnership is necessary not only at the launch stage of a project, but also during the strategy development phase as well as its , implementation. Inviting business and social groups to join the efforts of governments bring added value and new quality to the process. Here the capacities of civil society and all parties involved becomes of great importance.
Looking for new entry points for raising awareness and advocate the increase of climate ambitions, participants discussed health issues and adaptation measures, but concluded that these messages are not as effective as using the arguments of costs and benefits, energy security and energy independence. As for adaptation, even though many good adaptation projects are being implemented , not all of them framed as namely adaptation, because it is necessary to speak with understandable language. Adaptation benefits are also harder to argue, because it is perceived as much easier to achieve than mitigation, because in mitigation big polluters are involved, whereas in fact it is more complicated and complex to measure and evaluate. Adaptation should be included in NDCs, but so far it is not legally binding and adaptation measures are very different and dependent on local context .
In the end the panelists have summarized their proposals and concluded that these are the following starting points for increasing understanding of the problem and climate ambition in the region:
- Framing climate action as beneficial for the states, not as a EU demand.
- Education and awareness raising for citizens and decision makers in long term.
- Comprehensive cost and benefit analysis (including hidden costs and externalities) for each energy source in order to redirect investment and communicate true costs of climate unfriendly energy sources.
- Raising public attention to climate change through public hearings, media and work of civil society organizations.
- Review of international technical assistance according to level of expertise provided and corresponding national and international climate goals. .
- open and transparent energy market with clear costs defined for 1kw/h of each energy source.
- Institutionalizing and structuring climate and energy policy harmonization, as in the EU, where from 2018 onwards climate and energy targets and strategies will be combined.
- Being patient and not giving up.
Oksana Aliieva, hbs Kyiv
Damjan Bogunovic, hbs Belgrade