Climate change is a global problem and the obligation of each country is to actively participate in the fight against all these changes. Serbia plans to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement by mid-2017 and it will soon pass the Law on Reducing the Greenhouse Gas Emission. The beginning of work on the Strategy on Climate Change was promoted during September 2016 in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. At numerous meetings during 2015 and 2016, you could hear that Serbia would be able to use international funds
for the implementation of its obligations in the fight against climate change, as well as certain EU funds. During June 2016 in the French Embassy in Belgrade, the advisor of permanent UN coordinator in Serbia, Mrs. Borka Jeremić stated that the new framework of the development partnership with Serbia for the period from 2016 to 2020 envisaged the support to Serbian Government in developing the capacities for climate change and managing natural resources.
State Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Mrs. Stana Božović pointed out then, that the value of projects which were supported by the programme was 11 million dollars; out of which 2.2 million would be provided from Global Fund GEF in the following five years, 5 million dollars from the future Fund for the environmental protection of Serbia and the rest from donors.
In the interview with permanent coordinator of the UN Office in Serbia, Mrs. Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, for Energetski portal we found out how to evaluate the activity of Serbia in solving the biggest challenges of mankind.
EP: The ultimate objective of UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) is to stabilize CO2 emission into the atmosphere. Climate change is associated with the biggest polluter and that is the industry. In your opinion, how does the problem of climate change reflect or will it be reflected on the global industry and economy?
Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano: The energy sector, industry and economy in general are the key emitters with the effect of greenhouse gases (GHG) and certainly have a huge potential for reducing of those emissions and thereby mitigating the consequences of climate change. Reaching the national and international goals to reduce GHG emissions will primarily be achieved through investments into renewable energy sources, energy efficiency as well as adequate waste management, including the recycling industry. The switch to energy-efficient and new technologies in the industrial sector with the improvement of efficiency of industrial processes are some of the key measures which are defined in the reports by developing countries and those reports are submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Another important part of the transition to sustainable growth represents an investment in transport sector, both in terms of energy efficient vehicles and in development of transport infrastructure. Given the fact that urban areas are the carriers of economic growth around the world, the current global trend represents the sustainable development planning of urban areas in order to strengthen their resistance to climate change.
Therefore, climate change is perhaps the biggest challenge with which mankind faces, but it also represents a milestone in the development of humanity and the opportunity to make economic growth and development more sustainable.
EP: The conference COP 21 held in Paris last year was evaluated as one of the most successful and as the largest diplomatic event where the settlement was reached. The Agreement will become valid when signed by 55 countries that emit 55 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Is the implementation of this Agreement really possible?
Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano: This Agreement is the result of years of effort of the international community for the adoption of universal multilateral agreement on climate change. After the Kyoto Protocol, which wasn’t adopted by sufficient number of countries, as well as the failure to adopt the Agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, the United Nations and other global and regional partners such as EU have established the broad coalition of developed and developing countries in order to create such an ambitious framework for action.
The Agreement Green Climate Fund Will Be the Biggest Financial Mechanism from Paris sends a clear signal to investors, companies and policy makers about the fact that the transition to sustainable production and consumption is inevitable. What is maybe most important is the fact that developed countries committed to provide help in the fight against climate change more than they did so far. The fact that the Agreement was signed by the USA and China confirms the global commitment to the process.
In order to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the Green Climate Fund was established as the new global mechanism for financing the measures for combating climate change. This is the biggest funding mechanism of this kind so far, with the ambitious goals of mobilisation of funds in the amount of 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 and it gives us hope for the success in implementation of agreed commitments.
EP: Serbia is among the first countries to give its national commitment plan in which it states that it will reduce CO2 emission into the atmosphere for 9.8 per cent compared to reference year of 1990. How do you assess the activities of Serbia in the fight against climate change?
Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano: Serbia is strongly committed to fulfilling of its obligations in the field of fight against climate change, both in international plan and within the process of its accession to the EU. Full implementation of regulations in these areas is adxz significant expense to the economy and the budget, but it is certainly necessary and profitable long-term investment which ensures the competitiveness and placing the products to the market. Compliance with the regulations and strengthening of the necessary administrative capacities still remains a main challenge. Administrative capacities in the field of climate change must bestrengthened at both central and local levels in order to ensure effective implementation of regulations.
Serbia fulfills its obligations in the areas of reporting to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and currently in the process of developing of the National Strategy to combat climate change, which will hopefully respond to challenges and opportunities for low-carbon development, and in accordance with ambitious strategic goals of the European Union. The legal framework, which will establish the implementation of the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS), is also in the final stage of development. The implementation of this legal framework will have a significant impact on economic development and energetics in the future.
The UN team in Serbia appreciates the efforts made by the Government of the Republic of Serbia in order to meet international obligations in the field of climate change. The new five-year partnership between the Serbian Government and the UN envisages a number of specific program activities that will support the Government in improving its capacity to respond to climate change and manage the natural resource in accordance with international agreements. Several UN agencies such as the Fund for United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UNESCO and others are currently dealing with this issue in the framework of their mandates.
EP: According to your data, what are the biggest threats for the humanity stemming from climate change? We know that CO2 from anthropogenic sources remains for a very long time in the atmosphere, even up to 1000 years and that there are no natural processes which would contribute to its reduction or elimination. Please, give us some more information on changes in the flora and fauna and weather disasters. Are they more frequent, what is their quality and what would be the estimates for the future period?
Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano: Climate change is a global problem which represents a threat to economic growth and developmentand to the survival of mankind as well. The scientific data and facts of the International Panel on Climate Change, but also of some other professional departments and academic communities at the national level, indicate the seriousness of climate change. On the other hand, we are witnessing increasingly frequent and intense weather disasters which cause the damage to agriculture, infrastructure, and unfortunately cause human victims. The harmful effects of climate change on agriculture, forestry, water management, health and biodiversity are described in detail within the national report submitted by countries to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The increase in mean annual temperature will have different impacts across the globe, from sea level rise, to frequent droughts, heavy rainfalls, storms and similar things. According to the climate scenarios, the area to which Serbia belongs is characterised by a long-term increase in average annual temperatures, as well as long-term reduction in rainfall with the increase of extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, droughts and episodes of heavy rainfalls. Extreme weather conditions, especially droughts, that is the increased number of dry days with extreme temperatures, will dominate the future climate conditions.
As for the damage caused by climate change, Serbia has been facing with the periods of extreme weather conditions and extreme weather events since 2000 and they have caused significant material and financial losses. Even without further changes of climate conditions it is clear how urgent is the need for adjustment. Two, probably the most important extreme climate events were the drought in 2012 and the floods in 2014. The total damage from flooding in 2014 was estimated at more than a billion and half euros, with the estimated damage in the agricultural sector of around 120 million euros.
On the other hand, the droughts that occurred in the past few years have probably caused the greatest losses. The drought in 2012 was particularly serious and had the effect of reducing the yields of some crops by around 50 per cent, which led to a total agricultural loss of around 2 billion dollars. Changed climate conditions will lead to significant changes in the composition of flora and fauna of the planet. Species can adapt to changed environmental conditions, but it takes time which in this case we do not have at our disposal. Thereby, to many species which are sensitive even to small changes of climate and site conditions in which they live, are threatened by extinction. When we talk about the relationship between climate change and environmental protection in Serbia, we should point out the fact that among the most vulnerable are ecosystems of wetlands and prairies in addition to forest ecosystems.
Forests can change its composition, structure and distribution. These consequences will arise primarily due to future shift of climate zones which will be faster than the possibilities of migrations of some species and forest types. The vulnerability of mountain habits to climate change is also emphasized. Taking into account that two thirds of the Republic of Serbia are mountainous areas and there are species whose populations are restricted to mountain peaks and as such they do not have natural corridors for mitigation. These species will be among those which will be most affected by climate change. Most of these species are endemic and if they disappear it will lead to the reduction of biodiversity, including the reduction of genetic diversity.
EP: What is your opinion on the conference COP 22 which was held in Morocco. What were the main objectives, themes and activities this time?
Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano: The conference in Morocco is the natural extension of 21 session held in Paris in 2015. The meeting was primarily devoted to further enforcement of the Paris Agreement, harmonisation of the supporting documents that will facilitate the implementation of reached agreements, as well as monitoring of the processes. Special attention was paid to adaptation measures on climate change conditions and the countries would be further encouraged to audit the intended national contribution to reducing GHG emissions, with the goal of achieving major reduction ambitions. As always, the series of accompanying events where countries and other interested parties discussed on various practical issues related to the implementation of climate policy, were organised during the session. Among other things, Serbia also performed with the accompanying event during which measures for encouraging local development resistant to climate change were promoted.
Interview by: Vesna Vukajlović