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“Greening” Without Enthusiasm

Recent strides in pursuit of the Green Agenda signal a departure from previous inaction, but substantial effort is still required to bridge the gap and align with environmentally responsible nations

Certain progress has been achieved over the past two years when it comes to advancing the Green Agenda in North Macedonia, as is particularly evident in the growing presence of solar panels, but numerous areas still require improvement. Notably, the North Macedonian parliament only has one green or ecological party, which managed to secure a maximum of just two MPs, and even that was in a coalition, and ultimately faced near extinction.

Another noteworthy political endeavour involved the rebranding of the country’s third-largest political force, the Democratic Union for Integration, which declared itself a green party five years ago. Unfortunately, this attempt not only failed, but quickly resulted in the party returning to its former political rhetoric and party colours. Voters apparently didn’t resonate with this change – a reality that the party leadership acknowledged, willingly or not.

A strange problem is the lack of awareness of the need to do much more work to address and overcome the environmental threats that exist in North Macedonia. The capital of Skopje has been among the world’s most polluted cities for a decade. There are also serious indications that the country is being exploited for the incineration of toxic waste imported from Western Europe (mostly Italy), while general environmental awareness among the masses is at the lowest possible level. The negligible use of electric vehicles is a clear indicator of this. Given the country’s poor EV support infrastructure, especially in the interior, and the excessively high prices of these vehicles, particularly as compared to the country’s average living standard, it comes as no surprise that almost no member of the country’s middle class has opted for such a move that is only economical over the long term. The state provides certain tax breaks and incentives, but these are obviously insufficient – considering the seriously low percentage of environmentally friendly vehicles on the roads.

Skopje has been among the world’s most polluted cities for a decade, while there are alarming indicators that the state is incinerating toxic waste from Western Europe, mainly Italy

Every government since the country gained its independence has been a declarative signatory and supporter of all international initiatives and commitments related to the environment and the green agenda, but they have only applied that which is an absolute necessity. For example, the term circular economy has only started being more prevalent in the country’s media over the last few years, despite the country having experts who’ve been working on this problem for decades, and these essential global trends aren’t only falling on deaf ears among the general public, but also among the country’s elite.

Floating solar panels and cell platform on the water of solar cell power plant with solar cell generate the electric on the lake with sunlight , ecological energy, Alternative renewable energy.

The previous government of former Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski was the first to engage more seriously on the implementation of international obligations and recommendations, which is why records on the installing of solar panels have been broken in just the last two years. Some are state-owned and mounted on the top of defunct coal mines, which is both a practical solution and an instructive and symbolic one that serves to demonstrate how the planet should be transformed. Solar panels have also become a profitable business for private individuals, and a real battle is currently being waged when it comes to finding the best locations for exposure to sunshine that are also close to high-voltage power stations.

North Macedonia is striving to transition from coal-powered thermal plants to solar ones, but experts emphasise the need for a reliable natural gas supply to tackle environmental challenges

The hope is that, over the next decade, North Macedonia – as a country that enjoys an extremely high percentage of sunny days – will meet its obligation to close coal-fired power plants (which generate over 60% of the country’s energy) and shift entirely to renewables or environmentally friendly sources. Efforts in this direction include the announced installing of numerous floating solar power plants in preexisting reservoirs.

Experts are nevertheless convinced that it will prove difficult to overcome environmental problems without ensuring a stable supply of larger quantities of natural gas. The country currently has only one connection with international gas pipelines, via the interconnector at the Deve Bair border crossing with Bulgaria. However, this gas pipeline isn’t only limited in terms of quantity, but is often also subject to the unpredictability of the Bulgarian authorities, meaning that it is unable to represent any long-term guarantee. Connection with Greek gas pipelines at the Gevgelija border crossing and the construction of a large gas power plant with Greek money, which should substitute up to 30% of the country’s electricity imports, have long since been announced, though the many disputed points identified in the agreement ensure that it will probably remain on the shelf for some better times.

DILEMMA

Despite current environmental threats, there is a perplexing lack of awareness of the need for more concerted efforts in North Macedonia

NONCOMPLIANCE

Despite having declared support for international initiatives and commitments since gaining independence, successive governments have only implemented what is deemed absolutely essential

BARRIERS

Inadequate infrastructure and high prices, coupled with insufficient state incentives, deter the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, particularly among the middle class

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