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Running Late, but Catching Up

While the Serbian Government has been slow to address climate change, positive steps towards supporting energy production from renewables are becoming evident

Global climate change, together with pollution and biodiversity loss, forms part of the planetary triple crisis, as defined by the United Nations Environment Assembly, that represents a serious and daunting challenge for the future of humanity.

Like the whole of Europe, climate change is having serious repercussions across the territory of the Republic of Serbia. Despite Southeast Europe not being a major global emitter of the greenhouse gases that are the main cause of climate change, our region is experiencing above average impacts of climate change and global warming. Serbia is located in the southern belt of the temperate continental climate area that stretches from southern Serbia to Poland, and this southern belt, due to the so-called ‘Azores High’, is being exposed to hotter and hotter air each year.

Several droughts have hit the country’s agriculture sector in recent years, especially in 2012, 2017 and 2019, which seriously diminished crop yields for wheat and maize – the country’s top agricultural exports. The most devastating disaster to date was the massive unprecedented flooding of 2014, which caused the displacement of 30,000 people and enormous damages with a price tag exceeding a billion euros, including the destructions of bridges, roads and a thousand homes.

Serbia’s recently adopted Low Carbon Development Strategy for the 2023-2030 period states that the risks posed to sustainable development by climate change are an evident threat that could jeopardise infrastructure, agriculture productivity, water availability and public health.

And yet, the Republic of Serbia still covers 70 per cent of its energy needs via coal-fired plants, mainly the thermal power plants Nikola Tesla A and B in Obrenovac, Kolubara, Morava and Kostolac. Thirty per cent of the country’s energy needs are produced from renewables, the majority coming from the Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station, aka Đerdap, located on the Danube at the border with Romania.

Serbia was quite late in developing renewable power sources like wind and solar, but has made important recent investments in wind power generation

The Government of Serbia has informed the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Climate Change of its renewed National Determined Contribution; of its commitment to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 33.3% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030, which is an achievable goal.

Professor Nikola Rajaković, president of the Association of Energy Specialists of Serbia, believes that the country was quite late in developing renewable power sources like wind and solar, but that it has made important investments in wind power generation recently. For example, nine wind farms are already operational throughout the country, the largest of which is the Čibuk 1 wind farm near Kovin, while four more are under construction. Serbia is planning to invest in a major hybrid pumped-storage power plant on the river Drina at Bistrica, while plans to build the Đerdap III Reversible Hydroelectric Power Plant are also going ahead.

In partnership with the U.S.’s EXIM Bank, the World Bank’s MIGA [Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency] and the Swedish export credit corporation, a new solar power plant producing 1 gigawatt of power should be completed by 2028. Furthermore, new solar plants are planned for construction near Negotin in Eastern Serbia, in Vojvodina’s Banat region and near the city of Vranje in South Serbia.

The Serbian Government is implementing measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The National Assembly of Serbia adopted the 2021 Law on Climate Change, which obliges all GHG emitters to obtain licenses from the Ministry of Environmental Protection for the emission of GHGs and for those emissions to be strictly monitored, starting from June 2024. All traders of motor vehicles are also obliged to report on vehicle engine efficiency and to publicly declare emissions levels.

The Serbian Ministry of Mining and Energy is working on a national integrated energy and climate plan that should be adopted by the end of this year and should align Serbia’s energy sector with the European Green Deal.

However, the civil sector in Serbia is voicing concern over the fact that the country is running late when it comes to confronting the challenges of climate change and a lot still remains to be done. Serbian NGOs dealing with climate change emphasise that too little has been done too late, while they stress that several bylaws needed to implement the Law on Climate Change must be adopted forthwith.

NGO Green Chair conducted a survey in August and September 2023 to determine how the Serbian population views climate change. Twothirds of respondents were of the opinion that scientific knowledge ascribing climate change to human activity and as the result of emissions of greenhouse gases is accurate; they also described climate change as the most serious global challenge confronting humanity. The majority of those surveyed thought that Serbia has been harder hit by climate change than neighbouring countries, with four-fifths of respondents expressing grave concern over rising climate change. Two-thirds of survey participants see pollution as a direct consequence of climate change. Almost all respondents were aware of the problem of climate change, though a small minority did express the view that it is not a manmade phenomenon, but rather the result of cyclical climate change.

CONCERN

Despite Southeast Europe not being a major global emitter of greenhouse gases, our region is experiencing above average impacts of climate change and global warming.

LEGISLATION

The Serbian Government is addressing climate change through the 2021 Law on Climate Change and by aligning its national integrated energy and climate plan with the European Green Deal.

WARNING

Serbia’s NGO sector is voicing concern over the fact that the country is running late when it comes to confronting the challenges of climate change and a lot still remains to be done.

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