Green Agenda: A Chance for Better Life, Rather Than Burdensome Rules

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Green Agenda for the Western Balkans should encourage energy savings, renewable energy, circular economy, as well as nurturing of the region’s exceptional biodiversity. Considering a relatively low number of inhabitants, standing at 18 million, change in the region should be a simpler endeavor compared to some larger economies – if executed efficiently, with consistent political commitment and regional cooperation. This is the official position of the civil society organizations that signed a joint statement addressed at the European Commission. Young Researchers of Serbia are among the signees. 

Green Agenda for the Western Balkans is a strategy that’s being crafted specifically for the Western Balkans region. European Union announced its creation in late 2019. This agenda is a part of the larger strategy laid out in the European Green Deal. The plan outlines the EU’s cooperation with the Balkan countries the process of reducing the use of coal, oil, and other dirty energy sources.

Civil society organizations often play a key role in adopting, implementing, and monitoring European environmental regulations. Considering that, their hands-on experience is a valuable source of knowledge and advice in creating a meaningful, actionable ecological strategy.

“We underline that considerable attention needs to be given to the implementation of the Green Agenda, as sustainability has not been given the priority it deserves in the region so far. Rather than burdensome rules, it is an opportunity to improve our quality of life and put the region at the forefront of a sustainable Europe,” the statement says. 

The signees laid out some of the desired focal points of the Green Agenda. 

Decarbonization was singled out as the greatest priority with a deadline by 2050. In practice, this would mean a rapid shift away from coal, oil, and gas use. One of the ways to make this shift is to boost energy efficiency in buildings, optimize energy systems, and address energy poverty which is omnipresent in the Balkans.

Another way to reduce carbon footprint is to develop the circular economy, based on sustainable production, use of secondary materials and creating efficient waste prevention and management system.

Pollution, as one of the burning issues in the Western Balkans, should be strictly monitored and consistently sanctioned following EU directives, the document states. The statement recommends expanding the network of air monitoring systems which will measure the air quality in real-time.  

The signees also pointed out the importance of sustainable farming and rural areas development in the Green Agenda. This would require strict enforcement of standards for preserving the environment and the landscape, including reduction in use of synthetic chemical pesticides, as well as the extension of the area under organic farming management.

Despite being well-known as a biodiversity hotspot, the Western Balkans have a poor record of legal protection for its rich, yet sensitive ecosystems. The joint statement recommends safeguarding these places as one of the priorities of the Green Agenda. 

Finally, the statement also brings attention to the issues with financing environmental projects and the lack of consultations with civil society in the decision-making process.

“We need to underline that much of the apparent difficulty in finding public financing in the countries is the result of mis-prioritization and wasteful spending, rather than an overall lack of funds available. Therefore, the first measure needs to be to stop building infrastructure which is not in line with a decarbonized, efficient, circular economy, which would free up funds for measures which are,” the statement says.

The signees invited European Commission to organize quarterly meetings with civil society representatives in Brussels working on the region. 

Click here to learn more about the joint statement on the Green Agenda strategy.

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