One day after the EU Commission published its Long-Term Climate Strategy aiming at net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and just a few days before the the COP24 UNFCCC climate negotiations, which just started in Katowice, Poland - the ministers of Western Balkan countries which are parties to the Energy Community Treaty, gathered for the Ministerial Council, the Energy Community’s governing body, to pledge allegiance to the EU’s climate plans.
The contracting parties adopted last week in Skopje the “General Policy Guidelines on 2030 energy and climate targets for the Energy Community”, which is to follow in the EU's energy and climate footsteps by setting for themselves distinct 2030 targets, mirroring those of the EU: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency and the share of energy from renewable sources.
Whilst striving for membership in the EU, all of the so-called Western Balkan 6 governments (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and FYROM) have often fallen behind such ambitions when it comes to policy making and implementation. The energy sector is one such example. While the EU is announcing the move to carbon-neutral, most governments in the region are planning to develop new coal-fired power plants, despite ample potential for renewables and inspite coal being one of the biggest climate change culprits, which also adds to alarmingly deteriorating air pollution across the region.
But there are good news. The EU funding institutions have given up on coal. The World Bank did the same and has just two months ago decided to withdraw from the new Kosovo coal power plant project, with a simple and economic reason: renewable energy is now cheaper, so coal now conflicts with its policy of supporting cheapest available options.
The Energy Community is the first energy sector step, which the EU-membership hopefuls must overcome on route to eventually joining the bloc. This international treaty integrates the energy markets of contracting parties, including the Western Balkans Six through extensive alignment of their legislation in all energy related fields, including competition, environment and climate change.
Igor Kalaba, Energy Policy Coordinator for Southeast Europe at Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe says that “this is a significant step forward, and a litmus test for their commitment to EU accession. What matters now is for governments in the region to reinforce this policy by setting ambitious targets and by acting accordingly. This follow up will tell us if they truly realised the unprecedented development opportunity presented by the inevitable energy transition or if they portray it as yet another burdensome reform imposed by the EU”.
The cautionary optimism is not without reason. Civil society across the region has for a long time been warning their publics not only of their government’s’ lack of climate ambition and outdated energy planning, but of numerous breaches of national and international legislation in their energy plans.
The Energy Community Secretariat in Vienna now hired experts to calculate applicable ambition levels in an “EU convergent methodology”. For a European look, the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) should spell out the path to carbon neutrality and that means the end of fossil fuels, starting with coal.
Even closer - 2020 targets will be in the focus of negotiators at the COP24. Given the climate change urgency, an increase in the previously presented NDCs will be expected. Delegates will also need to adopt the rulebook on how the Paris Agreement will be implemented. The goal is clear and comprehensive rules that ensure transparency and accountability, so that countries take adequate and measurable action to cut emissions.
World climate scientists have shown that global warming impacts have come sooner and hit harder than predicted. To stay below 1.5°C, the UN Environment Programme has just released a report calling for countries to raise their ambition fivefold. Thanks to the Energy Community Treaty, the Western Balkans has moved closer towards acting on climate with more of the required sense of urgency.
Contact: Stevan Vujasinovic, Southeast Europe Communications Coordinator, T: +381 (0)63 390 218 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe's leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change. With over 150 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 40 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.