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First Session of the Second Cycle for Working Group 5 (WG5) – Environment (Chapter 27)

Topic of the session: Climate change: global challenges and national opportunities

 

 

The first session of Working Group 5 (WG5) – Environment was held on December 17, 2019 (Tuesday) in the Club of MPs, from 09:00-13: 30. The title of the session was: Climate Change: Global Challenges and National Opportunities. At the session there were 50 attendees-members of the working group and representatives of all affected segments of society: MPs, government officials (Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, Secretariat for European

Affairs, representatives of civil society organisations whose activity are related to the topic and the work of WG5, domestic experts, an expert from Slovakia, representatives of the academic community and representatives of the diplomatic missions in the country.

The first session of Working Group 5 (WG5) – Environment was co-chaired by Teodora Obradovic – Grncarovska, State Adviser for Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, and Elena Nikolovska from the Centre for Environmental and Communication Research, Eco – consciousness Skopje.

In her introductory address, Prof. Mileva Gjurovska, President of EMMK and Coordinator of NCEU-MK, pointed out that this Session marks the beginning of a new two-year cycle of work of NCEU-MK, adding that it is an open and transparent dialogue on issues related to Chapter 27: Environment, in the accession negotiations for membership in the European Union. Mentioning that the Concept for NCEU-MK was first applied in the Slovak Republic and welcoming the present Ambassador of R. Slovakia, Mr. Henrik Markush, she noted that over the past two years, the Convention has succeeded in defining key issues and recommendations for reforms in the domain of the four chapters in which NCEU-MK operates.[1] Referring to today’s session, which deals with the topic of Chapter 27, she pointed out the exceptional importance of the topic worldwide. According to Gjurovska, “it is high time that solving the problems related to climate change became the main topic of discussion in our media, in education, but also to attract the attention of political circles, ie political decision makers. T\he resources that are being allocated (or should be allocated) for tackling climate change in our country should not be considered a cost, but an investment in the future.”

In his introductory remarks, Nasser Nuredini, Minister of Environment and Physical Planning, stressed that the Ministry is developing a serious approach to climate change, which makes climate change a priority in the activities of the Ministry. The realisation of goals arising from international platforms requires great commitment of all actors, especially from the state. Given the European aspirations of our country, it is necessary to think more seriously about European standards, for which implementation the country will require an appropriate assistance from the EU itself. Pointing to the importance of the new policies, the Minister referred to the 2040 Energy Strategy, which for the first time follows the European Union’s recommendations for including energy in the preparation of climate plans, and in relation to decarbonisation (deactivation of thermal power plants) and reducing carbon emissions. He also referred to the implementation of standards in transport policies in order to reduce air pollution that contributes to the greenhouse effect. Minister Nuredini especially emphasised the importance of a regional approach, ie. regional cooperation in the implementation of set policy objectives. He ended his address with the message: “nature has no borders, the consequences of climate change affect all of us.”

According to the co-chair of the session, Teodora Obradovic-Grncarovska[2], achieving results in dealing with climate change can be done with transparent and joint participation of all stakeholders. Macedonia is a small country and has 30% less greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the EU-28 average. However, if this data is put in relation to GDP (energy consumption intensity), then it can be concluded that our country has approximately four times higher emissions of greenhouse gases than the average of EU member states. This makes it urgent to be part of this group with high ambitions in terms of climate change. She stressed that the problem of climate change should not be understood only as an obligation imposed by EU legislation, but also in the interest of our country, which will enhance economic growth and development that will generate “green” jobs. What is closer to the citizens are the consequences of climate change that everyone feels. She noted that there is already a national database on various aspects of Climate change – based on scientific research and which can be accessed on the WEB page: (www.klimatskipromeni.mk). In this regard, he emphasised the special role of the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development at the Macedonian Academy of Sciences. The European legislation (acquis) in this domain refers only to the reduction of climate change (climate change migration), and our country as a candidate for EU membership needs to pay more attention to this aspect. Climate change has taken on a global dimension with the Copenhagen Accord (2009), and even more so with the Paris Agreement (2015). With the ratification of the Doha Amendment (the ratification of the Kigali Amendment is underway) Macedonia is in the group of countries that should act under the Paris Agreement (after 2020), but the previous amendments from Kyoto are also expected to be fulfilled. The Law on Climate Action, which is now being drafted, will contribute to changing the approach to climate change – from a project-oriented approach to an institutional one. Like Minister Nuredini, she stressed that although we are a small country, we want to leave our mark on the international scene, primarily by joining certain groups whose goal is to increase ambitions for action that are not a wish list, but real analysis and practices. We must show greater ambition by the so-called fair transition, which means that during the decarbonisation process, measures will have to be taken to amortise the social consequences, especially those related to the retraining of the workforce that will lose jobs when the thermal power plants are shut down. At the moment, civil society organisations and other stakeholders are affirming the need for a fair transition strategy that will assess the potential for green job generation.

Slovak experiences

In terms of climate change, the European Union is extremely active, said Milan Zvara[3]. The new European Commission is expected to paint a new picture of the European Union in the next five years, and one of the top priorities will be climate change. This means that Macedonia will very quickly and very often face the policies of the European Union within the negotiation process from the very beginning in the harmonisation of legislation with that of the EU. The Slovak experience shows that significant progress has been made in terms of climate change, thanks to the implementation of European standards, but there is still much to be done. He particularly focused on the EU Scheme for emission trade (EU ETS-EU ETS)[4] in Slovakia, the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan, the Development Strategy for Carbon Reduction by 2050, and the latest developments at the level of the European Union.

Among the commitments for EU countries and beyond, Zvara stressed the commitment  for reporting on the situation with climate change resulting from EU membership, which can be found on the indicated WEB page as well as in documents from the Ministry for Environment. In addition to these reporting obligations, a significant commitment is having a presence at the annual meetings of the Framework Convention on Climate Change of the United Nations. These numerous climate change meetings are chaired by EU presidencies.

According to Zwara, the biggest advantage of EU membership is the country’s Europeanisation, followed by the implementation of the EU’s Climate Change Law and the use of EU budget funds. Thus, Europeanisation has brought Slovakia the theme of climate change as a very important topic for ministers. Various meetings are being held at the level of ministers and prime ministers where one of the main topics, or the only topic, is climate change. In fact, the importance of the topic has been imposed on the administration, business associations or companies to keep up to date with legal changes, as well as among young people and other stakeholders. What was learned during the Europeanisation process was that the problem of climate change is not only the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, but of all institutions. Recommendations from Brussels have contributed to the development of a horizontal approach to climate change and environmental protection, ie to the development of cross-sectoral approaches and solutions.

Becoming an EU Members State has added a special ambition for climate change in Slovakia. According to Zvara, “EU Members States are very ambitious and that ambition is spilling over into Slovakia, which is initiating climate change activities and where business interests always follow environmental measures.” Another such benefit is the so-called the green transition. Many major European and international corporations are present in Slovakia, which is also a benefit of Europeanisation, but they also look upon this green transition as an opportunity, not as a goal that will lead to decarbonisation. EU member states are exerting constant pressure to take similar action. As part of that pressure is the exchange of information and good practices. This pressure has positive effects on moving forward on climate change issues.

In terms of the so-called Climate Neutrality to be achieved by 2050, in Slovakia, a decision has been made to reduce coal production by 2023 and to stop coal mining by 2027 (Upper Nitra region). This was done with the help of EU funds, but also under pressure from Brussels, and with the decision of the electricity producer who, due to the environmental burdens of the price of electricity from gas and coal, directed the production of energy towards nuclear power plants. Thus, today, 78% of Slovakia’s energy production is low in carbon, which is essential for maintaining technological neutrality (but this cannot be achieved without preserving nuclear energy). With the construction of new nuclear reactors, 90% of electricity generation will be without carbon.

During 2019, the government adopted a new Environmental Strategy setting a national goal of reducing carbon emissions at the same level as the EU (-43%). Achieving these goals (45% by 2030) will be based on the introduction of renewable energy sources and greater energy efficiency. The new law on carbon emissions sets aside an additional 2.5 billion euros for climate investment by 2030. Internationally, Slovakia has contributed $2 million to the Green Climate Fund this year with the intention of continuing to contribute financially to the fund for the next few years.

According to Zwara, the second most important part of the advantages and benefits of EU membership in the field of climate change is climate change legislation, ie the Law on Climate Change, which enters into force automatically with accession, as most EU laws. Among the EU regulations the more important ones are:

  • Directive on the EU Emissions Management Scheme – ETS and approximately 10 EU ancillary acts related to ETS.
  • EU land use regulation, land use change and forestry (LULUCF)
  • CO2 standards for cars, vans and heavy vehicles.
  • The Energy Law that covers the part for carbon emissions and energy emissions, which is also important for Macedonia:
  • Renewable Energy Directive and Energy Efficiency Directive.
  • Energy performance standards for buildings.
  • Other minor laws and standards for energy and environmental efficiency.

It was concluded that the EU has created extensive legislation on climate change that is quite effective in regulating the process of reducing carbon emissions, in terms of energy efficiency. However, the so-called “Green agreement” is not only legislation, but also includes the so-called a new climate pact, which includes the public, the education system, and the green agreement still consists of, energy, finance, taxation, agriculture, as well as other sectors that are not strictly climate, but contribute to mitigation of climate change.

Another relevant aspect of EU membership, regarding climate change, is funding. Great financial resources for climate change are coming from Brussels, in fact 25% of the EU budget is directly or indirectly intended to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Zvara showed how funding for climate change in Slovakia would be after 2020:

  1. EU budget (25%), ie from 6 to 9 billion euros by 2027. Estimated – from 2021 to 2050 Slovakia can receive from 25 to 38 billion euros from the EU budget alone.
  2. 2. Modernisation Fund (ETS) – 1.3 billion euros by 2030.
  3. Environmental Fund (revenues from Slovak ETS – auctions) – 1.2 billion euros by 2030.

Funding for projects from other European funds (Switzerland and Norway) is also expected. The Innovation Fund (ETS), which is 11 billion for the whole EU, can also be used by companies. In addition there is the mechanism for a fair transition that amounts to 100 billion euros for the entire EU by 2030. The European Investment Bank is expected to distribute a 1 trillion-euro fund in loans, in order to assist in the fight against climate change.

Alexander Dedinec[5] began his address by quoting Thomas Edison, who in the 1930s said: “I would put all my money into solar energy, I hope we don’t have to wait for fossil fuels to run up in order to use solar energy.”[6]

According to him, sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the opportunities of future generations. Sustainable development is based on three pillars: the environment, the economy and society. The absence of any of these pillars threatens the existence of sustainable development. That is, in order to have sustainable development, it is necessary to have a synergy between all three elements.

There is a continuous increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the air: 26% between 1959 and 2019, from 315 ppm to 413.7 ppm. The largest increase was recorded in the period between May 2018 and May 2019 and it was 3.5 ppm, and the average temperature increased by 1.10C compared to the period before industrialisation. According to Dedinec, there are many scenarios regarding the direction in which the increase of the planet’s temperature could take place, ranging from 1.50C in the most optimistic ones, up to 60C in the most pessimistic ones. The fact that there is a change in attitudes towards climate change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, especially after 2015, is clear from the fact that all countries signed the Paris Agreement – including RN Macedonia. The agreement obliges each country to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a manner appropriate to national conditions. It is important to note that even if all countries in the world fully implement the planned actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the temperature will still rise by 2.50C, or 2,5-2,80C, which means that these measures, agreed in Paris, are not enough to stop the rise of the planet’s temperature. Due to the fact that the goals were too ambitious, some of the signatories left the Paris Agreement. A significant benefit is the acquisition of a new legitimacy to the issue of climate change and the determination of the need for coordinated regional and global activities to implement the concept of sustainable development. The Paris Agreement is expected to stimulate new initiatives, similar to those signed after the Kyoto Protocol (1997), although it was signed only by countries that account for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The Kyoto Protocol has initiated many measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and one of the best ones is the construction of wind farms that were almost non-existent at the time. For comparison, in 2005 there was 50 GW of installed wind power, and in 2018 – 590 GW of installed capacity.

On an International level, special attention is paid to electricity consumption, because electricity production accounts for over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014, there was a consumption of 23,000 TW of electricity, and the scenarios for the future (2040) necessarily include an energy transition. The energy transition includes two general measures: energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. In 2014, the share of renewable sources in electricity production was 6%, and in 2040 it should be 37%. If this scenario is realised, the so-called Scenario 450 , there should be 2,0 0C increase in temperature.

European Climate Change Policies. The EU is one of the world’s leaders in tackling the effects of climate change. EU policies in this area are also being imposed on candidate countries, which are rounded off in Chapter 27 of the pre-accession package. This chapter is extensive and covers approximately 200 legal acts. In the negotiation process, they are grouped into 75 legal groups of legal acts, namely: air quality, waste management, water quality, climate change, nature protection, industrial pollution control and others. The European Union is quite ambitious in this regard. By 2050, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to decline by 95% (50% from renewable energy sources and 45% from energy efficiency). The current trend for the close link between GDP growth and energy consumption growth needs to change. Economic growth does not have to be followed by growth in energy consumption after 2011.

Macedonian approach to climate change. In RN Macedonia in the total volume of greenhouse gases, energy production participates with approximately 65% ​​to 73%. There has also been a “transitional decline in greenhouse gases” – although some more serious measures have not been taken. This is due to the reduction in the use of coal as a raw material for electricity production. Although this is not the result of the application of any systematic measures, it is necessary to institutionalise this situation in order to initiate a fair transition, so that we do not end up without electricity production facilities.

Energy Strategy. The Strategy is based on the five pillars of the European Union and our country is among the first in the energy community to prepare such document. In the Progress Report for RN Macedonia for 2019, it is recommended to adopt a Plan for Energy and Climate by 2020, the effectiveness of which will be increased by consolidating the Energy Law adopted in 2018. The vision of the Energy Strategy is: “a reliable, efficient, environmentally friendly and competitive energy system capable of supporting the sustainable economic growth of the country”.

The efficiency of the energy transition and the development of the energy system can be increased by entering the ETS system or by introducing any CO2 tax, said Dedinec.

Our Strategy defines five pillars that have a slight deviation from those of the EU, given that we are a small country:

  1. Energy efficiency,
  2. Integration and security of energy markets,
  3. Decarbonisation,
  4. Research, Innovation and Competitiveness,
  5. Legal and regulatory aspects.

A separate indicator has been created for each of them in order to monitor the implementation of the Strategy: energy efficiency, energy dependence, greenhouse gas emissions, the share of renewable sources, total system costs and legal and regulatory aspects.

The strategy has defined measures to be taken as well as an assessment of how much each of them contributes to energy savings. An important aspect of the Strategy is separation i.e. the increase of energy needs is a reality, but so is reduction in consumption (using energy-efficient technologies with lower energy consumption).

Decarbonisation and economic measures for the transition to renewable energy sources. In this segment, there is a list of priority policies and measures, as well as defined instances that need to be implement. Priority is given to the production of electricity from renewable energy sources, ie a transition that has already begun in some way. The thermal power plant in Bitola continues to operate in a transitional period until the introduction of CO2 tax, which will affect the price of electricity production, which calls into question the competitiveness of the thermal power plant. With the introduction of the CO2 tax in 2023, the cost of production will continue to grow until 2030. The high cost of producing energy from old energy sources will encourage investment in renewable sources of electricity production (especially in solar and wind power plants).

It is especially important in our situation to make changes in the way households and the commercial sector are heated (or cooled). It is necessary to use more efficient technologies (such as heat pumps – inverters) that will replace the non-ecological and inefficient use of biomass. The Strategy envisages the renewable energy sources to be increased by a maximum of 45%, and the heat pumps, ie air conditioners – inverters to increase the share of renewable sources by 3%.

The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is expected in all scenarios, except in the reference scenario, which shows that the Strategy is more ambitious than the national contributions made to Paris in 2015.

The cost of climate change measures. According to Dedinec, climate change measures are very expensive. In the EU, there are funds that support decarbonisation and energy transition. In our country, the energy transition in the period until 2040 would cost from 9 to 17 billion euros, and most of the funds are in the area of ​​energy efficiency. All these funds come not only from the Government, but also from the citizens through investments in more efficient energy technologies and energy efficient facilities. According to the green scenario, the investment of 17 billion euros will save 7.5 billion euros in fuel consumption due to the use of more efficient energy technologies. The green scenario can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 65%, and 45% according to the reference scenario, while increasing the share of renewable energy sources.

Two-year climate change reports. The reports are co-sponsored by the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning in partnership with UNDP. The latest biennial report on climate change proposes a number of measures presented in the so-called marginal cost curve in order to be clearer to politicians. Each measure is related to the cost price and the level of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, 80-90% of the measures have a double gain – they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but at lower prices compared to a reference option. According to the report, 6,500 new “green” jobs are expected to be created, with the forecast that this number will be significantly higher in the third biennial report on climate change.

Fair transition. Elena Nikolovska[7] stressed the importance of the revision of national accessions, the creation of a law and strategy for climate action and the integrated climate and energy plan. These are activities that citizens and civil associations do not recognise as key at this time. These activities would contribute to national contributions to climate change and legitimise the ambition and goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Nikolvska added that “the future of our country will be much better without burning coal.” Several EU documents indicate that after 2030, coal burning will be undesirable.

Fair transition means transparent participation of all stakeholders (the state, ie ministries, civil society and other interested citizens) in the adoption of climate policies, but also in the process of fair transition. It is necessary to build a model of regular informing the public and building a communication structure, for example, recording short videos to inform the citizens.

In the context of the fair transition of the energy sector, it should not be assumed that this includes only employees in thermal power plants, but also employees in the sectors that serve them. Thus, according to the annual report on the operation of ESM (2018), the average number of employees is 4,754 employees, of which about 3,500 employees are in the thermal power plants REK Bitola and Oslomej. According to Nikolovska, it is necessary to assess the data on working-age population in the regions where thermal power plants are active because such data does not exist.

A fair transition also affects other sectors that have greenhouse gas emissions, such as cement production. Other affected sectors suffer losses due to the effects of climate change, such as tourism. Detailed analyses, and above all relevant statistics, are needed in order to conduct a fair transition, which means finding a relevant economic model of development. The affirmation of sustainable development and investment benefits can attract public and private finance that will enable the implementation of the goals of a fair transition, ie. low carbon economy.

During the discussion, co-chair Obradovic-Grncarovska said it was good as a recommendation to create a climate change pact or climate pact, pointing out that there had been such an attempt in the past that had failed.

Prof. Dr. Mihail Korculovski[8] proposed a recommendation: health benefits or challenges should be plased in national contributions. He further said that we are talking about energy consumption and climate change, which is also related to air pollution, but the discussion focused on energy consumption. He noted that in urban areas we have the effect of heat or hot islands as a result of the negligence of local governments that allow excessive construction which loses greenery, thus creating conditions for large temperature differences (up to 50C) between the periphery and the centre and which will increase even more in the future, causing more energy consumption for cooling. According to their estimates, the green spaces in Skopje have been reduced from 15m2 to 11m2, which is a big reduction for a period of 30 years. Regarding the aspect of air pollution related to climate change and the reduction of greenery, as health experts have made an estimate that health costs for Skopje alone by 2100 would reach 1.5 billion euros per year.

In this context, the need to build energy efficient residential buildings, as well as heating with energy efficient devices (heat pumps, solar collectors, pellet stoves), and central heating, was highlighted in this context. It was emphasised that there is a need to support socially disadvantaged categories to amortise energy poverty. Finally, there is a need for climate education, which is lacking in the country. Such education should include economic, technological, sociological, legal, health and other aspects of climate change.