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Second session of the Working group 5 (Chapter 27) – Environment “Air pollution correlating to the heating of household and public buildings”

The questions related to the actual conditions in terms  of household heating  in Macedonia as well as the recommendations in course of improving the household heating systems were the focus of today’s online debate on the subject  „ Air pollution correlating to the heating of household and public buildings“, within the second session of Working Group 5  (Environment – Chapter 27­­), part of the National convention of the European Union in the Republic of North Macedonia (NCEU-MK) organized by the European movement (EM-MK) The bad air quality is one of the reasons for increase in deaths, shorter life-span and higher health costs for the citizens and the country. The analysis worldwide, show that household heating is still a great source of air pollution. On the level of the European Union around 80 % of the energy used in households serves for heating and hot water. This is a problem that is high on the agendas of state development policies, and there are already significant experiences in implementing measures for a more efficient heating system close to the desired values ​​for air and climate protection, but also for saving financial resources.

 

The coordinator of NCEU-MK and president of EM-MK prof. Dr. Mileva Gjurovska, explained the role of the National Convention through such public debates and recommendations to help in the trend of dealing with and preparing concrete and applicable measures to improve living conditions in our city and country.

“We need to look for solutions specific to our society.” Each country is building a heating system according to its capabilities and resources, but of course it is good to hear the experience of our European partners. In any case, the consequences of postponing the measures against air pollution would not cost much more than when they would be applied immediately and without delay, “said Gjurovska.

Deputy Minister of Environment and Physical Planning Hristina Odzaklieska expressed concern about pollution.

“I think that public debates are extremely important, because it is an opportunity to exchange foreign experiences to reduce emissions of solid particles into the air. In recent years, a number of measures have been taken, including the adoption of programs to reduce pollution in terms of the change of the heating method, as well as subsidies for replacement of windows, for purchase of pellet stoves and inverter air conditioners. “But of course a thorough solution to air pollution requires an interdisciplinary approach and integrated action,” she said.

The President of the Center for Climate Change, Bojana Stanojevska-Pecurovska, agreed that quick solutions to air pollution do not give the expected results and that an intersectoral approach is needed, which is why experts from different fields participate in the debate.

“The process of reducing pollution cannot be solved quickly, but we should all get involved by changing our own habits when it comes to heating households and public institutions. According to the UNDP survey, about 380 million euros will be needed to change the way of heating by 2025 “, said Aleksandar Dedinec from the Research Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at MANU, otherwise an expert on energy and climate change.

Referring to the current situation in the country, he pointed out that Chapter 27 on the environment is extremely complex and contains about 200 legal acts, because “not only we have the problem of pollution, but all countries, although in Western countries it is much smaller.” According to data from the European Environment Agency, over 30 percent of PM 2.5 particulate matter comes from household heating in Eastern Europe, and about 15 percent in western countries. He said that air pollution is the fourth killer in the world, and that the citizens of Macedonia are constantly exposed to high concentrations of pollution. According to his research, in the period from 2005 to 2019 the pollution is reduced by three times, but still the concentration of PM 10 and PM 2.5 particles is three times above the allowed level in our country and if the heating method is not changed it will continue the trend of high mortality. The problem of air pollution has been relevant since 2014. From 2006 to 2012, there was almost no pollution information and news. In 2017, it was determined that as much as 45% of households heat with wood and therefore the process of reducing pollution cannot be solved quickly, but should start reducing emissions first where it is most polluted. He also pointed out the gasification is 30 years late.

The director of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association in Bratislava, Tomas Strazaj, said the problems were similar in almost all EU countries.

“Only with joint expertise from different stakeholders can effective pollution reduction recommendations be reached.” Our goal is to help our partners, but also to provide Slovak expertise,” said Strazaj, while his colleague Veronika Oravcova from the Slovak Foreign Policy Association in Bratislava, a well-known energy and environmental expert and doctor of environmental sciences, said that in addition to all government measures in Slovakia, there is an awareness-raising campaign.

Representatives of the non-governmental sector also took part in the debate, so Ana Colovic-Lesoska from “Eco Consciousness” said that data collection and monitoring of air pollution is increasing through civic initiatives, but the most important thing is for the country to establish systematic measurement.

“It is very important that this data is available to the public and that the level of pollution is alerted. “The ban on the use of coal for heating has been discussed for a long time, but there is also a need to stimulate a change in the way it is heated, as well as a long-term strategy to phase out wood as a means of heating,” she said, adding that the ministry does not have enough funds, so a special environmental fund must be set up and put in place to tackle air pollution.Aneta Stefanovska from the MOEPP, on the other hand, presented the legislation and pointed out the portal, which monitors the concentrations of PM 10 and PM 2.5 particles in real time and which is available to the public. The debate was fuelled by university professor Konstantin Minovski, who pointed out that over-urbanization and overcrowding in Skopje with twice the capacity are part of the key factors in air pollution. He says that we have a problem with detecting the causes of pollution and that from a sociological point of view the blame cannot be shifted to the citizens, because many of them are fighting for a bare existence and cannot easily decide to change the way of heating. According to Minovski, air pollution is observed outside the heating season, to which Dedinec replied, claiming that the percentage of PM 10 and PM 2.5 in the summer is significantly lower, unlike the winter period when the heating stoves are turned on.

Sanja Zografska from Australia shared the experience that the information about the pollution is given in a simple language understandable to all citizens who are not so expert and recommended that this should be taken into account in awareness raising campaigns, and Ekovita recommended that when brewing schnapps not to use plastic waste.

Darko Blinkov, on the other hand, regarding waste incineration said that the regulation and the inspectorate should be harmonized. For an efficient and effective inspection system,  a single system should be created, instead of the decentralization of competencies in the municipalities, where only the communal inspectors should remain.

“In order to improve pollution surveillance and achieve better air quality, it is necessary to establish multi-sectoral partnerships at the local and national levels,” he said.

Dalibor Stojevski from TE-TO to solve the problem of air pollution proposed zoning of the city with zones with a precisely defined type of heating, and Nikola Jovanovski says that chimney sweeps are better at monitoring than inspectors.