Climate change in Croatia: New Human Development Report launched

16 Feb 2009

Climate change in Croatia: 3 to 3.5 degrees Celsius increase will affect public health, environment and industry  

The new UNDP Human Development Report for Croatia analyses the links between the economy, human development and climate change in Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Croatia, presented its 2008 Human Development Report for Croatia – A Climate for Change: Climate change and its impacts on society and economy in Croatia. It is a breakthrough report for Croatia and the first of its kind globally following new analysis released by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It is a fact that the climate is changing and the consequences of that change are already being felt all over the globe. Croatia is not an exception. The Report “A Climate for Change” accounts for and quantifies the damages in several sectors of the Croatian economy over the past several years as a result of climate variability. It demonstrates that climate is already a critical factor in development in Croatia, and climate change may have profound impacts on the country.

Expected Climate Change in the Republic of Croatia - Climate is directly linked to human development and the way a society develops. During the 20th century Croatia has shown a trend of decreasing precipitation and increasing temperatures, in most places during most seasons. In the future, Croatia is expected to be hotter and drier, especially in the summer. Climate models suggest if emissions continue to increase, the period between 2040-2070 will be between 3 and 3.5° warmer throughout Croatia during the summer.

Potential impacts of Climate Change in the Republic of Croatia - The Report details existing impacts from climate variability and potential impacts from climate change on specific sectors of the Croatian economy and environment. These specific impacts can also have wider effects on the economy as a whole. For example, the loss of income by farmers and the higher cost of food will also affect the larger economy. Below are some of the current impacts of climate variability and potential impacts of climate change.

Tourism - Tourism has long played a central role in Croatia. It generates about 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 28.7 percent of total employment. Most projections of tourism in the EU show that by the end of the century, hotter daytime temperatures along the Adriatic coast will cause many beach tourists to avoid these destinations in favour of cooler locations to the north. This could have serious adverse consequences on many local communities and, given the important role of beach tourism, the national economy. Alternatively, climate change may benefit the tourism sector by lengthening the tourist season or creating two seasons for visitors —the spring and the autumn.

Coastal zone and sea-level rise - Croatia may face significant vulnerability to sea-level rise. In particular, the Neretva Delta, the Krka River, Vrana Lake near Biograd, the island of Krapanj, and numerous other locations may face significant challenges in the middle to late part of this century if sea level rises more than 50 centimetres.

According to the rudimentary analysis in this Report, a total of over 100 square kilometres of land would be submerged with a sea-level rise of 50 cm and over 112 million square metres with a sea-level rise of 88 cm. Sea-level rise is expected to occur gradually and the actual rates of sea-level rise are still uncertain. As such, there is still time to develop the best methods for coping with the problem at each specific location.

Impacts on Health - Climate-related events such as heat waves, which may increase in frequency due to future climate change, have already had an impact on the health of Croatians. It is estimated that the 2003 heat wave caused 185 additional deaths in Croatia.

Water resources - Croatian fresh water resources are abundant. However, while there is no shortage of water per se in Croatia, problems do exist. A large amount of water is wasted due to leakages in pipes, which leads to a revenue loss of up to EUR 286 million (0.9 percent of GDP) and increased emissions resulting from the additional use of electricity for pumping.

Climate change in Croatia could result in more droughts, affecting agriculture and natural environments, especially wetlands. It could also result in decreased river flows, and perhaps lower levels of the groundwater used for drinking. The initial analysis shows that the projected impacts may result in a loss of EUR 17-86 million per year in direct losses from hydropower alone, with multiplier effects throughout the economy.

Agriculture - Agriculture is expected to suffer the most severe impacts from climate change. Extreme weather events have resulted in average losses of EUR 176 million per year from 2000-2007, representing 0.6 percent of the national GDP, or 9.3 percent of the Gross Value Added generated by the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors.

Fisheries and mariculture - Croatia has a long history of both fishing and mariculture and a coastline that is suitable for developing a modern industry. The abundance of marine fish populations is already showing significant fluctuation. Water temperature has changed, and these populations are now changing their behaviour and migration patterns in the Adriatic, which has implications for fish catches.

The arrival of new species in the Adriatic Sea has resulted in both positive and negative impacts economically. However, it is highly troubling from an environmental standpoint, as the indigenous species are now under significant threat. At the same time, climate change may make it easier for mariculture and fishing efforts —especially with species like tuna.

Vulnerable groups - There is clear evidence that regional differences between counties are already profound in terms of income, employment, quality of life and opportunities for development. Thus special attention needs to be given to regions that are already disadvantaged and could be in an even worse situation due to climate change.  It may be more difficult for poor communities to adapt to climate change, and they are more dependent on local sources of food and water.

What should Croatia do to reduce impacts of climate change?

In order to avoid disastrous climate change, global GHG emissions must be cut by 50-85 percent by 2050. The EU has committed to reducing emissions by 20 percent by 2020. Croatia’s level of emissions per person is somewhere in between the levels of the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries. As such, Croatia should constitute part of the solution. Croatia has already committed to reducing emissions by 5 percent from the baseline level of 36 million tonnes by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol. Beyond that, it will form part of the EU commitment, by attaining some level of reduction by 2020 —though perhaps not as high as 20 percent.

There are many “no regrets” mitigation measures that will actually save money and provide an economic benefit to Croatia. Most of these are related to energy efficiency. There are many other measures that will either be cost-neutral or cost a relatively small amount. If all the measures are fully implemented, including those that are costly but popular, the total emissions reduction for Croatia for 2020 would be approximately 17 million tonnes which, when deducted from the projected 42 million tonnes, results in 25 million tonnes of emissions (a 30 percent decrease from the baseline 1990 levels of 36 million tonnes).

To reduce GHG emissions without undermining human development goals, Croatia must involve various actors and ensure that they work together effectively. Institutions that must be involved in the effort include government institutions, businesses, research institutions, NGOs and the donor community.

To address both vulnerability and mitigation effectively, the report recommends that Croatia consider climate —and climate change— as a critical factor in its development. One step forward would be to improve coordination among the different actors involved —including through a high–level, inter-ministerial committee on climate change addressing both mitigation (pollution reduction) and adaptation (adjusting to climate). This committee could facilitate discussions within the Government and then collaborate with important stakeholders, such as businesses, civil society and the general public.

The launch of the report was hosted by the President of the Republic of Croatia Stjepan Mesić. “In the conditions of economic crisis which seems to be spreading uncontrollably, there is a special danger that there will be attempts to avoid measures directed towards mitigation of the climate change threat —and particularly towards the prevention of further climate change. The excuse will be that we should wait for ‘better times’ for these efforts,” warned President Mesić. “Let us not fool ourselves: these better times will not come. Now is the time, now is the moment, now is the task and now is the challenge we have to, and I repeat —we have to— face.”

UNDP Resident Representative in Croatia, Yuri Afanasiev, added “the research and analysis in this Report indicate that, while climate change is likely to pose serious threats to human development in Croatia, it also has the potential to bring several beneficial opportunities. The ‘climate for change’ that currently exists in Croatia will provide the country with the motivation it needs to rise to the challenge.”

Yannick Glemarec, UNDP/Global Environment Facility (GEF) Executive Coordinator joined the conference and discussion afterwards, saying “climate-related policies will affect a range of sectors and constituencies in different ways. Weighing the benefits and costs of the different policy options requires a strategic approach and must involve all key stakeholders. The 2008 Human Development Report articulates in a clear and concise manner some of the main strategic challenges posed by climate change in Croatia and should substantively contribute to the critical policy dialogue on these issues among all key stakeholders.”

To download the report: http://undp.interactive1.hr/show.jsp?page=103433&preview=true&versionid=103434&refresh=1234545407727

Contact Information

In Zagreab: Ida Mahečić Bajović, Tel. +385 (0) 1 23 61 625; mobile: +385 (0)98 286 142; ida.mahecic@undp.org

In New York: Stanislav Saling, Tel. + 1 212 906 5296, stanislav.saling@undp.org