Author: Steliana Nedera
UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina
During a discussion at a recent meeting on the scope and urgency of action to prevent climate change someone made the comment “When little hands are put together anything is possible, anything is possible.” It was explained to me that this came from a song from the movie ‘Train in the snow’ and that its message does not fade even after fifty years.
In terms of climate change, are we ‘stuck in the snow’ with no chance of salvation or can we preserve nature whilst providing all people with energy from sustainable sources that are pollution-free? In other words, was the battle for the planet lost even before it began?
In case in the abundance of bad news it slips through cracks, the plans for the preservation of the Earth, its people and nature do exist and are already being executed in almost every corner of the planet. The reasons are simple: there is no plan B for the planet, because we have neither a planet B nor the luxury of simply waiting for the problems to resolve themselves. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, virtually every year has seen the characteristics of extreme weather, flood, drought, hail, etc. Climate change and its consequences take lives and can destroy or set back entire regions in just a few of days. A few rainy days in 2014 took 23 lives and created an economic loss of around USD 2.7 billion or 15 per cent of total GDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The best is to have both an ounce of prevention and a pound of cure
Bosnia and Herzegovina is highly dependent on fossil fuels and is one of the countries with the worst air quality and has the highest mortality rate attributed to environmental factors in Europe. At the same time, the country boasts significant potential in terms of renewable energy sources and has beautiful nature, whose very survival is threatened. Yet many issues, such as air quality and dependence on fossil fuels, will not be resolved overnight. As an organisation dedicated to the well-being of humanity, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has identified the fight to mitigate the negative effects of climate change as one of its top priorities and thus makes its knowledge, expertise and resources available to Bosnia and Herzegovina and another 117 countries around the world.
The starting point for the upcoming fight for the planet is to determine the impact that climate change will have and to prioritise measures of action and the required methods of financing for the proposed measures as well as the institutions and the arrangements for their implementation. Earlier this year, Bosnia and Herzegovina undertook New Determined Contributions (NDC) aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent compared to 1990 by 2050. This is yet another testament to our commitment to fulfil the Paris Climate Agreement dating from 2015. We at UNDP are proud of our contribution to defining this path for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Our four recommendations to deliver on the climate pledge:
1. Invest in systemic change and develop laws and mechanisms that will help achieve the climate goals.
Changes to policies, laws and modes of operation are necessary if we are to enable effective climate action across all levels. With our expert support, Bosnia and Herzegovina has prepared New Determined Contributions (NDC), a new Climate Change Adaptation and Low Emissions Development Strategy for the period 2020–2030, currently being finalised, and a Climate Change Adaptation Plan (NAP). The framework for financing projects and energy efficiency measures for investment in public buildings, which was adopted at the level of both entities in July 2020, is now also adopted at the state level. It is an integrated package of policies, regulatory, technological, informational, financial and operational solutions aimed at reducing the specific risks and barriers to investing in low-carbon development. At the local level, we have supported 37 municipalities and cities in the development of Sustainable Energy and Climate Management Action Plans that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their local communities by at least 40 per cent by 2030.
But it must not stop there. Systemic change and the establishment of mechanisms to accelerate the achievement of the climate goals must continue. The transition to climate resilient efficient and sustainable development requires that both the public and private sectors make significant efforts: the public sector to enable the implementation of multi-sectoral, policies, regulations and taxation reforms and the private sector to change its business practices so that they are more sustainable in terms of the environment and climate.
2. Boost investment in energy efficiency and the use of renewables
Multiple benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy infrastructure projects have already been confirmed in the public sector. Energy renovation of 146 schools, 33 healthcare institutions, 30 administrative and cultural buildings, 25 kindergartens and 12 social protection buildings and the modernisation of 13 public lighting systems has resulted in more than 59 per cent energy savings. This has provided BAM 5.5 million in annual savings in public buildings, the creation of more than 3,000 green jobs and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 20,000 tonnes. Cities and municipalities are launching activities to switch to green energy and to improve public transport. In addition to continuing to support the public sector, we will launch pilot projects on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources in more than 100 households and 15 small and medium enterprises.
Private sector engagement is vital. The potential for the transition to renewable energy sources and models of green and circular business have already been confirmed through pilot projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through the Circular Economy Roadmap, UNDP will support institutions in this country in improving the planning process to undertake systemic change in terms of access to and attitudes towards resources as well as to commit to changing public policies and discourse within the context of circular economy. The Energy Service Financing Facility (ESCO) will enable energy efficiency projects to be financed through energy savings.
3. Work jointly and in sync so that all individual actions lead us closer to achieving the common goal
Our comprehensive holistic partnership approach ensures success whilst offering solutions that will help preserve the environment, reduce the effects of climate change and reduce the risk of disasters that threaten the development of key sectors such as agriculture, water resources, forestry, energy and tourism. Aware of the challenges that we all face, we work simultaneously in several directions with the public, private and academic sectors, international partners, financial institutions, non-governmental organisations, young people and informal groups of citizens. Only in this way can the problems we face collectively be resolved.
Through the financial support provided by Sweden, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Global Environmental Fund (GEF), Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia and through the trust that we have gained as a result of our expertise and innovation and by building strong partnerships with national and international institutions we have directly helped invest some USD 70 million directly in the fight against climate change in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We are encouraged by the new investments made by international institutions and by the increasingly significant allocations made by national institutions, from the state to the municipal level, in the fight to preserve the environment. We look forward to the engagement of young people and the involvement of citizens and the fresh perspective and energy that they will bring to the fight against climate change.
4. Apply advanced knowledge, new technological solutions and experience from around the globe
The use of new technological solutions is woven into our approach and we are already seeing the results. The Energy Management Information System (EMIS - www.isge.ba) facilitates cost control that results in savings that are then reinvested into the priority needs of municipalities and cities. The information system developed by UNDP is used to monitor and analyse energy and water consumption in more than 5,800 public buildings throughout the country, allowing for excessive consumption to be identified and activities prioritised.
In addition to EMIS, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Waste Management Information System www.otpadfbih.ba enables the generation and use of reliable data on waste for the development of strategic and action plans and the monitoring of their implementation aimed at reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions. This year, the same system should be implemented in Republika Srpska.
If, after hearing all this, there are still those who are doubtful, we are convinced that as is said in the movie ‘Train in the Snow’ “when little hands are put together anything is possible”. We can make the air clean, we can keep the land from being polluted and we can keep the water clear. We are on the right track but we are not going fast enough. We have less and less time, only until the end of the decade, to alter the course of climate change. Let us work together rapidly and immediately to ensure that all people and future generations will live free from the fear of climate change and the terrible consequences it could bring.