In Serbia, climate change forces a new reality

September 16, 2019

In Serbia, maximum daily temperatures are rising and an increase in extreme weather events means both flooding and severe droughts. For those who make their living off the land and sea, climate change is forcing a new reality.

Sergej Ivanov has been tending livestock on Stara Planina mountain for more than a decade. But intense changes in precipitation and the appearance of new diseases have been making it harder to sustain a healthy livestock.

“We’re just starting to learn and to experience the changes ahead of us,” he says.

In 2005, he and fellow breeders started a center that focuses on breeding indigenous cattle species, as these animals have more resistant and adaptable genes. Modern species have been bred to produce more milk and meat for human consumptions, but they are more sensitive to changes in weather conditions and heat.

Resilient and diverse species can adapt to the everchanging ecosystem, ensuring the biodiversity cycle necessary to survive the impacts of climate change

In these animals, Sergej sees a species that lives simply, with regard for food and their environment – a model, he thinks, for society as a whole, which needs to be more modest in consumption and less reckless in its use of natural resources.


Down at sea level, fisherwoman Roza Medic is contending with similar challenges of extreme weather conditions.

Due to warmer temperatures, especially in summer, evaporation has increased, lowering water levels and decreasing oxygen concentration and water quality in the rivers. This means not only less fish, but less healthy fish – a circumstance that worries Roza.

One way to help is to protect the area from future flooding and improve ways to fight its unhealthy consequence.  UND Serbia, with support from the Government of Japan, have constructed dams and torrential barriers, improved the existing water supply, established surface runoff sewage lines and shored the lands along with riverbanks to protect schools, houses, wells and roads.


This new reality of climate change means that individuals and society need to adapt. For people like Sergej, this meant breeding indigenous species. But for those not living off the land, it might take a different form. Like increasing energy efficiency in public buildings or adopting more renewable energy sources, like biomass.

UNDP Serbia and GEF are helping local communities find innovative solutions to become climate resilient.

For instance, biomass, produced by agricultural and forestry sectors, is rarely used for energy generation in Serbia, even though it comprises 61 percent of the total potential of renewable energy sources. So UNDP and GEF provided seed funds for the construction of six biogas combined heat and power plants, set up an online biomass e-trading platform and ensured that further investments in biomass facilities carry less risk for private sector investors.

In Serbia, since the majority of waste is not recycled in any way, it ends up in the fields or discharged into rivers, bot polluting the environments and endangering animal and human lives.

Climate smart innovation pioneers have received funding to implement their ideas in practice. For instance, one company collects organic waste from restaurants, and then with the use of innovative processing technology they produce energy, hot water and fertilizer. Another recycles discarded cooling devices, extracts the freon gas which is contributing to CO2 emissions, and produces a new absorbant product from the leftover polyurethane foam, which helps in oil leaks.

As Roza says, “Things are changing.” But that also can be for the better.