Professors from the University of Belgrade have warned decision makers in Serbia that it will be more expensive for the country to do nothing to reduce CO2 emissions, mainly in the energy sector, than to implement decarbonization measures. The price will be paid even if Serbia does not join the EU, they said, noting that the world’s major economies have taken the decarbonization path in order to tackle climate change.
This important message was sent by the professors at a panel called Three Faces of Climate Change, held today as part of EkoKon 2020 – All faces of the climate change, a conference organized by Ekogeneza. Aleksandar Jovović, professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Belgrade and his colleagues Darko Stojilović from the Faculty of Philosophy and Tomica Mišljenović from the Faculty of Biology spoke at the event.
Without political decisions, the problem of climate change cannot be solved
The members of the academic community noted that climate change is not something theoretical, but rather a process that produces concrete extreme weather events, such as floods, fires, and droughts, adding that it is necessary to put pressure on decision makers to come up with appropriate measures because climate change cannot be solved without political decisions.
Professor Vladimir Đurđević from the Faculty of Physics of the University of Belgrade explained once again why decarbonization is inevitable.
The Earth’s atmosphere has become warmer, so that Serbia now has another summer month, in addition to three regular ones, because the number of days in a year with temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius has increased, according to him. The amount of precipitation has not changed, but there has been redistribution. Summer precipitation has been reduced, which is bad for agricultural production, but also for forests, while the country now has more extreme rainfall, with huge amounts of water in short time periods.
The loss of summer precipitation in Serbia has increased the risk of drought, while, on the other hand, intense precipitation has intensified the risk of floods, according to Đurđević.
Air pollution has made Serbian citizens aware of climate change
Professor Aleksandar Jovović said that climate change cannot be seen in everyday life, which makes it difficult to convince people to do something because polar bears will disappear. They will probably be sad, but that’s it, he said.
Catastrophic events such as floods are already making people think, but it is hard to explain to them that the cause is climate change.
The climate change issue has become interesting to the public in Serbia in the last two years due to air pollution, which has been the same for many years now. But now the pollution is more visible because the meteorological conditions are different, and they are a consequence of climate change, he added.
The future of the planet will depend on CO2 emissions from fossil fuels use.
According to Đurđević, the question is whether people want to live on a planet that is four degrees warmer by the end of the century, which will happen if nothing is changed, or on a planet that is only one degree warmer, which is a scenario of the Paris Agreement. The world is now at a crossroads between these two scenarios, he noted.
The problem is that there time for action is running out, with only five to ten years left at the moment, which is exactly why it is a good thing to talk about the current situation as a climate crisis, he said.
If we miss the opportunity to reduce emissions, we will not get another one
Đurđević sees decisions of the largest emitters to decarbonize their economies as good news. The EU has set 2050 as a decarbonization deadline, compared with China’s 2060 and Japan’s 2050. The United States is expected to rejoin the Paris Agreement, and to set the decarbonization target for 2050.
If we miss the present opportunity, we will not have another one to create conditions for a safe future, Đurđević said.
Failure to act will have high price whether Serbia joins EU or not
Emissions in Serbia in 2018 totaled 62 million tons of CO2 equivalent, which was less than in the 1990s due to lower industrial production, lower energy consumption, and smaller population, said professor Aleksandar Jovović from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Belgrade.
The energy sector is responsible for 80% of emissions
The largest emitter is the energy sector, with a share of 80%, although it reduced emissions against 2005 by 10%. About 80% to 90% of these emissions come from electricity and heat production.
The rest is attributed to transportation, industry, agriculture, and waste (2-3 million tons), where there is potential for reduction, especially when it comes to methane from landfills.
If it does not join the EU, Serbia will face a CO2 tax, which will make its goods more expensive to export
Serbia’s low-carbon development strategy, which has been prepared but not yet adopted, explores different scenarios and economic costs. The selected scenario envisages a significant reduction in emissions compared to the 1990s, with bearable costs for the country by 2030 or by 2050.
If Serbia does not do anything on decarbonization, the cost will be higher by 2030, and especially by 2050, than any set of measures the country may apply in order to reduce emissions, Jovović said.
Serbia is delaying the inevitable, and the proof is air pollution
This applies to both the scenario where Serbia joins the EU and where it doesn’t. The recently adopted Green Agenda for the Western Balkans must be implemented, and then there is the introduction of the CO2 tax, which will increase the price of Serbian goods for export to the EU.
Jovović believes decarbonization is the solution and that it envisages the use of renewable energy, as well as energy efficiency measures, but that political will is necessary.
Mišljenović: The authorities must be pressured
Tomica Mišljenović from the Faculty of Biology said climate change is not something abstract, adding that it is therefore necessary for all of us to adjust our behavior and become aware of the problem.
Climate change also brings a redistribution of species, so it is possible for some invasive species to appear in this ares, as well as for new diseases to appear, for example malaria.
Citizens of Serbia must put pressure on the authorities to adopt measures for climate change adaptation, not only at the national but also the local level, he said.
Serbia must understand that investing in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency increases GDP and creates jobs, Jovović said.
Decarbonization will leave coal sector workers jobless, and it will seem terrible at that moment, but over time new jobs will be found for them as well.
Serbia is only postponing what needs to be done, and the situation with air pollution demonstrates that very well, he added.