Our ultimate goal is to improve people’s quality of life in South-East Europe (SEE), Joachim Gaube, Sector Fund Manager of the GIZ Open Regional Fund for SEE-Energy Efficiency’s (ORF-EE) said in an interview for Balkan Green Energy News. He told us that since 2008, the ORF-EE has been providing support to the SEE countries in achieving their energy and climate targets, including reduction of CO2 emissions. The ORF-EE has also helped the region in developing various national and local strategic documents in the field of sustainable energy, climate protection and sustainable urban mobility, thus aligning the countries’ legislation with the EU acquis and global agreements, such as the Paris Agreement.
What is the focus of the GIZ Open Regional Fund for SEE-Energy Efficiency’s (ORF-EE) work in South-East Europe? In what way does the ORF-EE help the SEE countries become more resilient to climate change?
As a flexible advisory instrument, the ORF-EE initiates and promotes sustainable regional cooperation in all 6 Western Balkan countries in the field of energy efficiency and climate protection by establishing and strengthening professional networks. Special emphasis is put on the support of our partners in the planning and implementation of sustainable, efficient and climate-friendly transport systems for urban areas.
We support SEE countries in achieving their energy and climate targets, including CO2 reduction in line with the EU Energy and Climate Framework, and the Paris Climate Agreement. With this approach, the ORF-EE is moving technically towards the mitigation sector.
There are three pillars of the response to climate change. Mitigation seeks to slow down the rate of global warming, Adaptation is coping with the effects of global warming and Resilience means that the key economic and social systems of a nation are climate-proofed for the future.
ORF-EE supports SEE countries in CO2 reduction in line with the Paris Agreement
Top policymakers and corporate leaders are required to think about how to meet the Paris Agreement’s targets from a legislative, technological, business and political perspective. With rising temperatures around the globe comes also more responsibility from the top and high-profile players. Hence information, education, and awareness raising are needed, which represent our field of service.
The ways we consume our natural resources and integrate more proactive and continuous community planning is instrumental in developing our resilience. Insofar we promote resilience, albeit indirectly.
Since the ORF-EE project was launched in 2008, it has been promoting cooperation, experience exchange and empowerment of local stakeholders to address energy efficiency and climate change challenges. Who are your partners and what sector relevant changes have they been able to make with your help in their own countries and the region as a whole? What have you learned in the process from your partners?
We work cross-cutting with national ministries and institutions responsible for energy efficiency and climate, with local authorities (municipalities and municipal associations) and last but not least with civil society.
Through our regional partner network, namely the “Schools of Political Studies” we actively cooperate with SEE Parliamentarians under the ORF-EE Public Dialogue Initiative on Sustainable Use of Energy and Urban Mobility in SEE. Thus far the ORF-EE has invested greatly in extending the capacities of partners to foster sectoral changes, in line with the EU integration process.
This includes efforts on improving the legal framework, helping partners to develop sector strategies and legislation and promoting a participatory public dialogue on energy efficiency and climate. ORF-EE has conducted various initiatives, like public awareness activities, fostering a better understanding of energy efficiency and climate mitigation, as well as shaping political will for sector changes.
Partners have so far taken part in the EU Covenant of Mayors Initiative preparing Sustainable Energy Action Plans. With the support of the ORF-EE national governments in our partner countries developed National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs) and have integrated the online based monitoring and verification tool (MVP) into their energy policy development processes. The MVP has been developed by the ORF-EE in collaboration with its partners and serves for data collection and calculation of energy savings, facilitating the development of sector policies and monitor their impact.
ORF-EE has invested greatly in extending the capacities of partners to foster sectoral changes, in line with the EU integration process
Through the technical and financial support of parliamentary hearings across the region, organized for the first time in this form, public dialogue has been sustainably integrated into the political communication culture. In that frame, cross-border cooperation of national parliaments in the region was initiated and shared statements on energy efficiency and climate protection have been commonly formulated.
There are many aspects through which the ORF-EE was able to assist political processes, always looking at sector relevant changes and applying a comprehensive cross-institutional lens.
More recently, the ORF-EE has also been able to attract the interest of its partner countries on the latest EU-tool namely the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP) in order to control climate change. This group of topics also includes activities on the development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) planned in collaboration with cities in the region.
We learned from our partners the complex political and socio-economic challenges they are constantly faced with
SUMP offers a long-term strategy for the future development of an urban area and for that of transport and mobility. Its implementation improves the accessibility of urban areas and provides high-quality and sustainable mobility and transport to, through and within the urban range. It regards the needs of the ‘functioning city’ and its hinterland.
However, our work also went through the development process. We learned from our partners the complex political and socio-economic challenges they are constantly faced with and how to patiently approach the implementation of joint activities. Our respect for the often remarkable efforts of our partners in implementing the legal requirements of the EU in their respective countries has grown considerably.
Urban mobility is one of the most important elements of the sustainable development agenda. For the past year or so the ORF-EE has been putting a lot of effort in mainstreaming this topic region wide. Can you elaborate more on ORF-EE’s sustainable urban mobility activities? What are the German experiences in the transportation sector and sustainable urban mobility that are applicable to the region?
Sustainable urban mobility is an important topic on the EU’s agenda. In our efforts to support the EU integration process of our partner countries for the sake of their population, we leave no stone unturned. We are committed to work towards the prioritization of this issue on the political agenda.
Our ultimate goal is to improve SEE people’s quality of life, hence in line with our energy efficiency efforts, we aim at reducing CO2 emissions.
In this respect, the ORF-EE engages in regional and supra-regional exchange in order to increase the expertise on sustainable urban mobility of municipalities, local and national legislative bodies as well as civil society. We organize technical study trips to advanced cities in different EU-countries (e.g. Berlin, Freiburg, and Ljubljana) and exchange tours to lawmaking parliaments (e.g. Berlin, Brussels) to show examples of good practice.
Our ultimate goal is to improve SEE people’s quality of life
Since the 1960s most German cities have been adopting urban transport plans. Although they are not legally binding, most cities and urban regions are developing them (Verkehrsentwicklungspläne -VEP) as an important part of general land-use planning. More and more elements of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans are increasingly included in VEPs.
There is always the question of whether the region is ready to embrace change. How do you tackle this aspect through ORF-EE?
The region has already embraced many sector related changes and it continues to demonstrate its ambition to improve the situation in the sector even further. In 2017, with the help of ORF-EE, representatives of the capital cities in our partner countries namely Sarajevo, Pristina, Podgorica, Skopje, and Tirana signed a joint letter of intent, joining forces for effective implementation of the regional initiative on sustainable urban mobility.
Region has already embraced many sector related changes, it continues to demonstrate its ambition to improve
Most recently, at the 3rd SEE Parliamentary Forum on Energy Efficiency and Climate, held on 19 February in Brussels, parliamentarians of all 6 SEE partner countries prepared a joint declaration on EE and climate. This common declaration is a great sign of their ambition and dedication placing energy efficiency and climate change issues as a high priority on the political agenda. We consider this as a great success both for the ORF-EE and for the region.
During the last 10 years, the ORF-EE has successfully implemented many projects and initiatives. Can you share with our readers a success story that can motivate and inspire them to drive change?
As said earlier, there have been many activities successfully implemented by the ORF-EE together with its partners in the past years. We are really proud to say that we have a positive and trustworthy relationship with our partners and that this cooperation has benefited the region. Still, there is so much more left to do, hence we are continuing to support SEE countries in making constant progress in the sector.
One of ORF-EE’s main initiatives is the shaping of the policy agenda in SEE, helping the countries make sectoral changes, aligning the sector with EU policy and supporting the EU integration.
In this regard, the development of the MVP online tool for calculation of energy savings, which has been adopted by SEE countries as a national instrument for sector policy making, is certainly one worth mentioning. It is used by partner countries mainly for the development of National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs), helping to improve communication and reporting on energy efficiency activities.
ORF-EE’s main initiatives is the shaping of the policy agenda in SEE, helping the countries make sectoral changes, aligning the sector with EU policy and supporting the EU integration.
It also has been recognized by the Energy Community through its integration in the official program of the Energy Efficiency Coordination Group. Croatia, which was an ORF-EE partner country up until its accession to the EU, integrated MVP into its legal framework.
Currently, the ORF-EE is working on an upgrade of the MVP to meet the needs our partners are facing under the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED). The integration of the system on a local level will improve the communication and coordination between relevant national and local level institutions. This is crucial for the successful development and implementation of national energy efficiency and climate protection policies. Furthermore, we will continue to support SEE partner countries’ sector reforms and EU path.