The National Ecological Association (NEA) called on the government, civil sector, independent experts and citizens to cooperate on the improvement of air quality in Serbia, in the light of the start of cluster 4 of the EU accession negotiations.
The European Union’s decision to open the green agenda and sustainable connectivity cluster in the negotiations with Serbia “is only a construction permit” and next are rough construction works and earthworks, which will be assessed without bias, founder of National Ecological Association (NEA) Milenko Jovanović said.
In line with the metaphor, citizens should move into a home where they will experience quality with regard to the environment and health like in the EU and the world, and the progress will be rated objectively. Cluster 4 consists of the chapters on transport policy, energy, trans-European networks and on the environment and climate change.
Serbia needs to adopt EU standards even if it doesn’t become its member, NEA’s Milenko Jovanović says
NEA is a national and nonpartisan organization that identifies problems and points them out in public, Jovanović said at a press conference in Belgrade. Its expert council is comprised of people that have courage to state the facts and they are sharing their knowledge with citizens, he asserted.
In his words, Serbia needs to adopt EU standards even if it doesn’t become a member of the bloc, and NEA and other nongovernmental organizations and independent experts can help the government in the process, he said and estimated that the institutions are lacking capacity.
Water quality application soon to be launched as part of xEco set
Dejan Lekić from NEA managed on his own in the eight months since it was founded to combine government data and create three xEco applications that citizens can use to make decisions related to pollution and air quality on a daily basis. The name is an abbreviation from eXtreme ECOlogy.
XEco Air, which just got an English language version, includes the Klimerko network of personal devices to measure quality. XEco polen shows the concentrations of allergenic pollens in Serbia from 26 plants, and xEco odžak (chimney) displays the emissions of air pollutants from industrial facilities.
Lekić: The government must make environmental data available to citizens in real time
Lekić said the fourth application, xEco kap (droplet), would cover the quality of water in general and for drinking, bathing and water supply. He pointed out the data from xEco Air show there were 135 breaches of the allowed daily limit for PM10 suspended particles in the cities of Novi Pazar and Valjevo since the beginning of the year, compared to the tolerated level of up to 35 days. The hourly values of sulfur dioxide in the mining city of Bor reached excessive levels 155 times, and breaches are legally tolerated only 24 times a year, he added.
NEA is demanding from state institutions to make all the data available to citizens in real time on its Open Data Portal, Lekić underscored.
Fossil fuels must be urgently abandoned
Tia Leber from the United States Embassy said at the event that it is in her government’s interest that Serbia joins the EU and that it would support the country on the path. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is active in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that will help Serbia reach energy independence, as well as in a biodiversity preservation project for protected areas, she noted.
It will require courage to make necessary changes and investments including in the retraining of coal workers
“The transition away from coal and fossil fuels won’t be easy, but it is essential and needed urgently. It will require courage to make necessary changes, large investments in green infrastructure, strategies for local communities, retraining coal workers, sharing knowledge across borders on best practices, creating and expanding financial instruments, developing tools across all sectors of society to deal with the threats of climate change,” Leber stated.
Companies to change their ways if it is good for business
Former Head of Programme at the European Environment Agency David Stanners stressed that, in order to make the right decisions on the environment, it is necessary for people to get salient and credible information from institutions that they trust. In his opinion, companies would change their way if they know healthy environment would be good for business.
Simon Ilse from the Belgrade office of Germany’s foundation Heinrich Böll Stiftung highlighted the findings from a new study by the Health and Environment Alliance, HEAL, about the extremely harmful impact of coal-fired power plants on air quality in Serbia and in the Balkans. He also underscored that carbon dioxide emissions in Serbia have been growing.
Program Manager of the EU Delegation to Serbia Antoine Avignon said it is voters who can hold countries and politicians accountable for their environmental and climate obligations.