Low-carbon transition requires clear commitment from government, safe environment for the investments, but also support of civil society and businesses, the Sustainability Forum participants concluded. They also acknowledged that energy, environment and climate change policies are intrinsically linked and need to be addressed in a coordinated manner.
The first Sustainability Forum “Clean Energy for a Sustainable Future” took place under the auspices of the Energy Community and the Balkan Green Foundation in Vienna on June 9.
The Forum gathered ministers responsible for energy, environment and climate change of the Energy Community Contracting Parties, high-level officials of the European Commission, government officials, representatives of the private sector, civil society, non-governmental organisations and academia to discuss the best ways to contribute towards a low-carbon transition of the Energy Community.
The participants agreed that one of the main remaining barriers to further progress in the low-carbon transition in the Energy Community region is the lack of recognition of this strong interlinkage as well as the limited human resources assigned to climate action in the relevant ministries, along with the lack of awareness of climate change risks.
The Energy Community Secretariat Director Janez Kopač said at the Forum that the Contracting Parties are all aware of climate change impact adding that this issue unites all stakeholders.
“The message of today’s forum is clear. There is no other alternative for the Energy Community members than to follow the path towards a sustainable, low-carbon future. Sustainability measures are opportunities for job creation, economic growth, health improvements, and never a burden. A smart energy transition requires an integrated approach, such as in green technologies embracing the region’s renewable energy and energy efficiency potential. It is equally important to avoid regret investments,” Kopač said.
The Energy Community policy has to be comprehensive and to include all relevant stakeholders, civil society organizations, citizens and businesses, Dirck Buschle, the Energy Community Secretariat Deputy Director, pointed out, adding that the regional connectivity is an asset.
The participants also stressed that the low-carbon transition should be inclusive with a high level of transparency of actors from state to civil society.
They welcomed the increased efforts of local authorities, civil society, non-governmental organizations, energy service companies and international financial institutions in fostering the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions at local level.
Haki Abazi from Rockefeller Brothers Fund expressed his concern over international financial institutions still heavily funding fossil fuel projects. He also pointed out that in the region of the Western Balkans, human life, on average, is five years shorter due to heavy coal exploitation. “Monopoly in the region continues to be an obstacle for its sustainable development and possible solution can be found in interconnections, energy efficiency and markets liberalization,” Abazi said.
Support to the Paris Agreement
The participants reiterated their support to the Nationally Determined Contributions made in the frame work of the Paris Agreement and supported the establishment of an Energy Community Climate Action Group to guide the low-carbon transition at regional level and facilitate the work on integrated national energy and climate plans.
Artur Runde-Metzger, Director of the European Commission’s Directorate for Climate strategy, said that the fight against climate change is not an issue to be addressed “behind the close doors”, but that requires support from the civil society and business.
He said that the EU will remain leader in the fight against climate change, after the U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
EBRD and Energy Community fostering cooperation
The Energy Community Secretariat and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed the Memorandum of Understanding strengthening their cooperation in the field of sustainable development with a focus on sustainable energy policy development in the Western Balkans, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia.
The agreement, signed in Vienna on June 9, also allows two institutions to explore new opportunities for cooperation on broader sustainability issues, including climate change.