“We all know what can be done,” says Rijad Tikveša, president of the Ekotim Association for the Protection and Promotion of Nature, Environment and Health in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to Tikveša, there are three main recommendations for policy makers: “Reduce emissions, reduce emissions and reduce emissions.”
“There are three basic directions for action”, continues Tikveša, “reducing emissions from heating, transport and energy installations – the latter meaning the phasing out of existing installations, which produce and consume massive amounts. of coal and are the source of enormous pollution. . ”
In addition to the negative environmental impacts of emissions in the Western Balkans, these pollutants are both costly and deadly. Emissions from heating, power plants, solid fuel stoves and other sources combine to form airborne particles (PM) that can be inhaled when they are less than 10 microns in diameter. Exposure to PM 2.5 particles is particularly dangerous to health, as these particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and the bloodstream. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, as many An estimated 3,300 people die prematurely each year following exposure to ambient air pollution by PM 2.5. This estimate is 1,600 deaths in North Macedonia and 760 deaths in Kosovo.
Air pollution remains the main environmental risk factor contributing to the combined largest share of death and disability in the Western Balkans. In addition, the estimated annual economic costs associated with the health damage caused by this pollution are staggering, averaging $ 240 million in Kosovo (3.6% of GDP), $ 750 million in North Macedonia (6 , 9% of GDP) and $ 1.38 billion in Bosnia and Herzegovina (8.2% of GDP) in 2016.
The health and economic challenges posed by toxic particles are compounded by other pollutants, which degrade air quality, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and negatively impact the quality of life of every living individual. in the Western Balkans. Recognizing these growing challenges, the leaders of the Western Balkans have ambitiously declared their intention to work towards a 2050 goal of a carbon neutral Europe, as outlined in a joint declaration in November 2020, and the World Bank remains committed to supporting this goal.
This support includes the implementation of projects designed to address the challenges of air pollution, based on analyzes conducted to better understand the problem that may underlie the design of these interventions in order to maximize their effectiveness in reducing emissions, improving health outcomes and reducing the economic impacts of air pollution.
Over the past fifteen years, the World Bank has invested more than $ 250 million to improve energy efficiency and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the region – including initiatives to reduce the global heat demand, to replace obsolete wood and coal-fired boilers and to increase utilization. more efficient lighting.
Projects in Bosnia herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia have helped reduce energy consumption and the use of fossil fuels in buildings – increasing energy efficiency and reducing local and global emissions in the region. In Kosovo, this work should generate energy savings equivalent to approximately 15% of the country’s annual electricity demand. In Bosnia herzegovina, energy efficiency measures help demonstrate the great energy savings potential and associated benefits associated with improving public buildings – with lifetime energy and carbon savings from 61 refurbished buildings, estimated at the equivalent of taking 80,000 cars off the street.
Going forward, the World Bank will continue to help the countries of the Western Balkans green their economies by investing in clean energy sources, helping to close highly polluting mines in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, and helping to increase energy efficiency and reduce the ecological footprint. of their savings. This work includes a new study on the sustainability of heating in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and North Macedonia, designed to help governments identify sustainable alternatives to replace highly polluting systems, while simultaneously analyzing policy and regulatory reforms. to promote sustainable heating and determine financing mechanisms. to help the residential sector shift to more sustainable options. Although challenging, this clean-up and carbon-reduction program for the heating sector in countries has the potential to be one of the most effective and rewarding interventions in this area.
Greening the economies of the Western Balkans will mean that all citizens can prosper economically while breathing clean air and drinking clean water – a triple victory for boosting livelihoods, improving health and creating growth sustainability towards a cleaner and healthier future.