The latest revision of the Bulgarian NRRP, containing 57 investment projects worth BGN 12.6 billion (EUR 6.4 billion) and 43 sectoral reforms, was presented publicly on July 20, and is undergoing public consultation before being approved by the incoming Bulgarian government and the European Commission. Previous draft versions of the Bulgarian NRRP had been widely criticized by the civic sector and European institutions, for being weak on climate action and containing almost no funding for biodiversity management and restoration, as well as for lack of transparency in the public consultation process.
Thanks in part to a year-long advocacy process and dedicated expert support by “For a Green Restart Coalition” and WWF, the new draft plan includes a BGN 63 million project for restoring forest and freshwater ecosystems with climate mitigation and adaptation co-benefits, as well as a number of energy transition reforms, aimed to support coal exit and broaden access to renewable energy for households, communities and businesses.
Acknowledging the NGO Coalition’s support, Deputy Prime Minister Pekanov highlighted the environmental and climate challenges Bulgaria faces and how the NRRP can provide solutions: “There are many global risks, which we are underestimating - those include climate change and biodiversity loss, which we must address with urgency. For example, we are losing species 100 to 1000 times the background extinction rate. The Bulgarian public has not been adequately prepared to understand why we need a green recovery and transition, and I am grateful that together we can communicate these risks and opportunities.”
“The NRRP, as part of the Next Generation EU, has to ensure both short-term economic recovery, as well as long-term green and digital transition.” added Mr. Pekanov. “We have focused on providing renewable energy generation opportunities for households, and strengthened resource efficiency and circular economy measures. We have increased threefold biodiversity investments, adding an ecosystem restoration project.”
Commenting on the new biodiversity restoration project, which has been elaborated by the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water, in cooperation with experts from WWF and the the Executive Forestry Agency, Vesselina Kavrakova, CEO of WWF Bulgaria, observed: “Green COVID-19 Recovery has to take into account the goals of the European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, as healthy, connected and functioning ecosystems are the foundation of human health and economy, and a main ally in the fight against climate change and the associated socio-economic risks.”
Ms. Kavrakova added: “Tripling biodiversity funding in the new draft plan still means that total investment in biodiversity amounts to less than 1% of NRRP recovery funding. Nevertheless, the new measures provide a model approach for forest and ecosystem restoration, aimed at increasing carbon uptake and adapting ecosystems to climate impacts, combating forest fires, and ensuring that restored wetlands and floodplain forests might prevent floods and provide essential ecosystem services in the future.”
Compliance with the Do No Significant Harm (DNSH) has also been strengthened in the new draft plan, excluding some investments harmful to biodiversity, such as large scale hydropower and outdated irrigation projects, threatening water resources and habitats.
Fossil gas support has been downscaled from earlier proposals, although it has not been completely eliminated, and its value as a bridge fuel for Bulgaria’s power sector remains highly questionable. WWF welcomes the addition of a new “Energy transition commission” reform, which must set clear deadlines and steps for a complete and final exit from coal power generation before 2030.
WWF Bulgaria and its “For a Green Restart Coalition” partners will continue to monitor the final adoption process for the Bulgarian NRRP and call for continuity and transparency on behalf of the incoming Bulgarian government coalition. Sasha Bezuhanova, founder of MOVE.BG and “For a Green Restart” Coalition, and WWF CEE Board Co-Chair summarized: “The Recovery and Resilience Plan can be a highway towards the innovative and green transformation of the Bulgarian economy. With that understanding, we brought together digital businesses, investors, ecological experts, and scientists to define a smart future-oriented reform agenda that can help the country's sustainable development and can position it as one of the key players in the landscape of a prosperous Europe of tomorrow. Our unprecedented Coalition will stay to defend that green path for our country in the future.”
Watch a video recording of the workshop (in Bulgarian) here.
Read the WWF Bulgaria and NGO Partner Position against Fossil Gas Investments in the NRRP here.
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