The main impact of climate change in the Danube-Carpathian region are not only rising temperatures but climate anomalies, with increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including both droughts and flooding. Parts of Southern Hungary, Northern Serbia and Southern Romania are likely to experience desertification. Many areas, especially in Bulgaria, could experience severe water shortages.
Rising temperatures as well as the frequency of extreme weather events are a direct threat to the valuable biodiversity in the region as well as to the precious ecosystem services that they provide.
WWF CLIMATE WORK AIMS AT
- Advocating for urgent action to limit climate change to less than an average global temperature rise of 1.5° C by reducing greenhouse gas emissions across key economic sectors. A priority for WWF is lobbying governments from the region to support progressive EU policies on climate change and energy and advance national strategies and financial instruments that support the transition to a decarbonised economy. WWF-CEE is particularly focused on the decarbonisation of the energy sector and the transition to a 100% renewables based power system, less dependent on solid biomass and hydroelectricity.
- Developing and demonstrating solutions for a sustainable use of forest biomass as a renewable energy source, including policy interventions, scientific research as well as working with vulnerable, solid-fuel dependent, local communities across the region for a transition to alternative sources of space heating and improved energy efficiency.
- Preventing the development of further impactful energy projects, from a greenhouse gas emissions perspective, as well as in order to avoid biodiversity impacts. WWF is monitoring plans for hydroelectric power plants, electricity only generating solid biomass plants as well as solar PV and on-shore wind energy projects that might be placed in sensitive areas.
- Advocating for a holistic approach in the ramp up of renewable energy and electrification of economic sectors, integrating environmental and social aspects. WWF advocates and advances knowledge for an integrated spatial planning in the designation of suitable areas for solar PV and wind energy projects in order to avoid and mitigate biodiversity impacts and maximise community participation and benefit sharing.
CURRENT STATUS AND KEY DRIVERs
- CEE countries remain less ambitious in terms of climate policies compared to other EU countries. The existing National Energy and Climate Plans, a cornerstone national planning act, show insufficient ambition regarding renewable energy development, connected infrastructure and for advancing energy efficiency, while the appetite for gas as a ‘transition’ fuel remains high. Measures for sectoral objectives, including for the decarbonisation of industrial production, agriculture and transport, remain inefficient. Only recently, as part of Resilience and Recovery Facility Plan commitments, a number of meaningful reforms have been introduced, most notably clear coal phase out commitments and clearer legislative reforms in the energy sector, including offshore wind legislation and electricity market regulatory changes.
- The use of forest biomass, especially at household level, remains a major source of particle matter (PM) pollution, also raising concerns over the sustainability of harvesting and its impacts on national forest carbon stocks. High shares of energy poverty are correlated with the high dependency of forest biomass. Supporting the energy transition of vulnerable households requires tailored policy and financial interventions and its success is key for the decarbonisation of CEE countries.
- There is a considerable gap in existing and planned wind energy and solar PV capacity compared to climate neutrality scenarios such as the Paris Agreement Compatible Scenarios. Advancing wind and solar installed capacity in the region, as well as connected infrastructure, namely transmission and distribution networks, will require a holistic planning process that integrates biodiversity and social considerations. The CEE region is home to large numbers of critical species and habitats, including bird migration corridors. As such, efforts to ramp up wind and solar capacities are an opportunity for a comprehensive spatial planning exercise integrating environmental sensitive areas.
- Public perception and concern about climate change in the region is on the rise. The latest EUROBarometer on Climate Change shows that more than three quarters (77%) of EU citizens think climate change is a very serious problem at this moment, while the percentage for CEE countries is only slightly lower. Still, all CEE country citizens consider climate change to be the single most serious problem facing the world as a whole, following armed conflict and poverty.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE
- WWF has had some success in influencing the national climate and resilience plans in Romania and Bulgaria, and has first models for a fair transition from coal to renewables.
- WWF has consolidated climate teams in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and at regional level, and has a growing number of corporate partners that are committed to climate action.
Funded by EU LIFE Programme Climate Governance and Information, the „Balancing solid biomass for climate neutrality in CEE countries” (LIFE BIO-BALANCE) overall objective is to support EU Member States to shift to a low-carbon and resilient economy by ensuring that solid biomass is produced and used sustainably at all levels. The project design was motivated by multiple negative trends which connected to the energy utilization of solid biomass, namely climate change, biodiversity, air pollution and energy poverty.