UN Secretary General António Guterres, speaking to UN member states in September 2018, called climate change the defining issue of our time, stating: “We are at a defining moment. We face a direct existential threat. Climate change is moving faster than we are. If we don’t change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”
A special IPCC report of October 2018 made the case for urgent action around the world to keep global warming to an increase of within a 1.5-degree Celsius. Within 10-30 years, the report indicates, world temperatures could rise by more than three degrees. This could lead to an exacerbation of poverty, while the most vulnerable sections of the population will be the hardest hit by the effects of rising sea-levels, increased droughts, flash floods and extreme weather.
This call for action on climate also resonates in Serbia, which has committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and adapting to shifting climate conditions. The scope of work is tremendous. As public assets and services are not at the required level of energy efficiency, many public service-related areas involving the use of large number of vehicles and machinery have untapped potential to reduce GHG emissions while simultaneously improving the everyday lives of citizens. There is a lack of available good quality data on current GHG emissions from different sectors, particularly at the local level.
With funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Serbian Ministry of Environmental Protection and UNDP currently implement the Climate Smart Urban Development (CSUD) initiative, focusing on climate action at the local level in Serbia. Individuals, civil society organisations, researchers, public institutions and businesses were invited to come up with ideas on how to reduce GHG emissions in their communities and to adapt to changing climate conditions. Another challenge was run for opening and managing climate change data at the local level, in sectors such as energy, transport, construction, urban planning, water and waste management. Though this initiative, the Ministry and UNDP help local partners develop, finance and implement these ideas in practice.
There are currently 46 teams of ‘Climate Smart Innovation pioneers’ and ‘Open Data Innovation Pioneers’ that receive support from the Climate Incubator project, which encompasses expert guidance on the further development of ideas (towards concepts, prototypes, testing and practical implementation); assistance in business planning and identification of the sources of co-financing; promotion; and partnering with other climate innovators. Open Data teams are also working to develop inventories of local greenhouse gases.
All these smart solutions for climate will initially be implemented in 24 municipalities in Serbia. However, they have high potential for comprehensive use all over Serbia, in many areas related to urban development, as well as in agriculture. The mechanism piloted by the project can be applied by the Ministry to further support climate action at the local level in Serbia through more challenges, in order to generate a movement and critical mass of positive change in tackling climate change.
In 2017, UNDP helped 140 countries access $3.2 billion in grant financing for climate initiatives