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H.E. Annika Ben David, Ambassador Of Sweden To Serbia

We Now Need To Involve Citizens

The Swedish bioenergy success story could apply to Serbia in many ways. We hope that Swedish companies and experts will play a significant role in helping Serbia increase the use of bioenergy in an economically and environmentally optimal way ~ Annika Ben David

Sweden can share a lot of its experiences and practises regarding the fight against climate change, says Swedish Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Annika Ben David, speaking in this CorD interview. “The most important experience is that all parts of Swedish society can and want to participate in fighting climate change – leading by example,” explains our interlocutor. “There are impressive investments being implemented by industry, for example in developing carbon-free steel production, while at the same time people are re-thinking their lifestyles to see how they can contribute, for example by eating more vegetarian, recycling household waste, using more public transportation or buying a bio-fuel car.”

From such an ecological perspective, what would be the most important lessons you would like to share with the Serbian public and Serbian policymakers?

– There are two important lessons. The first is that the investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that we made in the ‘90s are now paying off. Our foresight then is helping us today, when we find ourselves in the midst of an energy crisis. The second lesson is that we need to involve citizens. As an explanation, it is important to lead the way, but also to listen – to people, civil society, industry and academia. By making them partners in green transition, policy and action become more sustainable.

Waste separation and recycling is greatly lacking in our experience and our focus. How do you contribute to the sharing of knowledge and the implementation of sustainable solutions in this area?

– In Sweden, 98 per cent of all waste is recycled and becomes new energy. Recycling is made easy and has become a reflex. Sweden has supported Serbia in developing strategies and plans to improve waste management standards nationwide. Serbia’s policy is now aligned with EU standards and supported by practical and affordable local experience.

The need for sustainability is as key for Serbia as it is for Sweden. There is no substitute for practical experience and persistence. Swedish cooperation with Serbia’s national and local authorities made possible pilot projects like the Arilje source separation station, the Čačak transfer station and waste planning in Čajetina. These projects serve to demonstrate how progress can be achieved.

Sweden has supported Serbia in developing strategies and plans to increase waste management standards nationwide. Serbia’s policy is now aligned with EU standards and supported by practical and affordable local experience

Thanks to Swedish support, as part of the Team Europe effort, small-scale pilot projects have turned into large-scale investments in 17 municipalities. These are being rolled out as we speak. Tons of waste is now being recycled! In line with Serbia’s national plans, this approach will be expanded and applied across the country.

Swedish companies are said to be interested in investing in biomass and biogas in Serbia. How many opportunities for cooperation do you see today and in future?

– The Green transition of our society is very important to us. There is simply no way around it.

Swedish companies are our partners. They are global leaders of innovation and sustainability. This includes the use of biogas and biomass, something we refer to as bioenergy in Sweden. In fact, according to 2020 data, bioenergy is the leading source of energy in Sweden, with close to a 40% stake in the overall energy mix. When it comes to district heating, biomass has a dominant position of about 70% as the main source of fuel for producing heat. As Serbia embarks on the path of increased use of renewable energy sources, we know that bioenergy is one of those with the greatest potential to replace fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are currently used in Serbian district heating plants, for example. In the north of Serbia, in Vojvodina, there is significant potential to produce biogas from manure, with additional quantities of energy crop substrates, such as maize silage, which is abundant there.

The bioenergy success story in Sweden could therefore apply to Serbia in many ways. We hope that Swedish companies and experts will play a significant role in helping Serbia increase the use of bioenergy in an economically and environmentally optimal way.

A bilateral agreement on cooperation in reducing industrial emissions was signed a year ago by Sweden and the Serbian Ministry of Environmental Protection. What progress has been made so far?

– The first year of our project has been very successful: the process of preparing a new law with high environmental standards has now started. Together with several industries, our experts have worked on permit preparation for investments in green technologies. We have held several training sessions for inspectors, so they can do their job better. And, very importantly, we have engaged students in a Tech Case competition, showing that students in Serbia are a great resource when it comes to solving challenging problems. Together with the EU, Serbia and UNDP, we are active in the huge EU for Green Agenda project. It has made challenge calls engaging several more industries in green investments for the future. Industrial emissions should be in the focus in the years ahead.

EU Accession Negotiation Chapter 27 – Living Environment and Climate is one of the toughest for any country to fulfil. In which areas has Serbia, with your support, made the most visible change?

– Sweden’s support for waste management and wastewater improvements are the most visible changes. For example, a major wastewater treatment plant in Niš is now under construction and will serve to reduce the levels of untreated wastewater entering the river Nišava. The plant was prepared by Sweden and is now being co-financed by Serbia and the EU. Through our recycling reform, regions that are home to up to 700,000 citizens are now engaged; citizens recycle their own household waste, separating metal, plastic, paper and glass. This is very hands-on and very visible!

FORESIGHT

The investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that we made in the ‘90s are now paying off, just when we find ourselves in the midst of an energy crisis

SUPPORT

Thanks to Swedish support to Serbia, as part of the Team Europe effort, small-scale pilot projects have turned into large-scale investments in 17 municipalities. These are being rolled out as we speak

ACHIEVEMENT

In Sweden, 98 per cent of all waste is recycled and becomes new energy. Recycling is made easy and has become a reflex

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