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Conference “Thinking Green & Living Clean” Held

On Wednesday, 15 May, the “Thinking Green & Living Clean” conference took place at the Sava Center, marking the release of the tenth edition of CorD Magazine’s special issue of the same name. The conference, dedicated to the green transition, featured discussions on the “EU for Green Agenda in Serbia” project, which is implemented with the technical and financial support of the European Union and in partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection by UNDP in collaboration with the Swedish Embassy and the European Investment Bank (EIB), with additional financial support from the governments of Sweden, Switzerland, and Serbia.

Key topics at the conference included aligning EU candidate countries with the European Green Agenda, Serbia’s initiatives, the supportive role of the Growth Plan, sustainable practices, energy-efficient technologies, innovations by individual companies, waste management, and sustainability. Notable speakers included H.E. Annika Ben David, Swedish Ambassador to Serbia; Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Serbia; Sandra Dokić from the Ministry of Environmental Protection; Alessandro Bragonzi, Head of the EIB Regional Representation for the Western Balkans, and Yakup Beris, UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia. The discussions were moderated by Ljubica Gojgić.

H.E. Annika Ben David highlighted Sweden’s experiences with the green transition, emphasising the importance of education from an early age about environmental preservation. She noted that citizens are encouraged to make informed choices and view green projects as sources of economic growth. “We have come a long way, learning much along the way, and we see the green transition as an opportunity. Today in Sweden, buses run on biogas; 98% of our electricity comes from renewable sources, and our goal is to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. While the shift away from traditional energy sources initially led to job losses, it also created new professions, jobs, increased exports, and stable GDP growth,” she said.

NJ.e. Anika Ben David, Ambassador of Sweden to Serbia

Nicola Bertolini remarked that as an EU candidate, Serbia has a long road ahead but has shown progress. When asked about the potential opening of lithium mines in Serbia, he stated that the Serbian citizens should make the decision. “President Vučić has said that Serbia’s potential lithium mines could meet up to 20% of Europe’s lithium needs and supply up to one million electric vehicles annually. However, environmental protection and concerns must also be addressed, ensuring full implementation of better ecological laws for local residents,” he emphasised.

Nikola Bertolini, Head of the Cooperation Department of the Delegation of the European Union in Serbia

Sandra Dokić from the Ministry of Environmental Protection stressed the crucial support of the European Union in helping Serbia achieve standards set out in negotiation chapter 27 and in developing infrastructure projects to protect the environment. “Serbia has seriously tackled environmental protection only in recent years, making significant legislative advancements and securing investments for concrete projects in waste management, and reducing water and air pollution,” she said, highlighting the importance of collaboration between various ministries.

Sandra Dokić, representative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection

Alessandro Bragonzi, EIB Head of Regional Representation for Western Balkans, thinks the struggle the world is facing to reach the target of reducing emissions shows that the formula does not really exist; there are ambitions, actions to be undertaken.

„According to the International Energy Agency, only 30% of investments can come from the public sector. 70% has to come from the private sector. Now, not as a formula, but a sensible approach to this, and I think this is what is adopted by the Western Balkan countries with the Sofia Declaration and the alignment to the Green Agenda, is that, first of all, you tackle it at the level of the policy, through the Ministry and the implementation of the adequate laws, regulations, by-laws. That creates, as the second step, an enabling environment which allows not only for public investments to be undertaken in efficient way, but also creates competitiveness in the market for private sector investments and, for example, we can talk about the advancement Serbia made with the auctions for renewable energy. “, he remarked.

 On top of that, he underlined the importance of setting up clear decarbonisation targets when it comes to Serbia, specifically in the energy, manufacturing and transportation sectors.

Alessandro Bragonzi, Head of the Regional Office of the European Investment Bank (EIB)

Yakup Beris from UNDP emphasised Serbia’s significant potential and the need for collective effort in the green transition. “Everyone should contribute as they can. For example, the ‘Mihailo Pupin’ Institute created an installation at the Ušće Shopping Center that uses the kinetic energy produced by cars to power air purification installations. This is their contribution, and it’s up to us to understand the concept of green energy and the Green Agenda and feel the need to contribute in our own way,” he said.

Yakup Beris, Permanent Representative of UNDP in Serbia

Dr. Jelena Puzović from “Srbijavode” discussed climate change impacts, risks, and responses, marking the tenth anniversary of the major floods in Serbia. “Our company undertakes numerous activities to address the challenges posed by climate change, including irrigation projects and flood and torrent protection works. In the past decade, systemic changes have been made better to prepare Serbia for the consequences of climate change,” she noted, stressing that progress means moving toward a safer future.

Dr. Jelena Puzović, Srbijavode

Till Barmeier, project leader for “Promotion of Sustainable Energy Sources and Energy Efficiency in Serbia,” introduced GIZ’s support for households and companies transitioning to solar energy. “The solar panel introduction project we supported isn’t a new idea, but it is new that in 2021, the Serbian government legally enabled citizens to produce green energy for their consumption and become prosumers (producer-consumers). Although these investments are significant, they are worthwhile, which every prosumer can immediately see in their electricity bill,” he said.

Till Barmeier, Project Leader “Promotion of sustainable energy sources and energy efficiency in Serbia”

Jelena Petljanski Kiš from Ball Packaging Belgrade, a pioneer in recycling in Serbia, spoke about the importance of a circular economy, recycling, and eco-friendly packaging. Although our company can boast excellent results, we need to introduce a deposit system, which has raised recycling rates to 90% in European countries. This is crucial for Serbia because there is also an economic aspect besides the primary ecological aspect,” she explained.

Jelena Petljanski Kiš, Ball Packaging Belgrade

Srđan Tomić from ACO Building Elements discussed efficient water resource use, highlighting the need for a shift in mindset. “For Serbia to make significant progress in water purification and reuse, we must understand that water is not an unlimited resource. Unlike developed European countries, we spend enormous resources and energy on water purification only to release it back into rivers instead of reusing it,” he said.

Srđan Tomić, ACO building elements

At the conference, visitors had the opportunity to view an exhibition of Green Innovations, which, as part of the EU’s Green Agenda initiative, received funding to put their ideas into action.

Numerous diplomats, business community members, environmental experts, and government officials attended the conference, all coming together to discuss and promote sustainable practices and the green transition in Serbia. The conference was also watched via live stream.

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