Ensuring good governance in the domain of environmental protection is our common concern and responsibility that requires the participation of various actors and stakeholders. Numerous “ecological problems” mostly arise from ourselves – from our way of life, consumer priorities in the industrial world and a natural balance that’s disrupted under the influence of various activities that we are most commonly not even aware of initially. By using nature and its resources, man is constantly changing and influencing that nature, sometimes to the point of degradation, so the biosphere that we inherit and the technosphere, which is a product of many activities, often find themselves in conflict.
Taking care of the environment implies teamwork. Even small changes that can come about through the individual actions of each of us, as well as our joint future steps, can contribute to changing the general state of affairs and cause a shift in environmental protection. With high-quality cross-sector cooperation, as well as cooperation with citizens, aimed at implementing activities necessary to improve the current situation and implement tangible measures to reduce pollution in the environment, as well as raising environmental awareness, we can contribute together to creating a better future and a better quality of life for the citizens of Serbia, but also for the entire region of the Western Balkans.
In the domain of environmental protection, a multidisciplinary and scientific approach to problems and continuous cooperation are required, as well as exchanges of opinions and experience on modalities and the confronting of challenges, with consideration given to examples of domestic and international best practice, which can certainly contribute to improving the quality of the environment.
Cities and municipalities can be an invaluable resource in terms of perspectives and the need for potential development and capacity building in environmental protection. The development of expert services for environmental protection at the local level would contribute to even better communication and the defining of crucial problems, as well as contributing to improving the implementation of environmental projects and more quickly resolving environmental problems at the local level.
By recognising the need to cooperate closely with units of local self-government in solving environmental problems, the Ministry of Environmental Protection formed – as the first step in the development of that cooperation – the first ever Department for Cooperation with Local Communities, within the Sector for Environmental Governance. With this step we demonstrated that our priorities are teamwork, good cooperation, constant and open communication directed towards the local level and citizens in understanding the problems and finding a route to solving environmental problems.
It is thus essential, in the coming period, to work with commitment, as a team and in synchronisation, at both the national and local levels, on capacity building and establishing the necessary conditions, with the aim of implementing tangible measures for improving the state of the environment.
SUBSIDIES LEADING TO CLEANER AIR
The start of this year saw the Ministry of Environmental Protection launch the first activities in the form of concrete measures for reducing air pollution, which were set as a high priority. A public competition was announced for the allocation of funds for co-financing the implementation of projects to reduce air pollution in Serbia originating from individual sources, as well as a public competition for cofinancing the implementation of projects for the procurement, replacement, reconstruction and rehabilitation of heating boilers in 2021.
This enables heating plants and other public institutions, as well as households, to switch from the use of coal and fuel oil to more environmentally friendly energy sources. Funds for co-financing the project to reduce pollution from individual sources were allocated to 10 local self-government units, amounting to a combined total of approximately 100 million dinars, while funds for co-financing the implementation of projects for the procurement, replacement, reconstruction and rehabilitation of heating boilers in 2021 were allocated to 24 cities and municipalities, amounting to a combined total of approximately 200 million dinars.
With the aim of increasing afforestation on the territory of the Republic of Serbia, the Ministry has allocated approximately 100 million dinars for units of local self-government to co-finance the procurement of seedlings and implement works on the afforestation of land with indigenous species of trees and shrubs, with these projects to be implemented in 38 Serbian municipalities and cities
Among the measures aimed at improving air quality is afforestation. With the aim of increasing afforestation on the territory of the Republic of Serbia, the Ministry has allocated approximately 100 million dinars for units of local self-government to co-finance the procurement of seedlings and implement works on the afforestation of land with indigenous species of trees and shrubs, with these projects to be implemented in 38 Serbian municipalities and cities.
Given the fact that only sustainable systems and the greater representation of vehicles with alternative propulsion systems can reduce pollution from the transport sector, the Ministry of Environmental Protection subsidises purchases of new vehicles with electric motors and vehicles with hybrid drives. These subsidies are granted to both private individuals and registered entities. Considering that traffic in urban areas has a significant impact on air pollution, it is necessary to motivate citizens to switch to more environmentally friendly modes of transport, which the Government of Serbia is helping to ensure by subsidising the purchase of lower emission vehicles.
Among the ministry’s continuous activities in the domain of air protection is the issuing of approvals for Air Quality Plans and short-term action plans, as well as the initiating of local self-government units to also develop, adopt and implement these plans at the local level. The Ministry insists, in particular, that local self-governments be included in everything that the ministry does with the aim of improving air quality, as well as applying provisions of the laws that are under their jurisdiction.
A draft National Air Protection Programme with an action plan will be prepared by the end of this year and will define goals for improving air quality, as well as measures for achieving those goals, providing the basis for the further development and adoption of by-laws and the continued implementation of European legislation in the area of environmental protection.
The drafting of the National Air Protection Programme with its associated action plan is among the activities being implemented intensively within the project “EU for a better environment – development of a framework for harmonisation with EU legislation in the fields of air, chemicals and horizontal issues” IPA 2014, which represents one form of good cooperation and support, or the continuation of EU institutions’ technical assistance to the Republic of Serbia in the European integration process.