During the session held on March 18, Serbian MPs adopted the Climate Change Act (the “Act”). The Minister of Environmental Protection, Ms. Irena Vujović noted that “the issues concerning environmental protection and climate change are of high priority and have finally received deserved attention from the Government of Serbia.”
The main goal of the Act is to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions, as the accelerated development of technology and international trade make pollution, and especially emissions of GHG, a global problem.
Long History of Global Climate Change Mitigation Acts
The United Nations (the “UN”) noted the impending problems caused by the Climate Change and recognized the need to take steps in order to prevent more dramatic developments. Thus, in 1991, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (the “UN Framework Convention“) was created, which aimed to stabilize GHG concentrations and prevent the negative effects of human activities on the climate. To ensure the implementation of the Framework Convention, the UN took a step forward, and adopted the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention (the “Kyoto Protocol“). The main idea of this document was to specify the obligations imposed by the UN Framework Convention: the Kyoto Protocol established quantified reductions which industrialized countries must meet, while developing countries had to implement pollution reduction measures. Although numerous international instruments represented the will of states to prevent climate change, the most recognized act in this field is surely the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (the “Paris Agreement“). By signing up to the Paris Agreement, states agreed that the increase in average global sea temperatures must be kept well below 2°C compared to the pre-industrial period
Duties Towards the EU
Here, we are focusing on the obligations that Serbia undertook as part of its EU accession process. Serbia is obliged to implement the Paris Agreement by passing an Act and a strategy which will cover all open climate issues in accordance with the EU 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy Policies.
This framework was adopted on October 24, 2014, at the initiative of the European Commission and after the adoption of the Green Paper in March 2013 which collected the conclusions in the field of climate and energy policy which should be implemented until 2030.
In addition to the obligations prescribed by these instruments, it is important to note that Serbia must also fulfill its obligations arising from its membership in the Energy Community, as well as all other obligations through which Serbia harmonizes its legal framework with the EU acquis in the areas of climate change, environment and energy (EU Climate Law).
At the last meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Energy Community, held on December 17, 2020, a plan for the future introduction of new obligations was envisaged. These obligations would include the General Policy Guidelines on the 2030 Targets and Climate Neutrality in order to harmonize the Energy Community member states’ rules with the targets set for reducing harmful emissions.
Another very important legal instrument is the Sofia Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. By signing this document on November 10, 2020, the signatory states committed themselves to work hard in order to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. The signatory states, committed to pay carbon taxes and align them with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. We just witnessed the end of the third phase of the implementation which lasted until the end of 2020, and the new phase is planned to be finalized in 2030. The current deadline to achieve all goals of the scheme is 2050.
On top of this, Serbia is implementing the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. The goal of the Guidelines is to reduce emissions by 55%, with Serbian officials pointing out that by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 33.3%. This implies that Serbia is committed to gradually achieving these goals.
Another, final piece of the puzzle, is the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). The EU has made significant efforts to become climate neutral by 2050. These efforts could be jeopardized by shifting industries with higher GHG emissions to countries whose regulations are less stringent regarding the limits of those emissions. In that case, the global GHG emissions would not be reduced. For these reasons, the EU launched an initiative to establish a mechanism to solve this problem – the EU Green Deal (the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism).
What Rules Should We Count On?
Unlike the Paris Agreement, the Act does not explicitly provide exact quantitative restrictions of emission which Serbia must meet.
This will be one of the tasks of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (the “Strategy“), which will be adopted for a period of at least 10 years. The Strategy will contain different pathways towards low-carbon development, which will be addressed through the general and specific goals. In addition, the Strategy will provide measures necessary to achieve the goals and estimates of profits and costs of different low-carbon development courses.
The Act imposes the following policies and measures:
- Clean Development Mechanism. The Government of Serbia will impose the criteria and a mechanism of project approval to be carried out under the Clean Development Mechanism, which is taken from the Air Protection Act. The Clean Development Mechanism does not include capital projects.
- Display of information concerning fuel consumption and CO2 emissions during the sale of vehicles imposes several kinds of obligations. For instance, the seller of the new vehicle will have to display information about fuel consumption and the level of carbon dioxide emissions for the vehicle on sale in a visible place. Vehicle retailers will also have numerous duties, including sending a list of models of all new vehicles to the Traffic Safety Agency of Serbia.
- Monitoring and reporting of GHG emissions from factories and aircraft. The Act requires factory operators to obtain GHG emission permits before the plant starts operating. Secondly, the operator will have to submit a monitoring plan to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which includes detailed and transparent data on the methodology of GHG emissions monitoring. The same obligation will also be applied to aircraft operators.
Concrete changes and full implementation of the Act after the Strategy, Action Plan and Program for Adaptation to Changed Climate Conditions have been adopted.
Serbia confirmed its unequivocal commitment to further economic growth on the levers of reducing GHG emissions by adopting the Act. Economic growth and investments along with GHG emissions reduction will soon become a requirement of the international market. By fulfilling its obligations under international agreements and obligations to the EU and transitioning to a green and circular economy, Serbia will achieve greater competitiveness of its economy.