October 30, 2021 | Saturday

Kosovo and climate change – where are we and what should we do? – Fjollë Caka

Climate change is a longer period change in the climate system mainly caused by human activities, a fact approved by more than 99% of the produced scientific output according to a recent Cornell study. Human activities, such as fossil-fueled energy generation, land use alterations, and consumption preferences, have contributed to increased greenhouse gas emissions to an unprecedented level.

Due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, each of the last four decades has been successively warmer, with the latest two having a global surface temperature of around 1 oC higher than in 1850-1900. According to the latest IPCC report, all regions in the world are currently experiencing a different climate compared to that of the early or mid-20th century. Many cities and other human settlements are experiencing more and more adverse climate change impacts, such as increased mean temperatures, frequency of heat extremes, and sea level rise, along with coastal flooding and erosion. Some island countries are even threatened to inundation, territorial or integrity loss, and increased climate-induced migration

Kosovo has been experiencing increased temperatures, with the last two decades being the warmest, followed by increased frequency of heat waves, droughts, forest fires, as well as flood events. These events adversely impact the human health, physical infrastructure, agricultural yields, ecosystems and biodiversity, and service delivery – all of which increase economic costs and social disparities (since not everyone have the same means to move or adapt).

According to the latest IPCC report, Western Balkans (as a mountainous region) is considered one of the world’s hotspots of climate change, and due to limited capacities and resources to adapt to the anticipated impacts it is quite vulnerable. Since Kosovo is expected to experience an increase on frequency and intensity of the already ongoing climatic impacts, it is essential to adapt to the foreseen changes and reduce risks, vulnerabilities and economical losses.  

Regardless of the climate commitments taken in the Paris Agreement, the world is still not on track towards limiting global warming to 1.5 oC. A new record high of global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at 412.5 ppm was reached in 2020, a level higher than at any point during the past 800,000 years! Following the business-as-usual, global warming will continue at a faster rate, bringing more severe climatic impacts everywhere and many unknowns.

Kosovo is not a member of UNFCCC nor has signed the Paris Agreement, therefore it does not submit National Determined Contributions nor reports on targets achieving progress. However, it is a signatory of the Energy Committee Treaty, and even though its contribution to global emissions is almost negligible, Kosovo has committed to reduce its energy related emissions by 25% by 2020. Even though the country declared to be on track to achieve those targets (which later appeared to have been achieved by households’ burning of wood biomass and not investments on renewable energy) and volunteered to increase the commitments, still energy related emissions remain the highest in the country, accounting by 86% of the total emissions in 2019. 

While Kosovo drafts its National Development Strategy and National Plan for Energy and Climate it is essential to pave the way towards decarbonizing the energy sector and adapting to the foreseen climate change impacts based on fact-based, well-informed and inclusive planning processes. Potential decarbonization measures include increasing energy efficiency measures in buildings, scaling up renewables and battery storage, improving public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure, forests regeneration, promoting sustainable agricultural land management and food production practices, as well as proper waste management. These measures do not only contribute to reducing the high air pollution in the country and its regional impact, but they also contribute to lowering the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, creation of new job opportunities, and health and wellbeing improvements. Therefore, Kosovo should nurture multi-stakeholder partnerships and develop realistic plans towards accelerating the country’s carbon footprint reduction.

Fjollë Caka – Architect, sociologist, urban planner. PhD candidate in Environmental Management. GYCN Climate Ambassador