The “Balkans United for Clean Air” regional campaign will take place for the second year in a row, starting on December 1st, to raise awareness of the region’s citizens about the causes and consequences of pollution, possible ways to improve air quality and the fight for a healthier environment through regional solidarity.
This year, the campaign will focus on, inter alia, the consequences and harm of pollution caused by coal-fired power plants, as well as pollution originating from heavy industry.
“Balkans United for Clean Air” is implemented by the European Fund for the Balkans, supported by numerous organizations: Eko Forum from Zenica, Environmental Territorial Management Institute from Tirana, Sbunker and Balkan Green Foundation from Pristina, Air Care from Skopje, OZON from Podgorica, Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute and Belgrade Open School from Belgrade.
Participants in the “Balkans United for Clean Air” information campaign advocate a rapid shutdown of coal-fired power plants and the urgent compliance of pollution from heavy industry with the proper regulatory framework. We also demand that citizens get a seat at the table when deciding on environmental permits and other documents regarding production plants. Coal combustion is the largest single source of air pollution in the Western Balkans, with thermal power plants playing a major role.
The “Ugljevik” thermal power plant itself emits more sulfur dioxide (107,402 tons in 2020) than the total permitted emissions of all plants covered by national emission reduction plans (103,682 tons). Hence, this plant alone exceeded all total annual values combined.
EU imports of electricity produced from the Western Balkans account for 0.3 per cent of EU consumption. Still, sulfur dioxide emissions account for 50 per cent of its emissions from all EU thermal power plants.
Apart from industry, coal is also consumed in households and heating plants; the cessation of this fossil fuel would eliminate the main single source of air pollution in the Western Balkans.
The loss of gross domestic product due to air pollution in the Western Balkans in 2016 alone amounted to 8.5 billion euros.
Instead of building and renovating thermal power plants, funds from the budget could be directed to social programs and retraining of workers and the construction of solar power plants on the site of coal mines that would replace the electricity production capacities that are being shut down. That way, the transformation of the industry could be the greenest on the continent.
Through a solidarity-based struggle, the citizens of the Western Balkans can work together to achieve cleaner technologies and a healthier future.