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The Western Balkans’ crucial role in climate neutrality

As the European Union gains momentum on the path towards the European Green Deal, we must not forget the important role of the Western Balkans in reaching our shared goals, write Viola von Cramon-Taubadel and Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield.

The EU’s commitment to climate neutrality is a monumental task that demands unity, vision, and cooperation – but to work more effectively to achieve this vision, we must also cooperate with our southeastern neighbours.

To fully achieve our shared climate goals, we should look at the Western Balkans as our allies on this journey.

Indeed, the EU has a moral duty to lead the way in addressing climate change. Acknowledging our historical responsibility for climate change will help build trust and cooperation with our neighbouring countries in particular, which may have contributed relatively little to the problem but still shoulder the consequences.

Engaging with the Western Balkans as a partner in reaching our 2040 climate targets is an opportunity to put this much-needed climate diplomacy into practice.

To fulfil this duty, the EU needs to build on the foundations already in place, but at the same time, we must strengthen ties and gain trust with our Western Balkan neighbours.

The 2020 Sofia Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans represents a landmark commitment by leaders in the region to align their climate goals with EU climate law.

By including the Western Balkans in our 2040 climate debate and process, we can deliver on our commitment to work concretely with our neighbours. This inclusion is about achieving climate neutrality and fostering real cohesion in our shared climate ambitions.

Excluding the Western Balkans from the EU 2040 climate target debate sends a discouraging message about our commitment to the region’s integration and energy transition.

We should use the enlargement strategy and the EU Commission’s New Growth Plan for the Western Balkans as a framework to accelerate support for the Western Balkans’ transition to a renewable and sustainable economy, offering technical assistance, capacity building, and financial support to energy transition enabling projects.

However, if the EU is to demonstrate its commitment to climate neutrality, we also need concrete action to develop cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans on the energy transition and climate action. Without this, a new growth plan runs the risk of jeopardising our hard-fought climate progress to date, as well as our future goals.

To this end, the Energy Community Treaty has emerged as a vital platform for cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans on energy and climate issues. Extending the 2040 climate work to include the Western Balkans in the EU’s 2040 plans aligns perfectly with the Energy Community’s Decarbonisation Roadmap, which lays down a pathway to support the region’s ambition towards climate neutrality.

Recent energy crises have underscored the need for secure, affordable, and sustainable energy production.

Collaboration between the EU and the Western Balkans on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and market integration will further reduce Europe’s dependence on imported energy and enhance our energy security and system resilience. Working together is crucial to phase out fossil fuels, increase ambition for joint mitigation, and improve financial support for energy transition and climate action.

By adapting the EU’s financial framework, including restructuring and increasing funding schemes for the Western Balkans, the energy transition will be accelerated, and climate action projects will also benefit. Involving the Western Balkans in the EU’s 2040 climate policy framework can level the playing field regarding climate ambition and concrete action.

The Western Balkans are not just our neighbours – they are integral to our shared European future.

As we work toward achieving our ambitious 2040 climate targets, we must cooperate with the Western Balkans to build a more sustainable, united and prosperous Europe for all.

Sumber : Euractive