As the world celebrates Earth Day and its 2010 focus on climate change, the Europe and Central Asia Region is traveling the path to protecting the environment and reducing carbon emissions. Plagued with increasing temperatures, droughts, floods, and wildfires, the World Bank is working in the Region to cope with the impacts of climate change and energy demands.
Some parts of the Region, including the Western Balkans, Turkey, and southern Central Asia, are particularly vulnerable to future climate impacts. Even in less vulnerable locales, however, the impact of climate change in the Region will be more significant than expected due to a lingering post-Soviet legacy of environmental mismanagement and the poor state of much of the Region’s infrastructure, leaving the countries poorly prepared to adapt.
“Europe and Central Asia suffers from an ‘adaptation deficit’ that is already challenged by recent climate variability,” said Marianne Fay, Director of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010, and author of the report ‘Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia’, “which will only worsen with the consequences of projected trends in climate in the coming decades.”
Fay added that “While almost two decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union and its partner countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the legacy of environmental mismanagement and oversized infrastructure in countries outside the European Union still remains a dangerous holdover from the past. It greatly worsens the countries’ vulnerability to even modest changes in the climate.”
In addition, the Region faces a looming energy crunch unless mitigating actions are made on both the supply and the demand side, including massive investments of more than $3 trillion over the next 20 years. However, according to the recent ‘Lights Out? The Energy Outlook in Eastern Europe and Central Asia’ report, the Region’s policy makers and businesses will need to rethink national energy strategies in a time of increasing pressure to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
“The World Bank stands ready to assist countries in meeting their energy needs,” said Peter Thomson, Director for Sustainable Development in the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region, “by helping them create an attractive climate for investment, and by helping secure access to various sources of funding, including carbon finance. However, countries need to act swiftly – time is of the essence.”
In line with its climate change strategy, the World Bank is supporting the Europe and Central Asia Region with critical investments and knowledge products on sustainable water and land conservation, waste management, clean technology, and even historical preservation.
According to the ‘Adapting to Climate Change’ report, changes in sea level − an impact of climate change − will affect the Region’s four basins – the Baltic Sea, the East Adriatic and Mediterranean coast of Turkey, the Black Sea, and the Caspian – and the Russian Arctic Ocean. Several projects are addressing the sea level rise issues and harmonizing with the EU environmental agreements.
In other parts of the Region, heavily populated coastal areas face pollution and groundwater problems that will only worsen over time. Discharges of nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – are the most serious pollutants degrading the Black Sea’s ecosystem. In the village of Vâlcele, Romania, water quality has improved after runoff from livestock operations which previously polluted the Danube and local wells was managed better with Bank-supported on-farm investments. Well water is the only source for drinking water in the village, and water-borne illness was a risk which has been reduced since the municipality set up a program for storing manure. Composting now naturally transforms the manure into fertilizer which is then sent to large farms.
A number of other water conservation projects have forged ahead in Europe and Central Asia. For example, Europe’s oldest lake is also at risk of irreversible damage. Lake Ohrid lies between FYR Macedonia and Albania and serves as a one of the largest reserves of biodiversity with its unique species and rich plankton. Wastewater discharges and runoff are ruining the lake. A GEF grant set up an international framework for development between the two countries to ensure future clean-up costs.
Improved natural resource management
The Moldova Soil Conservation Project is the first in the world to fully implement carbon sequestration. As a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) activity under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), this is the second forestry project in the world registered under the CDM.
In Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan, the Tien Shan Ecosystem Development Project, a GEF trust fund grant, aims at fostering improved ecosystem services and biodiversity as a means to develop alternative income sources. One of the major benefits is access to foods and fuels for trade and future employment.
The Croatia Nature Protection Project aims to protect wildlife by strengthening protected areas management, enabling Croatia to meet its European Union commitments under the Habitats and Birds directives. In Tajikistan, a rural development project to reduce poverty and raise agricultural productivity is helping communities in fragile areas. The Community Agriculture and Watershed Management Project will protect globally significant mountain ecosystems by mainstreaming sustainable land use and biodiversity conservation within agricultural and rural investment decisions.
Waste not, want not
The ECA Region is addressing legacy pollution in many countries, and has the largest pollution management program in the Bank. They include the following:
- Albania / Montenegro Lake Shkoder Project: addresses pollution from an aluminum smelter on the trans-boundary waters shared by Montenegro and Albania.
- Kyrgyz Republic Disaster Hazard Mitigation Project: minimizes the exposure of humans, livestock, and riverine flora and fauna to radionuclides associated with abandoned uranium mine tailings and waste rock dumps in the Mailuu-Suu area.
- Moldova Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Stockpiles Management & Destruction Project is promoting the safe management and disposal of stockpiles of POPs contaminated pesticides and PCBs.
Harmful waste dumped in roadsides, rivers, mines, and other sites posed a public health risk to Bosnians. Proper equipment for disposal was poorly maintained and left areas with environmental problems. In 2002, the Solid Waste Management Project, supported by IDA funding of US$26 million, was launched to improve solid waste services, increase administrative and technical capacity in management. Additional funding was allocated because of the positive impact to the ecosystem. Six sanitary landfills are under construction and will be available by the end of 2013.
Similar to Bosnia, a waste management project in Latvia is modernizing the use of Liepaja’s landfill and turning trash to fuel cells where biogas is collected. As a consequence, less pollution to atmosphere and tariffs to waste disposal help the Latvian Government meet EU requirements.
And at least 140,000 Bulgarians will have updated sewerage systems and a secure and reliable supply of water after last year’s approval of the Municipal Infrastructure Development Project. Master plans include resuming construction of three dams that were once interrupted about 20 years ago and rehabilitation of a functional one.
The Kosovo Energy Sector Clean Up and Land Reclamation Project in Kosovo involves a three-part component of disposing ash in an open mine pit, removing chemicals from the “Kosovo A” power plant, and providing research on the treatment of waste. The Lignite Power Technical Assistance Project will include new components such as support for a low carbon growth strategy.
The Bank has a substantial program to improve energy efficiency in the Region. These programs include wholesale financing mechanisms implemented through intermediaries such as Banks and energy service companies (ESCOs) in Turkey, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Poland. Programs to improve the energy efficiency of public buildings, schools, and hospitals that also improve educational achievement and health outcomes have been successfully implemented in Armenia, Moldova, and Serbia. Many of these projects utilize a range of financing instruments and grants, including the GEF, Carbon Finance, and the new Clean Technology Fund (CTF). The Bank is also helping a number of countries to develop and implement their national energy efficiency strategies, including Ukraine, FYR Macedonia, and Russia.
Turkey’s overall energy program in 2009 achieved major advances in the energy sector, supported by the World Bank, in its worldwide first financing from the CTF. The ongoing Renewable Energy Project aims to tap Turkey’s significant renewable energy potential from hydro, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other resources. The government, businesses, and communities are working together to stop negative impacts of waste by recycling the trash into electricity and compost. Eventually, Turkish officials hope to produce 5 percent of the country’s energy from garbage.