The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and Chairperson of the Environmental Protection Committee Maja Gojkovic opened the public hearing on “Air Quality in Serbia” organized by the Environmental Protection Committee at the proposal of MP Nada Lazic.
Gojkovic stressed that the Environmental Protection Committee and the Serbian Assembly are prepared to work on advancing the relevant legislative framework to make sure that the environment we live in is protected and clean.
She said that the whole society has to be conscious of the importance of environmental protection and keep raising awareness on the need to take care of nature and resources across generations.
“Environmental issues cannot be something we address periodically as a problem arises. This topic demands a serious and responsible approach without pause, every day, so that the relevant state authorities at the local, provincial and national level, major polluters and citizens alike become aware that we all bear part of the responsibility for the environment”, said Gojkovic.
The Speaker praised the Serbian Government’s decision to work systematically on air protection in Serbia by establishing a special body, headed by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, to coordinate the work of all the state bodies and keep the public informed.
“I believe that it is time that Serbia got a law on climate change. That is a necessity in view of our obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the need to harmonize the national legislation with the EU acquis, as well as the fact that our citizens suffer the negative impact of climate change more and more”, said the Parliament Speaker.
Minister of Environmental Protection Goran Trivan said that air pollution is not a new problem, the quality of air has been going down in the last 60 years for various reasons without adequate response. This public hearing, as well as the recent months’ public discussion about air pollution are good indicators or growing public interest in environmental issues.
“We are moving toward a public consensus because of the people’s rising awareness that everyone can be an important factor in the improvement of the quality of their immediate environment. Pollution is not just an issue for the Ministry of Environmental Protection to tackle, but for the whole Government, which is why the existence of interdepartmental cooperation is so vital”, said Trivan.
Minister of Mining and Energy Aleksandar Antic explained that, though the energy sector has suffered the most criticism as the biggest polluter, the fact is that this Ministry has lately invested the most in environmental protection. According to him, in the previous period a substantial amount of money was invested in different environmental projects.
“The Serbian Electric Power Industry has, for example, invested 475 million EUR into the reconstruction and replacement of filters in thermal power plants which has resulted in an 8-fold reduction in the concentration of PM particles in the TENT thermal power plant. Desulphurisation is also underway as are energy efficiency measures to reduce overconsumption of energy”, stressed Antic.
Deputy Mayor Goran Vesic said that Belgrade has for some time been working on the introduction of measures to improve the quality of the urban environment. He stressed that Belgrade is the only city of its size in Europe without a metro, announcing the beginning of its construction for the end of the year.
“The construction of a metro would reduce the flow of road traffic by 30% and with it the level of gas emissions. Calling a tender on river traffic is also in the works because there is usable potential there”, said Vesic adding that from 2020 Belgrade will only buy natural gas vehicles.
The Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia Andrea Orizio said that the Parliament has been one of OSCE’s key partners since the beginning of the mission in Serbia. Air quality is an important issue, he said, and making it topic of a public hearing is an excellent way to discuss it.
“Though the measures to be adopted by the institutions to reduce pollution are key, environmental protection is not an issue for just one department, ministry of the Government, it is a problem for the whole society. That is why it needs to be analysed from all aspects and everyone has to take part in addressing it”, Orizio concluded.