Photo: courtesy of Vera Arežina

When discussing environmental security, we should first highlight the problem of different attitudes towards it. Previously, there were two understandings in the study of environmental safety. According to the first, people cannot influence the climate, and the argumentation was based on the works of our prominent scientist Milutin Milanković. According to another understanding in circulation since the 1980s, people have significantly impacted the climate. Both understandings are correct because Milutin Milanković died in the 1960s when people still didn’t cause substantial negative effects on many environmental factors.

Another problem relates to adopting international agreements and laws regulating environmental protection, environmental safety and sustainable development in our country. Following the United Nations Agenda 21 (1992), we adopted the Law on Environmental Protection, the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment, the National Strategy on Sustainable Development, the National Millennium Goals of Sustainable Development and several other regulations. Based on this, many Local Environmental Action Plans – LEAPs were adopted too, such as LEAPs for the City of Niš (2001), the City of Belgrade and the City of Smederevo (2005), and later for many other cities and municipalities. Belgrade municipalities such as Zemun, Savski Venac, and others all have LEAPs. However, the issue with the implementation of many documents remains. Based on the United Nations 2030 Agenda (2015) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) related to water, it is estimated that 75 per cent of people in our country have access to healthy drinking water, while about 21 per cent of people use clean energy. Furthermore, under the 2015 Paris Agreement, United Nations member states committed to reducing greenhouse gases to curb the growth of average global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Based on this agreement, each country has Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and Serbia needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to around 10 per cent by 2030, compared to emissions in 1990.


Photo: courtesy of Vera Arežina

The third and main problem is defining priorities, especially in our country. Are our priorities protecting water resources, air, biodiversity, reforestation and education? Environmental safety is a long-term process that begins at home, with education at all levels, socialization and dissemination of information, more people reporting environmental crimes, and more people being indicted for them. Students study environmental protection at our higher learning institutions and in elementary and high schools in Serbia. The University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Political Sciences has several courses related to environmental security and policies, and we have also organized events such as sustainable development weeks. For instance, students of the University of Gothenburg, the University of Michigan, and others study ecological methodology, ecological assessments, and the like. Recently, I took part in the United Nations Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI), which aims to implement sustainable development, with an emphasis on quality education and lifelong learning. Some countries have defined afforestation as priorities. As of 2019, Italy has planted around 300,000 trees and reforested 30,000 hectares of land. Pakistan plans to plant 10 billion trees, and so far, they have planted one-third of that number. Ten years ago, the Wall of Trees project was launched in over 20 African countries, spanning over 8,000 kilometres. Around 15 per cent of this project has been implemented to date.

We face many climate change consequences because we have not defined environmental safety priorities in Serbia. Furthermore, we have air and water pollution, problems with waste disposal and wastewater processing, outdated industrial facilities and thermal power plants that have not been renovated, and more. New industrial plants being built on agricultural land should also be considered, such as the tire production plant in Zrenjanin that is being built near Carska Bara, despite Zrenjanin having an adequate industrial zone. According to estimates by the European Environmental Agency (EEA), one in eight deaths in Europe is related to environmental pollution, mostly air, noise or poor water quality. The population in the Balkans is most at risk, especially in Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is estimated that in Serbia, 6,000 people die each year due to air pollution alone, of which there are about 2,000 cases in Belgrade alone. Also, environmental safety in our country can be jeopardized by the installation of derivation mini-hydroelectric plants and the opening of new mines while disregarding the ISO 14000 environmental standards, for instance, in Loznica and other populated places, which are known as fruit growing and generally agricultural areas.

Vera Arežina

Read the story in the new issue of the Energy portal Magazine ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION