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The Conference Climate Change and the Green Economy Held in Belgrade


The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD) jointly organized an international conference entitled Climate Change and the Green Economy, in Belgrade, Serbia on November 20th 2014. The event took place against the backdrop of ongoing efforts to shape the UN post-2015 sustainable development agenda (Rio+20) and complete the high-level climate change talks (COP21) scheduled to take place in Paris in December 2015.
The goals set forth by the conference were threefold. The first one was to instill in Southeast European politicians, civil servants, business leaders, opinion-makers, and the wider public a sense of the planetary emergency descending upon us. The second was to encourage stakeholders in Southeast Europe to participate more assertively in determining the post-2015 development agenda and the COP21 climate change negotiations. And finally, the third goal pertained to exploring the ways to making the green economy a key vehicle for growth, employment, as well as poverty reduction in the region by examining how to encourage market-based solutions to environment-driven challenges.

At the onset of the conference, CIRSD President Vuk Jeremić said that Southeast Europe should play a more active role in international climate change negotiations. He added that exploring how the developing regions can take more advantage of the global transition to the green economy might well help in overcoming the gap that separates them from the developed world.
"We have the chance to overcome our recent social and economic failures, and build up our societies on a sustainable and prosperous foundation," Jeremić said. He added that the region needed to engage more proactively in the COP and post-2015 agenda talks, so it could reach a position from which it could better protect and promote its particular interests.
Jeremic further stated that both private and public sectors would need to undertake purposeful and complementary steps, should they wish to create a sustainable future for Southeast Europe. The CIRSD President stressed the need to encourage innovation in targeted directions, and thus lay the foundation for the production of green economy products and services that can propel the region forward. "This may very well be the greatest challenge of our generation," he argued, whilst expressing hope that Southeast Europe will eventually become a green economy leader—a cause and a strategic ambition that we should all really around, since it represents “the only sustainable road to prosperity in the 21st century.”

During the introductory segment of the conference, the audience was addressed by Ambassador Kwok Fook Seng, Singapore Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Kunihiko Shimada, the Special Adviser to the Environment Ministry of Japan, and Columbia University Professor and CIRSD Board member Jeffrey Sachs.
In their separate statements, Kwok Fook Seng and Kunihiko Shimada said that the countries of Southeast Europe need to engage more actively in international negotiations on climate change, as well as global sustainable development goals, so they can have their voice heard way beyond the boundaries of the region.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs underscored in his statement that Serbia has the opportunity to become a green economy leader and reiterated SDSN’s eagerness to help the country’s decarbonization process.

The ministerial panel entitled Rethinking Regional Cooperation included Serbia’s Minister for agriculture and environment Snežana Bogosavljević Bošković, Albania’s environment minister Lefter Koka, Montenegrin minister for sustainable development Branimir Gvozdenović, and ILO’s Green Jobs Coordinator Kees Van der Ree.

The ministers concluded that the region possessed the potential for achieving sustainable development by means of sustainable tourism, organic agriculture, and using renewable energy resources. They also agreed that it remains necessary to achieve better coordination between the region’s states, especially when it comes to rethinking and conducting development strategies, and to come up with a common approach in the framework of key international negotiations.

The second panel entitled Green Markets and Investments featured the president of the Serbian Business Club Privrednik Miodrag Kostić, President of the Serbian Association of Economists Aleksandar Vlahović, Agrokor Group’s Senior Executive Vice-President Ljerka Puljić, the Director of Continental Wind Serbia Ana Brnabić, Chief Operating Officer of Hecate Energy Nick Bullinger, Masdar’s Clean Energy Director Bader al-Lamki, and Co-Founder of Aephoria.Net Petros Kokkalis. One of the panel’s key conclusions was that overcoming the effects of climate change through the transition to a low-carbon, green economy will require the establishment of a comprehensive global public-private partnership. The panelists agreed on the necessity to create an improved regulatory framework for investments in renewable energy sources, and the need to incentivize both state and private actors to devote much more effort to reducing energy inefficiency and dependency on lignite.
Bader al-Lamki and Nick Bullinger also gave separate statements in the aftermath of the panel, both saying that Southeast Europe has a visible potential and a realistic chance of making a giant leap forward by promoting different aspects of green economy. Should the region seize the presented opportunity, international companies will undoubtedly show their interest for investing in all its green economy areas. Al-Lamki underlined the readiness of Masdar to support Serbia’s transition from brown to green economy.
Video gallery from the conference with statements can be viewed here.
Photo gallery from the conference is also available here.

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