Summary: The year 2020 has been challenging in many ways. In North Macedonia, it has been a year of political turnover marked by a non-functional government. On top of these political issues, the COVID-19 global pandemic posed both economic and social threats and a significant challenge to building political will and national ownership and engagement for the enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). However, research and analysis undertaken prior to the pandemic is now vital to decision-makers as they plan for economic recovery. Work also continued during the pandemic on the Macedonian enhanced NDC and the Long-term Strategy on Climate Action, which can serve as building blocks to integrate ambitious climate action and COVID-19 recovery to build back better. Finally, capacity building and awareness-raising activities during the pandemic raised the visibility of the benefits of climate action and its linkages with a green recovery. A BUILD BACK BETTER Conference is now planned for December 2020 to ensure government buy-in, building on visions for a green recovery at the international level and conveying the message that NDCs and green recovery can be mutually-reinforcing ideas that support long-term sustainable development.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, a number of recent developments in North Macedonia were indicative of a society moving towards a green future:
The National Strategy for Energy Development up to 2040 (Energy Strategy), adopted in December 2019, was the first strategy of an Energy Community Country to be based on the five pillars of the EU Energy Union: 1) Security, solidarity and trust; 2) A fully integrated internal energy market; 3) Energy efficiency; 4) Decarbonizing the economy; and 5) Research, innovation and competitiveness. The Energy Strategy depicts three scenarios—Reference, Moderate Transition and Green—and introduces policies and measures along all five dimensions.
The Strategy built on the robust analytical work and stakeholder consultations from the Third Biennial Update Report (TBUR) to the UNFCCC. Modelers and analysts worked together with stakeholders on identifying, analyzing, and prioritizing policies and measures (PAMs) in target sectors. They also identified and validated the assumptions used to model mitigation scenarios. Two out of the three resulting scenarios (Moderate Transition and Green) are NO COAL scenarios.
The TBUR also includes information of the direct and indirect contributions of each PAM on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).In addition, a number of specific SDG indicators are projected based on the TBUR mitigation scenarios, allowing for comparison between the future status of North Macedonia and the current status of other countries in the region and the EU. These comparisons have sparked debate and increased awareness of where climate action could lead the Macedonian economy in one to two decades.
UNDP-supported research quantified the co-benefits of mitigation. TBUR mitigation analyses estimated the jobs created over time by mitigation PAMs, which will support the promotion of climate action. SBUR analysis such as Study on Transport (STUTRA) and the Study on the Heating in the City of Skopje (STUGRES) is supporting the promotion of climate action at the local level. Finally, gender is broadly addressed in the TBUR, which includes an action plan on gender and climate change and gender-sensitive indicators measuring the effect of policies/actions on women.
The most recent national GHG inventory, supported under a UNDP-GEF project, is a key resource for decision-makers. It goes well beyond the requirements for non-Annex I countries, using a well-established Quality Assurance/Quality Control system and applying higher-Tier methodologies and broad coverage of GHGs and non-GHG gases. The national GHG inventory now provides a robust historical base for the assumptions and emissions projections which are essential elements for informed low carbon development pathways.
Activities During the Pandemic
Work on climate change policies, research, and capacity building has continued throughout the pandemic.
Experts that were working on climate change projects implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (MOEPP) and the UN Development Program (UNDP) prior to the pandemic have focused on presenting the vision of a green future to as many people as possible and motivating them to act. During the lockdown and shelter-in-place period in the spring of 2020, the teams held a series of fifteen webinars attended by surprisingly high number of attendees. Some webinars were open to the public, while some were held for a narrower group of professionals, but nobody said: I am not working, I am at home, I am at vacation, I don't want to participate, I can't join in…
Work on the draft National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) continued, with most of the work conducted during the pandemic. While the NECP falls under EU requirements, much of the analysis bringing energy and climate issues closer together through integrated energy and climate planning was conducted under work on the TBUR, particularly the PAMs from the energy sector and the applied inter- and intra-sectoral modelling of mitigation scenarios.
Work on the enhanced NDC continued. NDCs and green recovery can be mutually reinforcing. Recovery plans can incorporate NDC targets and strategies, while also leveraging NDC enhancement processes, including stakeholder consultations, socio-economic and sectoral assessments, and modelling, to strengthen systems that pave the way for long-term sustainable development. At the same time, UNDP project experts also provided inputs and feedback to the EU-funded “Law and Strategy on Climate Change” project, which will deliver the Long-Term Climate Action Strategy and the Law on Climate Action.The Macedonian NDCs and Long-term Strategy on Climate Action can serve as building blocks to integrate ambitious climate action and COVID-19 recovery to build back better.
A UNDP project team organized a virtual youth consultation on the enhanced NDC. The consultation is designed to ensure that the voices of young people are expressed in the NDC and that there will be broad ownership for the enhanced NDC goals. As a result, three pressure points vital to ensuring the quality and impactfulness of youth engagement in the Climate Promise have been recognized and weaved into the design of the Youth for Climate platform.
Establishing rapport with the use of interactive tools.
Broadening the conversation beyond the “climate niche.”
Amplify constructive activities young people are performing seemingly without any relation to the climate crisis.
The UNDP project team will oversee targeted analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on the low-carbon transition in the country and consider how climate-friendly activities can become an integral part of the broader recovery agenda. Specifically, the project will support upcoming research and analysis on investments in renewable energy and on the socio-economic impacts of the enhanced NDC that will consider these issues, and an analysis of the impacts of the pandemic in these areas is included in the scope of work for these studies.
On top of a favorable context for green recovery activities at national level, there is a highly encouraging context at the international level: the European Commission has presented a long-term strategic vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, showing how Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality by midcentury, discussing at the moment targets of 55-60% reductions in GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 1990. Furthermore, the energy transition is accelerating, and both solar and wind power are becoming significantly more competitive.
In December 2020, UNDP project experts will organize a BUILD BACK BETTER conference in Skopje to ensure government buy-in and convey the message that NDCs and green recovery can be mutually reinforcing ideas that support long-term sustainable development. European ambition should be reflected in the contributions of EU candidate countries such as North Macedonia, and government recovery plans can utilize NDC targets and strategies.
Moving forward, changes in fuel and technologies prices, supply chain disruptions, the impact of the pandemic on trade and the stock market, as well as changes in energy demand due to the overall slowdown of economy, will be integrated into assumptions in existing models supporting the enhanced NDC in order to refine post-pandemic economic and emissions scenarios. It should be noted that in the case of North Macedonia, they are likely to be even greener.
Project teams will also look beyond the enhanced NDC, which is limited to a mitigation component, to the broader picture of climate action, which also includes political engagement of the Government and the NGO sector, private sector initiatives (particularly in renewable energy such as solar and small hydro), accelerating green job growth and investment in clean technologies, and the range of co-benefits for women and men.
Natasa Markovska and Susan Legro
Natasa Markovska is a Senior Researcher and Professor at the Research Centre for Energy and Sustainable Development of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (RCESD-MASA). She has been participating in 78 international and national projects related to climate change mitigation, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency and energy strategic planning, for clients such as UNDP, USAID, WB, European Commission, GIZ, Macedonian and other governments.
Susan Legro is a senior consultant on climate change and has worked on projects that address climate change for more than two decades. She has edited several National Communications and funding requests for climate change reporting in Europe and Eurasia.