First BiH SuTra Steering Board meeting sets stage for local community empowerment

First BiH SuTra Steering Board meeting sets stage for local community empowerment First Steering Board meeting of the BiH SuTra programme component 2. Photo: BiH SuTra.

The first meeting of the Steering Board of the project component "Supporting the transition of the coal regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina," part of the BiH SuTra programme, was held on 30 October 2023.

The meeting was held at the premises of the Ministry of foreign trade and economic relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Representatives from the partner municipalities of Banovići, Breza, Ugljevik, and the City of Živinice, as well as representatives from the Embassy of Sweden in BiH and the Delegation of the European Union in BiH, attended the meeting. Mr. Admir Softić, assistant minister for energy in the Ministry of foreign trade and economic relations of BiH, was also presented as the host of the meeting.

"This operational meeting marks the first official step in implementing this crucial programme for BiH. The municipalities and the City of Živinice, as end-users, serve as pilot municipalities, and the Ministry of foreign trade and economic relations of BiH is available for any necessary support," stated Mr. Softić.

The local transition is under way

During the meeting, the programme team presented both implemented and planned activities, as well as the dynamics of programme implementation to the attendees. The representatives from the municipalities/City of Živinice reiterated their commitment to a just transition to benefit all citizens.

"Banovići is a responsible local self-government, which has already made significant strides in enabling the transition process. Although local governments have limited influence in the energy and mining sectors, we cannot distance ourselves from this issue. We must contribute. A just transition, for us, means that not a single worker in the energy and mining sectors should be left without support after the transition," said Bego Gutić, the Mayor of the Municipality of Banovići.

"We will strive to navigate the transition period as effectively as possible, securing funds and projects to improve the lives of our citizens," added Meliha Beširević, assistant to the Mayor of Breza Municipality.

The local communities where the programme is implemented understand the benefits brought by coal mines but are also aware of the challenges posed by their operation.

"Ugljevik is renowned for its coal production and thermal power plant, operational since the 80s. Modern Ugljevik emerged from this foundation. We acknowledge the positive impact of mines and thermal power plants on the broader local community, but we are also aware of the negative consequences and problems. We are invested in ensuring our local community and population thrive even after the thermal power plant ceases operations," said Vasilije Perić, Mayor of Ugljevik Municipality.

The City of Živinice is fully committed to utilizing its local administration competencies to promptly address assumed obligations and challenges.

"We observe numerous positive indicators in all sectors of society, experiencing continuous growth and development in the economy, alongside a rise in our population. The City of Živinice actively explores new solutions in waste management, wastewater treatment, and encourages households to adopt solar panels and utilize renewable energy sources. Additionally, the city is exploring the potential of geothermal energy for the district heating system, a crucial endeavor for Živinice," explained Began Muhić, Mayor of City of Živinice.

Sweden supports BiH's just transition: A step closer to the EU

The BiH SuTra programme receives support from the Embassy of Sweden in BiH. The environment remains a top priority for the Swedish government globally, especially in BiH, where Sweden is the largest bilateral donor in the fields of environment and climate change.

"We are impressed by the dedication of the mayors of local communities, and I’m pleased that the first operational step in the BiH SuTra programme has been taken," said Aiša Bjedić, programme officer for the environment and climate at the Embassy of Sweden in BiH

In 2017, the European Commission established the Platform for coal regions in transition, aiming to facilitate knowledge exchange among EU coal regions. It represents a unique bottom-up approach to a just transition, enabling regions to identify and address their specific contexts and provide resources for the social and economic challenges posed by transitioning to a zero-emission economy.

"Energy is a key focus for the European Union, with significant funds allocated for local-level infrastructure in the coming period. These demands are now resulting in major reforms to connect BiH with the regional market. Coordination and recognizing local needs are crucial. This programme can contribute to that," stated Tarik Hubana, programme manager for the field of energy at the Delegation of the European Union in BiH.

The BiH SuTra programme is implemented by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), a globally renowned environmental think tank that contributed to the creation of the first BiH Environmental Strategy (BiH ESAP 2030+).

"Sustainable transition is undeniably complex. BiH, as a candidate country for the European Union, has undertaken numerous obligations, accompanied by significant opportunities. In this intricate process, local actors must exhibit responsibility and ownership, alongside support and cooperation with all government levels. SEI possesses extensive knowledge and experience in various fields and will assist the local government partners. SEI aims to achieve synergy and collaboration with other projects to ensure successful implementation," concluded Bernardas Padegimas, Team Lead at SEI.


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