Launching the BiH SuTra Programme to foster a sustainable and just transition in BiH

Launching the BiH SuTra Programme to foster a sustainable and just transition in BiH

On the 26th of September, during the Sarajevo Energy & Climate Week, a significant step towards a sustainable and greener future for Bosnia and Herzegovina was taken.

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina (MOFTER), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and four Bosnian local self-governments (Banovići, Breza, Ugljevik, and Živinice) gathered to the ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) - a milestone in the launch of the "Sustainable Transition of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH SuTra)" programme. 

BiH SuTra encourages a local, bottom-up approach to create transition plans and implement comprehensive transition policies in coal regions throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. The overarching goal is to support BiH's just transition to a decarbonized and environmentally sustainable future, aligning with other development priorities. BiH SuTra will empower stakeholders to identify and implement emission-reduction strategies, promote innovative technologies and behaviours, and develop ambitious yet attainable policies. 

The pioneering regions of Banovići, Breza, Ugljevik, and Živinice, with a combined population of approximately 105,000 residents, have been selected as pilot areas for the BiH SuTra programme. These regions will serve as inspiring models for other coal regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, showcasing the potential for sustainable transition and driving positive change across the country. 

During the ceremony Ms. Birgitta Jansson, Deputy Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden in Sarajevo, Ms. Branka Knezevic, Head of Department for Primary Energy and Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and mayors from the partner municipalities - Mr. Bego Gutić, Mr. Vedad Jusić, Mr. Milorad Jovičić, and Mr. Began Muhić - expressed their commitment to this transformative journey. 

Birgitta Jansson, Deputy Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden in Sarajevo pointed out that Sweden will persist in its efforts to provide support to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the field of development from the energy development sector. “The launch of the programme “Sustainable Transition of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH SuTra)” clearly indicates the focus of our efforts: encouraging efficient and effective environmental policies and a sustainable transition, especially in areas rich in coal," she said at the event.  

Brigitta Jansson, Deputy Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden in Sarajevo
Birgitta Jansson, Deputy Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden in Sarajevo

All partner municipalities expressed their enthusiastic commitment and excitement towards the collective goal of making their community a positive transition example when signing the MoU. With shared optimism they emphasised the aim to improve the environmental as well as social situation while ensuring the financial well-being of their municipalities. Through the implementation of this programme, the municipalities and town hope to become pioneers of a just transition in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and eagerly look forward to the transformative results it will bring.  

“We are determined to wholeheartedly engage in this partnership with all our capacities and potentials and to take ownership of the activities, because we are aware of the importance of this project for the citizens of Živinice. We must serve as a positive example of energy transition”, Began Muhić, mayor of Živinice, said.

Mr. Began Muhić

“This is an extremely important project for our municipalities, and we are honoured to be one of the four municipalities selected among 16 competing municipalities, for the implementation of the transition. Our citizens will benefit most from this project, because of the ecological transition that it will bring about”, Bego Gutić, mayor of the Banovići Municipality, said. Mining regions are a priority in the implementation of these reforms, given that the economic and business transition will be most specific in these local self-government units.”

Mr. Bego Gutić

“I do hope that we will be pioneers of the just transition in BiH after we implement this project. We are one of the smallest municipalities and one of local communities which are most dependable. It is therefore crucial that we participate in this project.” said Vedad Jusić, Mayor of the Breza Municipality. 

Mr. Vedad Jusić

“Our municipality heavily relies on the thermal power plant, and it was important for us to explain to the citizens that the transition is expected to open new environment-friendly business opportunities rather than challenge their jobs”, Milorad Jovičić, Chief of Staff of the mayor of the Ugljevik Municipality.

Mr. Milorad Jovičić

During the event, Ms. Saša Solujić, Programme Manager at the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI), highlighted the core objectives and mechanisms of the BiH SuTra programme. Concrete milestones set for BiH SuTra include the adoption of transitional plans by September 2024, followed by the identification of specific measures and activities based on these plans. The programme will then support the implementation of these measures over the next 1.5 years. 

The ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the municipalities and SEI, marked the collaboration and collective action towards achieving a sustainable future. SEI´s engagement director Robert Watt emphasized the need to get everyone on board, and the need to accelerate the pace to meet the sustainable development goals, not only ensuring environmental sustainability but also the overall wellbeing of BiH citizens.

The ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Understanding
The ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Understanding

The importance of a bottom-up approach, where local communities play a crucial role in shaping their own sustainable development pathways, was emphasized by various speakers and hopefully as the BiH SuTra programme unfolds in the four communities, it will serve as an inspiration and model for other coal regions in BiH.

See the gallery from the MoU signing event below. 

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