A special analysis on the challenges and consequences of climate change for medium and long-term regional political stability in the Balkans.

Following our first analysis on the effects of climate change in the Balkan peninsula entitled “The Winds of Climate Change in the Balkans”, this piece focuses on how an aging energy sector is feeding the negative regional effects of an otherwise global phenomenon.

Transformation of the energy sector, with an aim to gradually replace fossil fuel-based production of electricity with renewable sources, is one of the most important measures to mitigate the effects of global warming.

In many Balkan countries, this transformation is inextricably connected with opaque interests of the political elite and external actors that control the energy sector. This is especially evident in hidden barriers to entry against potential competitors from the green sector. Despite the strong support of international lenders, and a generally favourable financial climate, some Balkan states appear to stubbornly extend their dependence on fossil fuels – and external political influence through sovereign debt – by choosing to build more coal-fired capacities. These strategically important decisions will inevitably result in deeper political dependence – and a further increase in already costly environmental pollution.

Given economic deficiencies inherent to these countries, most of the material used for energy production triggers higher levels of emission of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of electricity is produced in outdated lignite-fired power plants, while the remaining amounts come from large hydroelectric plants. For example, it is estimated that in Serbia alone, at least one million individual households or about 1/6th of the population – in both rural and urban areas – use wood-fired stoves for heating, thereby adding to overall pollution and the amount of sulphur and nitrate oxides emitted into the atmosphere.