Open Letter: Bulgaria Should Establish a Position Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Transition and Green Transformation

On 11 October, the MOVE.BG-initiated Green Restart Coalition sent the Open Letter to state institutions, political parties, and media.


От МOVE.BG, публикувана на 11 октомври 2021

The Bulgarian government needs to establish a position Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Transition and Green Transformation to coordinate the green development and ensure that Bulgaria's sustainable development goals are met. The Deputy Prime Minister should also be responsible for reforming and coordinating carbon-intensive industries, setting out a clear plan, date, and holistic strategy for the areas concerned in a way that is fair to citizens, environment, and the business.

We are facing an important choice for the future of our country. A choice that will determine whether we will live in a country with a developed and competitive economy, with well-paid jobs, with healthy children and opportunities for the realization of everyone's talents, with protected nature and preserved plant and animal species. Or we will remain a country with carbon-intensive and inefficient industries, with low-income levels and high heart and lung disease rates, with an energy system on 'artificial respiration' and growing ecological imbalance.

There is no more time to delay this choice. The international scientific community is united in its position that immediate strategic measures and government action are needed on climate change and sustainable development. Floods, heatwaves, and fires are just the first evidence of the climate and biodiversity crisis already underway around the world and in Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian economy remains the most resource- and carbon-intensive in the European Union. We continue to consume most of nature's resources in an extremely inefficient way, which pollutes the air and soil, causes disease, makes our products uncompetitive and our incomes low. We continue to neglect the impacts of transport and avoid the burning of fossil fuels in the conventional energy sector.

We face a choice - whether to continue fooling ourselves that waiting quietly will save us and that postponing the green transformation for a few more years is the solution. Or to take responsibility for implementing the EU's strategic objectives, to act transparently, coherently, and with a long-term agenda and vision, allowing the country to make the long-awaited economic leap, modernization and transition, and to raise the incomes of all Bulgarians, creating an eco-friendly economy of a new model.

Delaying making the right decisions dooms Bulgaria to continue lagging behind in its economic and social development and not to be a place for a secure, balanced, and happy life, missing the historic opportunity for reforms and development.

The choice today is even more significant because our country will be able to receive the necessary funds to support the climate transition of the Bulgarian economy and society - both under the financial mechanisms of the European Deal and the Next Generation EU. We note that achieving the European Union's 2050 carbon neutrality target and the UN's 2030 sustainable development goals are at the heart of these instruments and form the main mechanism for sustainable economic and social development.

We will be able to get the funds we need for reforms if we take the right decisions today, stop inaction and take real steps for change.

One of the main challenges for Bulgaria is the lack of coordination and coherence between the different state structures regarding the climate crisis and the proposed solutions to the European and global strategic objectives.

Climate change is a cross-cutting issue that extends across all economic and social spheres, from industry, and transport to energy, agriculture, buildings, and construction, to employment, professional development, and social welfare policies, all of which have environmental components at their core. Solving this cross-cutting problem requires a centralized approach at the highest levels of government in Bulgaria. A single department in the Ministry of Environment and Waters, which is charged with many different and important tasks, cannot accomplish this complex and comprehensive task.

A significant problem is the absence of discussion on climate, nature, and biodiversity outside the Ministry of Environment and Waters. Even the Ministry of Energy, which is key to the green transformation of the Bulgarian economy and society, lacks an approach to solving the problems caused by the climate crisis.

Last but not least, Bulgaria lacks a long-term vision for a successful green transition in line with European and global strategic goals.

That is why the Green Restart Coalition insists on a change of approach and on the establishment of a specialized governance structure to support and successfully implement the climate transition and the green transformation - a Deputy Prime Minister coordinating the line ministers and institutions directly involved in effectively mitigating the effects of climate change in line with the strategic objectives of the EU and the European Green Deal.

A mechanism to coordinate the policies and actions of key ministries and departments related to the climate crisis and the green transformation of the Bulgarian economy should be put in place immediately:

  •   Ministry of Finance;
  •   Ministry of Economy;
  •   Ministry of Energy;
  •   Ministry of Environment and Waters;
  •   Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry;
  •   Ministry of Education and Science;
  •   Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works;
  •   Ministry of Transport, Information Technology, and Communications;
  •   Ministry of Labour and Social Policy;
  •   Ministry of Tourism;
  •   Ministry of Health;
  •   State Agency for Research and Innovation.

A cross-cutting approach to climate needs to be genuinely implemented: mainstreamed into all policies, strategies, and decision-making mechanisms across institutions and agencies.

A clear vision is needed on how Bulgaria will meet its commitments to the EU targets: reducing carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

One of the ten years in which we are supposed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution has already passed and no action is being taken. There is no vision and no strategy for the next nine years.

Carbon neutrality and its achievement continue to be absent from the priorities of political parties at the national level and from the programs of authorities at the local level.

That is why the Green Restart Coalition - MOVE.BG, WWF Bulgaria, Greenpeace Bulgaria, and the Circular Economy Institute - are demanding the establishment of the position of Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Transition and Green Transformation in the next Bulgarian government after the elections on November 14. An expert council with representatives from science, the civil sector, business, and local authorities should also be established under the Deputy Prime Minister so that all stakeholders can be involved in the process of developing solutions.

The Deputy Prime Minister should be tasked with several key functions:

  •   Coordinating short and long-term climate policies at the national level;
  •   Coordination of economic policies related to the green transformation of the Bulgarian economy;
  •   Revise and launch the implementation of a strategy to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050;
  •   Developing and coordinating an accelerated revision of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan and other sectoral strategy documents, including ambitious sectoral decarbonization targets, in line with the EU's target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030;
  •   Produce an annual report on the achievement of the 2030 and 2050 targets, analyzing the policies in place, the challenges to achieving them, and recommending changes, including legislative and regulatory;
  •   Collecting and publishing annually on a publicly accessible platform data on performance against the horizontal targets;
  •   Overall coordination and achievement of the goals and reforms of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, including establishment and coordination of the proposed Energy Transition Commission in the NRRP;
  •   Coordinating Bulgaria's implementation of the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy obligations, in strict compliance with the No Significant Climate and Environmental Harm (DNSH) Principle for energy and other publicly funded investment projects; 
  •    Coordinating action on the decommissioning of fossil fuel power plants in line with commitments made to the EU, which include not only a final closure date but also a Just Transition with livelihood, economic, and social development safeguards in coal areas.

The Deputy Prime Minister should also be given the specific task of preparing an administrative reform to build internal capacity in each of these ministries to ensure that Bulgaria is effectively-prepared to respond and adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

We at the Green Restart Coalition are aware that there is no one-size-fits-all and instant solution to overcome the consequences of neglecting the climate crisis and the green transformation of the Bulgarian economy.

It requires a systematic, long-term, and holistic approach.

A just climate transition should not be seen only as an implementation of the EU's long-term strategy, but needs to become a national priority for Bulgaria, above partisan and political divisions. We believe that the holistic and horizontal integration of sustainable green strategies across all social and economic sectors is the only effective way to address the consequences of the climate crisis.

What happens tomorrow depends on our actions or inactions today.

 

Sincerely,

Coalition For a Green Restart

Sasha Bezuhanova,

Founder of MOVE.BG

Vesselina Kavrakova,

Executive Director of WWF Bulgaria

Denitza Petrova,

Executive Director of Greenpeace Bulgaria

Svetoslav Stoykov,

Co-Founder and Executive Director of Circular Economy Institute

*On 11 October, this Open Letter was sent to state institutions, political party leaderships, the European Commission and the European Parliament, media. More information here.

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