By Raya Lecheva
We will insist on creating a specialized program for green businesses, commented Sasha Bezuhanova, founder of MOVE.BG during a discussion "Bulgaria after COVID-19-green recovery or gray stagnation", organized by the Coalition "For a green restart". It unites MOVE.BG, WWF, Greenpeace Bulgaria, Institute of Circular Economics.
In general, despite being provided for in the Recovery and Sustainability Plan after COVID-19, the circular economy is poorly addressed, Bezuhanova added. "At European level, the European Innovation Council has a resource of over 7 billion euros, which offers opportunities to support green businesses. The government needs to create local tools, there is a need for grounded and local solutions and innovations. A fund of funds will also be a possible instrument in the next programming period for green companies. But a targeted program for start-ups and models for green business financing needs to be created, she added. In Bulgaria at the moment there is no concept of a start-up company with 7 people who make state-of-the-art technology. Their status is equal in value to the neighborhood store. If we continue to fund only industrial zones, we will continue to associate as a toll country, she stressed.
Bolder measures to invest in value-added businesses
Restoring the balance between man and nature depends on how we plan our economic development, the crisis has accelerated the reorganization of the world, commented Sasha Bezuhanova. Europe has voted on an unprecedented € 750 billion recovery plan in the fight against the crisis through innovation, digitalisation and the circular economy. The plan needs to be revised, and the event is a signal that there is time to revise with the participation of a wider range of businesses, organizations and citizens. This is a commitment of all of us to ensure our common future, added Bezuhanova.
These funds for Bulgaria are not yet guaranteed, so our country must prepare good enough reforms to meet European understandings of the circular economy.
Nearly 37% of all funds in the Recovery Plan are set aside for the Green Bulgaria pillar, or BGN 4.499 billion, which is the largest share of all areas.
In order to achieve an environmentally friendly economy, we must create an economy with added value, said Momchil Vassilev, Managing Director of Endeavor Bulgaria. Europe is currently trying to catch up with the United States, China and other countries, and it is giving us the economic will and the courage to take bolder action. But we need to decide where our place is in 10-20 years, these goals to be clearly reflected in the Plan. The Recovery and Sustainability Plan still lacks an integrated approach to the overall picture. The plan is also not a magic cure to solve the problems of the future. The role of the state is to create the environment and stimulate the private sector. Our goal should be to create value-added businesses, increase labor productivity and increase green jobs. Policies cut the expenditure side of the budget and engage the state apparatus, not put the business in charge. Urgent measures access to capital and greater financial resources.
According to Mariana Yaneva, Director of Policies and Communications at the Association for Production, Storage and Trade of Electricity (APSTE), it is very important to outline who and under what criteria will be able to participate in funding for the new decarbonisation fund, which will be targeted. to enterprises.
Energy efficiency in the transition to a circular economy
Rehabilitation itself is also very important, but there is no spillover to the ideas of a circular economy. Energy cooperatives and communities need to be funded by households that can benefit from financial instruments to improve energy efficiency.
Teodor Kalpakchiev, founder of The European Network of Policy Incubators from the Institute of Circular Economics, developed the idea that when we talk about energy efficiency it is necessary to apply new approaches by adopting remediation including secondary resources, clothing, algae, plastic to enable new businesses as well. In the field of Green Bulgaria to try new lighting systems by making, for example, 100 demonstrative positive energy neighborhoods. Instead of irrigation, use electric turbines for plumbing from old electronics, drones for optimization (sensors from old phones), to increase the use of aquaponics (fish farming with energy from plant waste products). According to Innovative Bulgaria, the Institute offers the construction of high-value clusters by regions, which will cover all elements of the Plan - Innovative Bulgaria, Green Bulgaria, Connected Bulgaria, Fair Bulgaria.
Lack of attitude towards coal-fired power plants in the transition to RES
The plan lacks the addressee in the problem of energy intensity of the Bulgarian economy, said Meglena Antonova from Greenpeace-Bulgaria. The Plan lacks Bulgaria's vision for coal-fired power plants, which should actually close by 2025 because they will not meet the requirements. They will have 5 to 7 years to modernize, but it will happen anyway, said Georgi Stefanov, a climate and energy expert at WWF. That is why our country must outline the vision for a smooth transition within the next 10 years. According to Mariana Yaneva, director of "Policies and Communications" at the Association for Production, Storage and Trade in Electricity (APSTE), a study shows that 26% of electricity by 2050 can be produced entirely by households and small businesses. This means that every seventh Bulgarian produces his energy.
Biodiversity - the weakest link
Biodiversity is the weakest link, commented Veselina Kavrakova, Executive Director of WWF Bulgaria. From the experience we have with the Operational Program "Environment", where out of 100 million euros only 13 million euros are actually implemented projects, it is unlikely to achieve great success here. And funding for biodiversity will increase by 5% each year, indicating that about 300m euros are to be allocated. The biggest problem is the lack of capacity in the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF) for large-scale projects in the field of biodiversity.
Stefan Avramov, a longtime expert on protected areas and species conservation at the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation (biodiversity department), discusses the lack of a digital cadastre in the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works (MRDPW) for protected areas and dunes along the Black Sea coast. There is no accessible digital map of the protected areas in Bulgaria for 15 years. There are experiments in the Executive Agency for Environmental Protection (EEA), but it is not integrated in the cadastre. Forest statistics and forest database are missing. The information system for agriculture is made so complex for work and in practice is unusable by independent specialists, organizations and citizens.
Science is politicized and thrown out of government. Bulgaria has had very successful cooperation with BAS in the field of biodiversity, which needs to be restored. According to Avramov, a resource for land acquisition in areas with key habitats and protected areas should be considered, or an option for public-private partnerships should be considered, as in a number of European countries. Bulgaria envisages a National Plan for land reclamation, which has no environmental assessment, and it provides for more than 800 million euros, which can be dropped directly, the expert commented.
Vesselina Kavrakova added another interesting point about the need to develop the topic of biodiversity in cities and create green cities.
Measures against excessive use of pesticides and water resources in agriculture
We are at a time when we have to solve many cases caused by the coronavirus crisis, which are a fact at the moment and not subject to resolution in the future, said Irina Mateeva, European Policy Officer at the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds ( agriculture department).
With the onset of the crisis, we have witnessed the overuse of pesticides by farmers who have not been inspected and are moving freely in the country despite the strictest restrictions in the spring. We are witnessing the overuse of water resources. The inspections have practically stopped, and so far we have witnessed extremely low levels of dams in almost the whole country. We also see excessive plowing, illegal logging and deforestation.
Deep dissatisfaction is caused by the planning of huge investments in irrigated agriculture, which will deepen the crisis and the problems instead of solving them, Mateeva believes. Mateeva sees an interesting opportunity in the remote control of pesticides, which is provided in the Plan.
For the purposes of e-remote farming, there is an opportunity to make things happen in accordance with the green deal. However, it is important to take some concrete measures, stressed Irina Mateeva, and they are regionalization of crops to be grown, targeting varieties and crops resistant to drought, measures to restore grassland habitats, implementation of water retention activities , introduction of water reuse systems, measures against deforestation one of the major problems related to desertification and drought. Publicity must be established with regard to the use of plant protection products.
All participants stated that a common approach was needed between the pillars of the Recovery and Sustainability Plan after COVID-19.
It is important that all stakeholders make their specific proposals and send opinions, which are published on strategy.bg (Portal of the Council of Ministers for Public Consultations). Proposals for the Plan are expected by November 29.