Climate instability: Basic concepts and the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The natural balance of gases in the atmosphere has been significantly alerted by anthropogenic activities during the last two hundred years.  The consequence of this process is a global temperature increase with all the related effects on climate and human health.  International efforts to reduce concentrations of harmful gases in the atmosphere have been concretized in the Kyoto Protocol, which is an amendment to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as all countries in the SEE region, is a signatory of this Protocol but facing numerous difficulties in its implementation. 

The Greenhouse Effect 
The greenhouse effect is a natural and vital characteristic of the atmosphere.  Without this effect, the average atmospheric temperature of Earth would be  -17 °C, instead of the current average of 15 °C.  The process that leads to the greenhouse effect is the following: Solar energy heaths the earth's crust, or any other surface it falls on.  These hot surfaces then radiate heat back in the form of infrared radiation.  Most of this radiation should be emitted into space, but is stuck in the atmosphere because of different components in the polluted composition of the atmosphere, such as steam, nitrogen and carbon-rich gases (greenhouse gases - GHG).  This is the main mechanism through which the temperature of the atmosphere increases.  More water content and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to more absorption of radiation, which then leads to more heating all over the globe. 

What happened to the atmosphere in the last 200 years? 
Carbon-rich gases can arise from natural sources, both biological (microorganism activities, respiration, decomposition) and non-biological (eg, the influence of volcanoes). The carbon is removed from the atmosphere by the non-biological absorption in the oceans and biosphere activities - primarily through the process of photosynthesis.  Until two hundred years ago, nature used its exceptional self-regulation system to maintain the equilibrium between carbon release and re-absorption processes.  The range of temperature that has enabled the creation and development of life on Earth was created thanks to this effect. 

This natural balance has been violated by the process of industrialization – ever since the 19th century people have been emitting fossilized carbon in the atmosphere through various processes involving fossil fuels, ie.  coal, natural gas and oil.  Those are, therefore, anthropogenic sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, paired with the soil and forests erosion (oxidation of carbon matter in the soil).  According to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations published in 2001, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 31% since 1750. The concentration of methane, one of the most dangerous GHGs, has increased by 150% in the atmosphere during the same period.  Anthropogenic sources of methane are primarily rice fields, intensive livestock farming (eg, bacteria in the stomach of a cow produce about 100 liters of methane per day), dumps, exploitation and transportation of natural gas, power plants and fertilizers (of organic and inorganic origin). 

Consequences of global warming 
The IPCC report from 2007 found that the increase in global temperatures during the 20th  century amounted to 0.74 ± 0.18 °C. The latest climate models used by the IPCCC predict that global temperatures are likely to increase by 1.1 to 6.4 °C during the 21st century. There will be a sea level rise of 18-59 cm in the same period.  Consequences of these trends to ecosystems are dramatic, and usually tagged with a common name: "climate change" or "climate instability”.  Warmer Earth accelerates the overall cycle of water, ie.  exchange of water between oceans, atmosphere and soil.  Higher temperature causes more evaporation and drier soil. More water in the atmosphere, generally speaking, means more rain or snow. Such events can cause flooding, soil erosion and other natural disasters.  In some areas, increased evaporation leads to drought, while in other areas there could be excessive rainfalls.  So far, climate change has been blamed for the Arctic ice cover melting, increased release of methane from the soil and the ocean around the Arctic, snowfall disorders in the mountains around the world and the global increase in sea levels.  Due to continuous warming over a longer period of time, the loss of large parts of the polar ice cap will almost certainly slow the thermohaline circulation, the main temperature regulating  system on earth. 

Warming of the atmosphere also affects the quality and length of human life: the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the global warming causes a minimum of 150,000 deaths each year. The WHO also predicts that humanity will have to face a greater number of injuries, illness and death cases as a result of natural disasters, air pollution and heat waves and an increase of diseases that are transmitted by food, water and vectors. Moreover, in many parts of the world a large part of the population will be displaced due to higher sea levels, drought and hunger. 
According to climate scenarios, between 15 and 37% of plant and animal species are "doomed to extinction" until 2050, due to global warming. According to the results of observations of 16 European research institutions on the impact of global warming on the environment and population in Europe, 14 to 38% of the Mediterranean population will face water shortages until 2080. The Mediterranean and the Alps will be hardest hit by climate change. 

International instruments for combating climate change 
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992,  is aimed at providing the stabilization of GHG levels in the atmosphere in order to prevent dangerous anthropogenic impacts on climate system (consisting of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, soil, ice cover, biosphere and the interactive relationships among these subsystems).  The Convention entered into force on 21  March 1994  and was signed by 194 countries of the world.  The Convention itself does not set mandatory GHG emissions limits and contains no enforcement mechanisms.  In that sense, this document is considered legally non-binding. The Convention, however, has amendments, usually called "protocols", which set emissions limits and other measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Members of the Convention meet annually to discuss the progress in the fight against climate change and to agree the next steps. Those meetings are called ”Conference of the Parties” (COP). 

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty and an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  It was designed in  December 1997 at the third Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP3). The Protocol was signed and ratified by the governments of 187 states and territories until October 2009.  The United States signed the Protocol in 1998 but with no intention of ratification.  The main focus of this document is the commitment of developed countries of the world (listed in the Annex I of the Protocol) to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for at least 5% compared to the base year (selected from the period 1985-1990) during 2008-2012.  Developing countries (called non-Annex I countries) have no obligation to reduce their emissions if developed countries do not provide them with the necessary financial resources and technology, but need to develop measures and policies to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. The Kyoto Protocol obliges all signatory countries to: collect relevant information, submit national reports to the UNFCCC, develop strategies for mitigating climate change and adaptation to modified climate conditions, cooperate in climate monitoring, research and technology transfer, and to promote educational programs and public awareness. 

The Kyoto Protocol is, therefore, a sort of scenario for ways through which countries can reduce their GHG emissions.  It also determines how and when to reduce the emissions, and how industrialized countries, which are unable to significantly reduce their emissions, can help the normalization of climate conditions  The ultimate goal of the Protocol is to ensure the stabilization of GHG atmospheric concentrations at a level that would prevent further climate change. 

Clean Development Mechanism 
The Protocol establishes three new, innovative mechanisms (International Emissions Trading, Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism), which are designed to support the cost-effectiveness of the fight against climate change.  The most significant mechanism for the region of Southeastern Europe is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), the only one of the three that involves developing countries. The aim of CDM projects is to generate investment in developing countries, especially by the private sector, intensify the transfer of environmentally suitable technologies and promote sustainable development. In short, the CDM process goes as follows: 
1. Investors from industrialized countries provide funding for a project that reduces GHG emissions in developing countries. 
2. Investors attribute obtained carbon credits (emission reduction expressed in special accounting units) to their countries, thus ensuring the fulfillment of their emission reduction obligations. 
3. Developing countries and the company that owns the project get modern and clean technologies to deal with the problems of their environment. 
Due to the fact that CDM projects bring multiple (financial, technological, environmental and other) benefits to all parties, there is a whole global market of CDM projects.  This market is characterized by great competitiveness of countries that want to develop CDM projects and company investors. 

The Kyoto Protocol in Bosnia and Herzegovina 
Bosnia and Herzegovina ratified the UNFCCC on  May 17, 2000. The Kyoto Protocol was ratified on April 22, 2007, after completion of ratification procedures of numerous Bosnian government levels (discussion and position on the Protocol and its ratification were given by the two entity ministries of environment, governments of both entities, the Council of Ministers and the B&H Presidency). 

There is still no quality institutional framework for the Protocol implementation.  Preparations for drafting the initial National report on climate change in B&H started in 2008.  The report was finally adopted by the competent state bodies in late 2009, and will probably be presented to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC at the COP meeting in 2010  in Mexico. The first national report is an important strategic document for the sustainable development of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and includes contributions of more than 50 experts from various academic disciplines. The inventory of GHG was also created for the year 1990, in accordance with the methodology and recommendations found in the UNFCCC reporting guidelines. 

The initial report concluded that the most important source of CO2 emissions in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the energy sector, which contributes with 70% of the total CO2 emissions. The main sources of methane in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the agriculture (cattle), uncontrolled (fugitive) emissions from coal mines and waste disposal. The largest amounts of N2O emissions come from agricultural soils due to cultivation and crop breeding. 

Although there are still no national bodies for the proper implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol in Bosnia and Herzegovina, several CDM projects are under development or scheduled for implementation.  According to information from the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, there are currently four reported CDM projects, created in order to reduce N2O, CH4, SF6 and CO2. CDM projects in B&H have their chance in the low energy efficiency of the country, the possibility of obtaining energy from renewable sources (biodiesel, wind power, solar energy and small to medium-sized hydroelectric power plants), and better waste management. 

The majority of countries in the Western Balkans is much ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina as regards participation in the provisions and mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol. Only Croatia has the status of a developed country in the Protocol, and is therefore obligated to reduce its GHG emissions by 2012.  Macedonia should be mentioned as the first country in the region that has promptly addressed climate change issues and is already using development opportunities provided by the Protocol. 
Amina Omićević
22/02/2010


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