The “principles” of Climate Neutrality

Nikos Mantzaris spoke in the second annual policy conference titled “Ne to. 0!” organized by the RES Foundation, a Belgrade-based think tank, on Wednesday, December 1st 2021.

The conference focused on helping policy makers and other stakeholders in and outside of the Western Balkan region to break out of existing policy comfort zones and face up to growing evidence that a carbon-neutral future is not only feasible, but also reachable via a variety of policy routes.

Nikos Mantzaris participated in a panel discussion moderated by Stevan Vujasinović,
of the RES Foundation. The session was titled “the principles of net zero” and other participants included Wendel Trio, former director of the European Climate Action Network (CAN), Simon Ilse, Regional director of Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Elizabet Paunović, Environmental and occupational health expert and Branko Čečen, Director of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS).

Nikos Mantzaris largely described the recent developments in Greece regarding the progress towards a complete lignite phase out, the commitments enshrined in the new Greek climate law, and the lessons learnt from the Greek experience so far. Based on these lessons which could be utilized by countries that are now discussing their exit from coal, he stressed the need to:

  1. Decide early, much earlier than Greece, on a clear path away from coal and lignite, which would have the biggest immediate impact on improving climate performance;
  2. Stay away from fossil gas in planning for the future of the energy transition. Rely instead on renewables in conjunction with energy storage infrastructure. It is not only better for the climate; it is financially a much smarter move;
  3. Enshrine commitments in a climate law. This will definitely help in involving society and all actors of the economy. Without them climate neutrality is impossible;
  4. In planning for the Transition in lignite regions:
    • Involve local communities, trade unions, civil society and environmental NGOs and think tanks as well as youth representatives;
    • Have the maximization of the economic benefit of local communities as a top priority instead of focusing solely on attracting large companies. To this end developing and supporting energy communities is of great value;
    • Design appropriate funding tools for financing Just Transition in lignite regions.