Countries from the South East and Southern Europe have agreed on new joint measures to reduce pollution.
They aim to incentivise and redirect investment towards non-polluting activities, promote waste prevention and recycling and step-up the monitoring of transboundary pollution, among other programmes.
A report commissioned by UN Environment found while countries in the Western Balkans region have made strides in environmental policy, they continue to face serious challenges related to air and water pollution, unregulated waste dumping and soil contamination.
Countries in the area currently rank among the worst in Europe for air pollution – in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, heavy coal dependency, poor building energy efficiency and the use of old, polluting cars mean 225 out of every 100,000 deaths are due to household or ambient air pollution. That’s more than triple the European average, according to UN Environment.
All countries in the area plan to build new coal power plants, other than Albania – it is currently the only nation on track to have 17% of its territory designated as a protected area.
Satya Tripathi, Head of UN Environment’s New York Office and UN Assistant Secretary-General said: “A regional approach to fighting pollution is crystallising ahead of the fourth UN Environment Assembly. This can open a new common chapter in history for the Western Balkans. Countries have the chance to leapfrog some of the development stages experienced by other industrialised states.”