5 June 2015
Waste management, wastewater treatment and adaptation to climate change are some of the most pressing environmental challenges for Montenegro. These are the main findings of the third Environmental Performance Review (EPR) of Montenegro, undertaken by UNECE. The findings were presented by UNECE and the Montenegrin authorities on 5 June 2015 in Podgorica, to coincide with World Environment Day.
The Review notes that, since 2007, Montenegro has significantly changed its legal, policy and institutional framework for the environment and sustainable development, with the process of accession to the EU as the key driver of these changes. A package of laws and corresponding secondary legislation has been adopted, and a strategic framework for environment and sustainable development has been further developed. The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 was a breakthrough for the institutional set-up on environmental protection. However, the implementation of legislation lags behind the intensive efforts to improve the legal and policy framework.
The country still faces a number of challenges, most notably with regard to waste management. While the new landfills in Podgorica and Bar are a remarkable improvement for the central and coastal regions, the mountain region lacks such facilities. Development of a new sanitary landfill in the mountain region is a priority to allow decommissioning of old disposal sites. The fee collection rate in waste management also remains very low (57 per cent for households and 68 per cent for enterprises), which has an impact on the financial performance of municipal companies collecting waste.
The discharge of untreated urban wastewater on surface water and soils is an important environmental pressure in the country. In 2012, only 44 per cent of the urban population, or just 28 per cent of the total population, was connected to a sewer network. There are wastewater treatment plants in Bar, Budva, Mojkovac and Podgorica and several more are being built in the coastal area and in the central and northern regions. As for untreated industrial wastewater, around 30 point sources of pollution still lack a standard wastewater treatment plant and more than 20 need advanced chemical treatment options. Other challenges in water management include groundwater protection, since most water for human consumption relies upon groundwater from karstic aquifers, and coastal zone management.
Montenegro is already vulnerable to climate change, with signs of a trend towards a more extreme precipitation regime. Podgorica and its surroundings has suffered from several heat waves (temperatures up to 45°C) in recent years (mainly in 2011), and the whole country has experienced several severe droughts in this period. In addition, it suffered damages and losses amounting to around €44 million (1.4 per cent of gross domestic product) from the 2010 flood. Future flooding potentially threatens 250 square kilometres of farmland and urban zones, but most of the drainage systems are not in operation due to insufficient maintenance. Although there is no comprehensive model of economic impacts from climate change for Montenegro, total costs for priority adaptation measures in the most relevant sectors are assessed at €11.5 million.
Although the country has a high potential for renewable energy (hydro, solar, wind and biomass), only hydropower is used for electricity production and biomass for heating purposes. The changes needed to increase renewable energy sources include the improvement of conditions for investors in renewable electricity production and the implementation of needed grid improvements. Montenegro has undertaken steps to increase energy efficiency in the construction sector, but mainly for new buildings.
To address the challenges in both mitigation and adaptation to climate change, a national strategy on climate change is currently being drafted. According to the Review, its adoption and proper financing are urgently needed.
As 2015 marks the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the third Review also highlights progress achieved with regard to national MDG commitments. For example, already in 2009, the country increased to 9 per cent the proportion of its territory protected to preserve biodiversity as a result of the designation of a new national park, Prokletije. And, according to the Ministry of Economy data, Montenegro met its renewable energy use target – 27.7 per cent of total energy consumption – in 2013. At the same time, Montenegro will most likely fail to achieve some of its MDG commitments. There has been no progress on increasing the proportion of protected marine ecosystems, on limiting the anthropogenic impact on the quality of surface water, or on reducing losses in the water supply network.
The third EPR of Montenegro is based on an information-gathering mission to the country carried out in February 2014 and concludes with a set of 33 recommendations to assist Montenegro in improving its environmental management, integrating environmental considerations into sectoral policies and strengthening cooperation with the international community. The recommendations were approved by the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy in October 2014.
The Review was financially supported by Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Portugal delegated experts for the Review. The United Nations Development Programme Montenegro provided substantive and organizational support.
In 1993, countries represented at the second Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference (Lucerne, Switzerland) mandated UNECE to carry out EPRs. Subsequently, the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy integrated EPRs in its regular programme. Since then, UNECE environment ministers reaffirmed their support for the EPR Programme, deciding in 2003 that the Programme should continue with a second cycle of reviews. A third cycle of reviews was formally endorsed in 2011. Third-cycle EPRs have been carried out in Montenegro, the Republic of Moldova and Serbia and are ongoing in Belarus and Georgia.
The efficiency and effectiveness of the EPR methodology have attracted the attention of countries outside the UNECE region, leading to requests for a transfer of know-how from UNECE to other United Nations regional commissions. Morocco was the first country outside the UNECE region for which a review was made by UNECE, in cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. At the global level, the synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, “The Road to Dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the Planet” (2014), mentions the UNECE EPRs as an example of regional review mechanisms, whose experience is important for monitoring, evaluation and reporting on the future sustainable development goals.