UNRC Talking Points on the Green Transformation for Serbia's future National Sustainable Development Plan

Speech by Françoise Jacob, UNRC at the National Convention on the European Union with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia

Madame la Premiere Ministre, distinguished colleagues,

I am grateful to participate to this important discussion that will contribute to the formulation of the green agenda in Serbia National Sustainable development Plan.

From the United Nations Secretary General, we have very clear marching orders for 2021 and beyond: addressing climate change and environmental degradation, with a sense of urgency, and a comprehensive approach covering energy transition towards renewable energy, pollution, human and environmental health, biodiversity, green jobs, green urban development and affordable housing, the circular economy and more. Such Green Transformation will be one of the 3 pillars of the United Nations Cooperation Programme with the Government of Serbia.

  1. The Green transformation is no longer a question about IF the country will pursue a green agenda, but HOW, and how FAST. There will be some difficult tradeoffs, particularly in the transition time, which we will need to address with real time data and hard facts about impact and losses, rather than with personal opinions.
  2. We have to shift the way how we pursue action on climate change. Instead of turning to only the agencies dealing with environment and energy, we must adopt a whole of government/whole of society approach to climate change. This is starting in Serbia, and it should inform everything the administration, social partners, municipalities, do.
  3. Addressing climate change and environmental degradation is not about technology. It is about people. It is about the relations between the people and the planet. If we want to tackle the breadth of the climate challenge and opportunities, we need to look at the intersections with public health, human rights, social justice, gender equality, affordable housing, financial risks, investments, and so much more. Technology is only at the service of a transformation.

4. The Green Agenda is about creating a whole new range of economic opportunities and jobs. We have heard too much the negative narrative about the consequences of climate change, in particular around the energy transition and the move away from coal. Let’s flip this narrative: the green agenda requires new skills, new ways of living, new ideas, and innovations, many of which are not yet born.  Energy transition, by the way, is a huge opportunity for the private sector, for the SMEs, in Serbia and in the region.

5. The Green Agenda is about ensuring that the most vulnerable groups and groups at risks benefit from the positive impacts of the changes. While we start developing new technologies and financing schemes, we want to carve options for the poorer neighbourhood, those who may lose jobs in energy transition, those with no skills. This is a most important duty for the state actors, the UN and the NGOs.

6. The Green Agenda is about governance, the rule of law and civic space. While climate and environmental laws are being changed, drafted and adopted, we have to strengthen and expand the capacities of regulatory, monitoring and enforcing bodies, as well as the knowledge sharing. We need to get the right financial incentives and regulations in place for the private sector, the municipalities and the cities to adopt and comply with new standards. On the other side of the spectrum, we need stronger litigation capacities and coordination in environmental matters with the civil society. That also implies that the civic space is expanded and made safer, for citizens and NGOs to express their concerns, hopes, ideas and ambitions.

Finally, we need to communicate better and more, towards all stakeholders including the citizens of this country, in dialogs such as this one today, or in meaningful public consultations.

All this implies a shared responsibility between the state and non-state actors, and a renewed social contract with the citizens. We are at a point where climate change means system change, and the course of our future as either more resilient or more chaotic will depend on what we plan today. Action (or lack of) on climate will impact our livelihoods, and become the main engine of growth and green recovery for the 21st century.

The United Nations is committed to support the government of Serbia to continue and increase its ambitions for carbon reduction and decrease the footprint on environmental degradation. We will work on solutions together to match the rhetoric with action on how we can design, build, produce, educate, legislate, create towards a new future.

This is actually a powerful and exciting agenda, including in Serbia! An agenda that will bring the best out of the citizens, of the youth, and the best for this country, if we manage it meaningfully, with ambition, and as a vehicle for progress, inclusiveness and wealth creation in the spirit of Agenda 2030.


Speech by
Françoise Jacob
UN Resident Coordinator
Françoise Jacob
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations