The second Green Economy Congress was organized from 1 to 3 November at Belgrade Chamber of Commerce, as a three-day conference is designed to connect actors and support the transition to a sustainable economy. The slogan of this year's conference was "Shaping Synergies into a Circular Society".
On the first day of the conference, organized by the Green European Foundation with support from Networked from Serbia, and with the financial support of the European Parliament to the Green European Foundation, five panels and lectures were prepared with a large number of interesting speakers and themes.
The conference was opened by Žaklina Živković, a representative of the Networked, presenting the program and concept of this year's Green Economy Congress. “The organizing team started this project believing that economy of the future will be green. We believe in the future where the global consumption of natural resources is regulated to the point where nature’s capacity to regenerate is secured. We believe in a low-carbon sustainable economy with a focus on dialogue, knowledge exchange and wide participation. We believe in small actions making immense changes” said Žaklina.
The opening panel at the Congress was dedicated to the role of policy makers and implementation of public policies for the development of the circular economy in the EU and at the national level. The panelists were by Slobodan Perovic from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Antoine Avignon representative of the EU Delegation in Serbia, Jeoren Jansen, representative of the Dutch city of Nijmegen - Green European Capital for 2018 and Dusan Vasiljevic, an environmental expert.
The first speaker was Slobodan Perovic, Assistant Minister for Environmental Protection of the Republic of Serbia, who stated that the green economy provides many business opportunities, but that he is “amazed every day how much energy and resources we waste every day”. Mr. Perovic pointed out that there is a lot of work ahead, that there are several strategic documents that are being prepared for the development of circular economy and that the main thing we need to do is to establish and manage responsibly the budget for environmental protection.
European Union circular economy public policies package is ambitious and needs to be adopted on a national level, but the real change begins with you, Antoine Avignon, from the EU Delegation in Serbia, said. “I work for 10 years in the Western Balkans region, and I can see the change. There is a need for establishment of dialogue between entrepreneurs and policy – makers, and Delegation supports it”, Avignon concluded.
Dusan Vasiljevic of Western Balkan Consulting Global believes that decision-makers should create a framework in which green economies will develop. “I completely agree that when we talk about green or circular economy, it is not only an economic issue, it is also a social and cultural issue, and we need time to implement it. What we cannot do is to continue the business as usual, because it is not sustainable.” said mr. Vasiljević.
Jeoren Jansen from the green capital of Europe for 2018, the city of Nijmegen, stated that we need to decrease the amount of raw material usage in production. “Companies need to take their part in this process, municipal and local authorities need to support them in this process, by financial means and policy frame”
After the first panel, Grigoris Chatzikostas, Head of the Business Development Department at the BioSense Institute, had a lecture entitled "Innovation in a Circular Economy: Closing a Loop in Agro-Business." He talked about the role of digital technology in redefinition of growth, with focus to positive social advantages such as circular economy, alternative proteins, ICT in agriculture.
The panel dealing with green public policies at the local level and urban development attracted a lot of attention of our participants. Siniša Trkulja from the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure of the Republic of Serbia presented the New Urban Agenda and the contribution of cities to sustainable development and green economy in our country and on a global level. People need to get together, share common goods and work together to develop a green economy. This is possible in cities, Sinisa Trkulja said.
Nikoleta Petković from CDN (Network for Cooperation and Development in Eastern Europe) presented the project "Urban steps for resilient future", that CDN was working on this year. The project aimed to empower young people in Eastern Europe to consider alternatives in transforming cities to be greener and that provided training (advocacy and project management) to enable them to implement their ideas for local urban activism, Petkovic said. After the presentation of the project, she also pointed out the relevance of the topic of alternative urbanization in the context of Eastern Europe and young people and talked about alternatives such as commons.
Jan Luijten of the Dutch city of Nijmegen, the European Green Capital in 2018, presented what this city did to receive this recognition, explaining the development of the circular economy in the community and the advantages that citizens have gained from this process. He also explained why the green economy is important for the development of the entire local community, as well as what all local governments can do in the field of sustainable development in order to improve the lives of their citizens.
Anna Larsson, an expert from ReLoop Europe platform from Sweden, gave a lecture on "New Plastic Economy: EU Circular Economy Package".
“We are swimming in the plastic and we need to do something urgently. When considering different models, one must bear in mind the entire product life cycle, from production to recycling and all steps between,” said Larsson.
At the last panel "Smart and Green Development of Serbia - yes, we can do it" members of the WISE SEE Network (a network of women in sustainable energy in South East Europe) talked about the situation in Serbia and on a global level in the field of sustainable development. Panel was moderated by Branislava Jovičić, Balkan Green Energy News editor and WISE SEE project manager and the panelists were Maja Turković, renewable energy expert, Danijela Božanić, climate change expert, Ankica Barbulov, energy efficiency expert and Žaklina Živković, Networked.
The second day of the Green Economy Congress was opened by Mr. Paul Hickey of the European Investment Bank, who presented the programs of this institution in the field of green economy. Panels on the green finance and the role of activism in the development of environmental protection and green economy were also held. The congress was closed with a speed dating panel with start - up companies from Serbia at the Faculty of Geography, University of Belgrade.