Although BiH is among the countries with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in Europe, we are nonetheless vulnerable to climate change. It is evident that the nature around us is changing, with new challenges emerging. There are increasingly more days with tropical temperatures, as well as prolonged periods of drought and a change in the schedule and intensity of rainfall, which leads to flooding. Climate change also leads to reduced precipitation during the plant cultivation and increased frequency of adverse weather conditions (heat and cold waves, floods and droughts). These climate changes had been evident over the past 15 years through more extreme weather that hit BiH and are increasingly becoming our reality: floods in 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2014 and drought in 2000, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2012.
Successful cooperation of all levels of government – a path to response to climate change
Climate change also affects socioeconomic development of the country especially in the field of agriculture, water management and hydroelectricity given the decrease in the annual agricultural yields, and more frequent floods and droughts that cause major damage. Therefore, BiH took measures to address and adapt to these changes. All relevant levels of government across the country joined efforts in creating institutional preconditions to urgently address climate change. BiH has ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in September 2000. Under the Convention, BiH has fulfilled the following requirements: adopted the Climate Change Adaptation and Low Emission Development Strategy for BiH, Initial and Second National Communication on Climate Change, established the Designated National Authority – DNA for implementation of CDM in the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC and prepared the First Biennial Report on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in BiH (FBUR).
The strategy focuses on the implementation of specific measures aimed to increase resilience to climate change and define flood risk management and control, as one of the key activities. The Strategy, the Initial and the Second National Communication and the FBUR have been endorsed by governments of both entities and the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a ground for implementation of all future projects addressing climate change adaptation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Also, the speed and efficiency in adoption of the key documents is an exceptional achievement and shows that the issue of climate change is one of the future priorities in BiH.
Joint project in the Vrbas River basin
The latest step towards climate change adaptation is the implementation of the project aimed to improve flood control in the Vrbas River basin, as an area with the population of over 500,000. The five-year project worth USD 5 million was launched in April 2015 thanks to financial assistance from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and technical assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The project will facilitate joint action of relevant institutions, focusing on incorporating climate change and flood risk reduction in the legal framework, including the creation of conditions for water and flood risk management. Also, by creating a legal basis, these risks can be included in the sectors of agriculture, urban planning, environmental protection, water management and other.
With the aim of reducing the number of major weather disasters, the project will work on technology transfer and capacity building of institutions of BiH in the field of hydro-meteorological monitoring, hydro-dynamic modeling and climate change projections, as well as development of a database for the analysis of hydro-meteorological and other risks and damages. This new approach, with topographic survey of riverbeds, will allow for mapping of threats and population vulnerability assessment, which is the basis for the planning of future activities.
The project further envisages a preparation of the plan for strengthening institutional capacity and provision of targeted training on flood risk management, as a result of climate change for at least 10 practitioners and decision-makers.
In addition to upgrading the legal basis and different systems for improving the safety of inhabitants, about 60% of project funds will be invested at the local level, thus directly improving the living conditions of the most vulnerable population groups in the Vrbas River basin, through construction investment, and non-structural measures such as floodplain reconnection, restoration of meanders, establishment of two-stage riverbeds, setting up an early warning system for floods and the like. The project funds also entail new jobs, both through project implementation, as well as through matching funds for twenty new projects.
Due to complexity and importance of the project, in addition to UNDP and line ministries in charge of environment, entity Ministries of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry will also take part in the project. Through joint efforts of all institutions and local communities, the project will enhance the country's capacity to adapt to climate change challenges, foster socioeconomic development of the country, as well as increase the protection against floods and droughts, and, most importantly, ensure safety for nearly half a million residents in the Vrbas River basin.