5 lessons for Bulgaria in the Green Deal era

5 lessons for Bulgaria in the Green Deal era

The large-scale plan for the European Green Deal, a leading policy of the von der Leyen Commission, is about to get fully under way. Bulgaria’s preparedness to meet the challenges of this new strategic course for the European Union is still in question. With each passing day, our time for orientation runs out.

What is actually happening?

Young European citizens want a better life for themselves and the planet. Their main priorities are to keep the air they breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat and the environment in which they live, clean and healthy. If for the parents of the Millennials and Generation Z, the interest in environmental issues was just an alternative and extravagant hobby during their adolescent years, their children see things very differently. Dealing with the climate crisis is an authentic cause for their future and a forming power for bright political views.

The green wave of the last European elections is proof of that. Protecting the environment and combating climate change are the new big policy spheres in Europe, undermining interest in the old opposition between the left and the right. With the introduction of the European Green Deal, the leaders of the Union are trying to respond to these growing feelings and to change our current post-industrial socio-economic model of production and consumption, which comes entirely at the expense of our planet and its resources.

There is no going back and no one is waiting for Bulgaria

If anyone in our country still thinks that the Green Deal is something temporary, a kind of fashion that will undoubtedly pass, then he is cruelly mistaken. The processes are advancing and have a long-lasting horizon ahead of them. The generation of today’s activist-minded European youth will become the demographic backbone of tomorrow’s Europe. In the coming years, the acceleration of the trends in the direction of clear actions for the climate will become even greater. All the efforts that will be needed to implement the European Green Deal have one main goal – reaching zero net EU generated emissions by 2050, as the only chance and attempt to realistically counter climate change.

This set period is both very long when viewed from the prism of usually evanescent government policies, but also extremely short, in the context of the complex reforms that need to take place. In its ambitious plan, the European Commission is ready to harness remarkable resources for transforming European industry, energy, transport and agriculture in an emergency. And if for the countries of Western Europe this transition has already been started and planned, in Bulgaria we will need much more decisive action and a catching up initiative. Our country must build its strategy as quickly as possible and be bold in following it.

We need many difficult and unpopular measures

It is no secret that Bulgaria is one of the countries in the European Union with the lowest results in the field of environmental protection. From the poisonous air in a number of cities, through the deplorable state of our Black Sea coast, to the transformation of the country’s rivers and forests into dumps. Here we do not even mention the lack of progress towards the use of innovative energy sources, smart sectoral systems, high-tech transport and similar seemingly science fiction techniques for Bulgaria. Like it or not, in order for our country to move forward and be a real part of the future of the Union, it will not be enough to simply “absorb”, as we all know exactly how, the next tranche of planned funds coming from the EU budget’s donor countries.

The situation requires from us a bold vision and a change in thinking. If we replace “Brussels wants us to close all coal plants and doom us to starvation!” with “How can we more effectively modernize our energy system, in service of the people and our planet?”, we will probably reap more success. And here is the key for the coming road ahead. The European Green Deal must become the subject of a wide-ranging public debate. Its scope, predetermining costly restructuring in virtually every sector of our economy, requires the inclusion a maximum number of experts who can actively contribute to its implementation. And if we constantly look to the past and search for excuses in an attempt to stop the green momentum and spirit of change, then we risk missing the most appropriate chance for developing our country, that we have seen for decades.

Why is all of this necessary?

Year after year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN Climate Change Conference produce reports to shake and awaken the world community to the urgent need of tackling the climate crisis. The scientific community states unanimously that the more volatile the planet’s temperatures become, the more likely it will be for  climate events with the potential for devastating damage and detrimental effects on the prosperity of human societies, to occur.

The direct repercussions of climate change in Bulgaria are becoming visible to everyone. The drought in 2019 and 2020, combined with nature’s inability to compensate for our mistakes, brought most Bulgarian cities to the brink of water disaster. The surge in wildfires and floods, due to rising global temperatures and extremely volatile weather, demonstrate the need to combat these ever more frequent cataclysms. Through the European Green Deal, the EU seeks to act and bring about decided efforts in this direction. For some, these efforts are insufficient, for others, they are excessive or even unnecessary, but for the Union and the Commission, calling the Green Deal, the European “man on the Moon” moment, it is global leadership in the field, that is on the line.

A new Bulgarian national ideal

And while global processes are taking place, there are local opportunities of great importance for our country. Bulgaria is faced with the rare chance to create a clean, high-tech and prosperous economy. Our energy sector can finally become a modern example of sustainability, while biodiversity and organic farming, in the long run, could become a well-deserved Bulgarian symbol.

For more than a decade, Bulgaria has failed to utilize the full capacity of its membership in the European Union. Today, the Green Deal provides us with a window to do more ambitious steps and write the next chapter of our progress in united Europe. We are obliged to take advantage, not because someone imposes it on us, or because we blindly follow a set agenda, but because we are capable of doing it, and it will be historically beneficial to our planet, to us, to our country and to its future successors.

Ivan-Asen Ivanov is a young Bulgarian political analyst. He is a graduate of Sofia‘s French Language High School. In 2016 he continued his education at the Paris Institute of Political Science, Sciences Po, and in 2020 he graduated with honors from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski ”, Political Science major. He is a part of the Brussels-based, green, youth organization „Generation Climate Europe“. His main interests are in the field of European Affairs, environmental protection and Bulgarian domestic and foreign policy.