Green house gases on the radar: New permitting requirements in sight

The Serbian Parliament has enacted the Climate Change Act[1] with a view to further harmonize its legislation with its obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the related Paris Agreement, as well as with aquis.

Driven by the Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, the Climate Change Act stipulates that operators of facilities emitting green house gases (GHG) need to have a permit issued by the Ministry of Environment before they start operations. Along with the request for issuing this permit, the operator needs to submit a monitoring plan, which, if approved by the Ministry, becomes an integral part of the permit.

The government is yet to enact the by-laws defining the facilities and activities that emit GHG, and further regulating the monitoring plan (expected by March 2022), so the permitting requirement will not be operable until then. It is reasonable to expect that the government will define the facilities and the activities that emit GHG along the lines of Annex I to the Directive 2003/87/EC, meaning that the following sectors (subject to satisfying certain criteria/thresholds) should be at alert: energy, production and processing of ferrous metals, mineral industry, and industrial plants for the production of pulp from timber or other fibrous materials, or paper and board.

No permit will be required for the facilities used for research, development and testing of new products and processes, or for the facilities using exclusively biomass.

The government estimates that 137 existing operators in energy and industry fields will need to obtain this permit. Those operators will have six months to apply for the permit following the enactment of the relevant by-laws. Arguably, newly constructed facilities will not have the six-month window but will have to apply for the permit before they start their operations. Failure to obtain the permit is a misdemeanor subject to fines of up to EUR 25,000 ( EUR 10,000 for the director of the breaching operator).

[1] In force as of 25 March 2021.

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