Global climate change occurs when greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, methane) accumulate in the air, trap heat in the atmosphere, and cause a slow warming of the earth's temperature.
This slow warming has been linked to widespread climatic changes -- from changes in rainfall to shifting deserts and eroding coastal areas.
Immediate measures to mitigate the effects of global warming are critical because the accumulation of some gases in the atmosphere is largely irreversible.
As in other regions experiencing rapid economic growth, inefficient energy use in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe has created some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions in the world.
And while market reforms are boosting economic growth and slowing inflation, several countries in the region are ranked among the worst for industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.
Throughout Eastern Europe, buildings and homes are heated by systems fueled by coal. Cheap and readily available, coal is the most popular fuel choice. But its combustion produces high levels of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas.
As they take steps to meet tough environmental standards required for membership in the European Union, the countries of the region are retooling polluting industries and improving energy efficiency.
Playing a central role in these efforts since 1995, Chemonics International Inc has helped reduce emissions in more than 120 facilities by 45 percent through $60 million in technological investments under its Environmental Action Programme Support (EAPS) project. The project leveraged only $4 million in USAID funds to make these investments possible.
"Our project evaluates equipment upgrade alternatives, locates financing, and ensures effective implementation of emissions reduction activities," said Avrom Bendavid-Val, chief of party. "The result is a strong record in reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
The project's accomplish-ments are hard to ignore. In the Czech Republic city of Vratimov, Chemonics International Inc helped replace 16 coal-fired heating facilities by using waste heat generated by a large steel mill.
Mill waste heat now supplies 80 percent of the city's district heating needs. A gas-fired cogeneration plant at the mill generates the other 20 percent.
Greenhouse gas emissions in Vratimov fell by more than 93 percent as a result. Municipal heat production costs also dropped significantly.
"In the past, the approach to modernizing systems was one-for-one: 'let's replace 1 megawatt of coal with 1 megawatt of gas,'" said Grzegorz Peszko, senior financial advisor in Poland.
"Our work addresses the bigger picture of supply, demand, and distribution. By doing this, facilities can reduce energy requirements by about 30 percent, lowering fuel combustion and therefore emissions."
In Radom, Poland, landfill gas from decomposing solid waste -- primarily carbon dioxide and methane -- was a significant contributor to greenhouse gas.
Chemonics International Inc carried out a feasibility analysis and engineering design, then located financing and helped prepare tender documents for methane tapping and cogeneration technology that uses the landfill gas as fuel for electricity generation and heat production simultaneously.
"The beauty of this approach is that we're eliminating a major greenhouse gas emission," Bendavid-Val said, "by using it as a substitute for heavily polluting fuels and at the same time helping a business diversify into new areas."
Results are similarly impressive elsewhere. Project investments helped reduce oxide emissions by 99 percent in Polanka, the Czech Republic, by replacing solid fuels such as coke and coal sludge with natural gas for 80 percent of the city's heated buildings.
In Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, converting 21 municipal buildings from heavy oil to gas heat reduced energy costs by more than $1 million annually and greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half.
"The technology is available and engineers can adapt it to any particular situation," said Bendavid-Val. "The real challenges are social, political, institutional, and financial, and that's where our skills add the most value.
We take care to transfer skills to stakeholders, ensuring that responsible environmental management continues long after our assistance ends."
Facilities are saving money in other ways as well. A typical gas-fired heating system requires one quarter the staff to operate than coal-fired systems, Bendavid-Val said. The project is helping to develop jobs in companies that import and service modern heating technologies.
On other fronts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the EAPS project is helping to: Increase energy savings. New thermal windows and revamped heating pipes for a hospital in Tarnow, Poland, led to a two-thirds reduction in the facility's fuel requirements.
Build regulatory mechanisms. The project helped establish the first regulator of a natural gas utility in Bulgaria, determining pricing structures and frameworks for environmental oversight.
Strengthen environmental compliance. In Romania, the project is helping to set environmental priorities, pollution reduction schedules, and compliance benchmarks.
Prepare for emissions trading. The project is helping to establish policy, legal, and institutional infrastructure to finance environmental upgrades through the sale of emission reduction credits.
Strengthen environmental funds. The project is building institutional capacity, solvency, and operating efficiency of environmental funds by improving systems for credit administration and public accountability.
The project also has had a dramatic effect on public health. Until recently, visitors to Krakow, Poland, were exposed to health dangers from particulates and toxic pollutants from 70 coal-fired boilers.
The EAPS project, following initial assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy, helped replace those boilers with gas-fired technologies that are less polluting and more efficient. The city today boasts a thriving tourism business.
Note:This information is provided courtsy of Chemonics International Inc. , a consulting firm based inWashington , DC with branches in Cairo and West Bank/Gaza.(chemonics)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)