Water, energy and climate change are interlinked. Water is a key resource in fossil fuel based electricity production and combustion of fossil fuels continues to add CO2 to the atmosphere, driving climate change and disturbing the cycles of water. Coal is the single biggest driver of anthropogenic climate change across the globe – coal burning generates a third of the CO2 emissions resulting from human activities. A timely phase-out of coal is therefore crucial to slowing down climate change and averting a mass-scale ecological catastrophe.
In the meantime, the Bulgarian energy system is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, with coal being responsible for 40-60% of the total energy production. With no coal phase-out date announced and a National Climate and Energy Plan severely lacking any ambition for transition, key stakeholders insist on relying on coal as a locally available resource beyond 2030 and on continuing the reliance on fossil fuels until 2050.
That is why Greenpeace Bulgaria is undertaking an innovative investigation into the effects of climate change and energy production on human and ecosystem water security in the Maritsa basin – whose Eastern territories are deemed “the heart of energy production in Bulgaria”. This research is conducted by an interdisciplinary team of scientists at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) of the Faculty of Science at Leiden University in the Netherlands, a global player focusing on the environmental pressures of human activities and resource use and sustainable development research for decision-making.
The findings show explicitly that following the current Bulgarian National Climate and Energy Plan with its long delayed coal phase-out date, would contribute significantly to water stress in the region, more dramatically than climate change until 2050. Following that path would result in not only increased carbon emissions but also short- and mid-term increases in the water vulnerability of existing and future water-using activities. The continued operation of the Maritza Iztok complex in the future may induce serious water stress in the Maritsa River basin.