Bulgaria                                                 By Todor Todorov (Za Zemiata, Bulgaria)


Basic information - Greenhouse gas emissions in CO2 equivalents (excl. LULUCF) and Kyoto Protocol targets for 2008–12.





Mt CO2



Mt CO2



2007 %



year  %

Kyoto target



132.6 (1988)
















No target




GDP Growth



GDP Growth



GDP Growth (est.) %

Gross Inland Energy Consumption Change

Feb.2009/ Feb.2008     %







During the period from 2007 to 2012, Bulgaria’s greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to increase by 27.5% (from 80135.78 Gg in 2007 to 103826.91 Gg, as compared with the maximum permitted under the Kyoto Protocol, 127283 Gg), with gross electricity consumption in the country increasing on average by 2.9% per year.  These predictions are contained in a consultancy document for the Bulgarian National Allocation Plan for greenhouse-gas emission allowances covering 2007 and the period from 2008 to 2012.


The budget shows that the roles of renewable-energy source development and of energy efficiency are underestimated.  There is a lack of incentives for funding such projects.


The government in Bulgaria, along with most representatives of the Bulgarian business sector (e.g. the Bulgarian Chamber of Trade as well as the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria), maintains that increased greenhouse-gas emissions are inevitable if economic growth is to be achieved. Several unfavorable trends in connection with greenhouse-gas emissions are expected in the next few years: the decommissioning of nuclear capacity coincides with accelerated industrial growth as a whole; carbon-intensive industrial sectors such as energy, metallurgy, construction, etc., are expected to grow at a higher rate than the average for the economy. The relatively low income levels among the population mean that gas-supply network extensions and measures to increase household energy efficiency still have not been applied widely.  If the predicted growth in greenhouse-gas emissions and in the use of fossil fuels takes place as the government plans, in view of the continuing global energy crisis arising from fossil fuel depletion, we believe that Bulgarian industry could be in serious difficulties after 2012 and will need to purchase large amounts of greenhouse-gas emissions allowances.


Public attitudes towards Climate Change (CC)


No surveys have been carried out at the national level on the degree of concern about climate-change issues in Bulgarian society. Objective information about climate change tends not to reach the public due to lack of interest in the topic among the national media and the fact that the problem is underestimated on a political level. In general, the popular public view is that climate change is something happening far away from Bulgaria and nothing depends on Bulgarians, but that the EU is forcing steps to be taken at Bulgaria’s expense. The efforts of the non-governmental sector are insufficient to ensure that objective information reaches the general public in Bulgaria.


Thanks to the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the area of climate change and of a small number of committed journalists, a fairly clear picture has now been presented to the public that there is no further serious controversy about the existence of anthropogenic climate change.  A significant factor in contributing to this picture was the latest IPCC report, which we managed to disseminate and promote among a broad range of stakeholders.  Most of the Bulgarian public, however, are mainly concerned about climate change only to the extent that they can see unseasonable weather and unprecedented flooding every year in Bulgaria.


Most of the Bulgarian public now believes that extreme weather events result from anthropogenic climate change.  Few now believe that this is merely due to natural cycles.  There is no sociological information in Bulgaria about how much of the population believes that climate change is beneficial, but such a view is almost absent in the Bulgarian media and in Bulgarian society. The Kyoto protocol is not familiar to Bulgarians, the main reason being the collapse of the Bulgarian socialist planned economy, which meant that Bulgaria could fulfil Kyoto requirements in relation to the base year without making any effort, since the collapse occurred after the base year. Accordingly, Bulgaria's greenhouse-gas emissions dropped by 56%, far above the 8% required by Kyoto.


The Bulgarian government has been very slow in making efforts to clarify issues of energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and new technologies.  Politicians and representatives of the business sector still prefer to support the traditional wasteful consumer economy.  This enables them to parasitise public procurements and the funds available in the energy sector.  Ever since the electricity distribution companies were privatised, the higher price of energy has been presented to the Bulgarian public as an attempt by unscrupulous foreign company owners to defraud the Bulgarian public. In combination with continuous attempts by the government and the energy lobby to introduce new fossil-fuel energy capacity in order to turn Bulgaria into the "energy centre of the Balkans", this marketing strategy has left the population unwilling to pay for more expensive energy, even should such power be cleaner.


Opportunities exist for the rapid implementation of measures such as fitting sulphur-scrubbers to large thermoelectric power stations and accelerating power-plant rehabilitation. The government is making considerable efforts to ensure the start of construction of the new Belene nuclear power plant as a fundamental measure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The development of investments in the production of renewable energy and in energy efficiency is currently very slow. As a whole, the position of the USA in rejecting the Kyoto protocol is well known in Bulgaria, but the arguments used by the US administration for doing so are less widely known.  Of course most people with an interest in the matter condemn this US policy; a small number views these Bush-administration policies as  protection of the US national interest.


One of the main issues facing Bulgaria in 2008 is the matter of emissions trading.  A case brought by the Bulgarian government against the European Commission and the Court of the European Community in Luxembourg seeks a full repeal of the EC decision of 26th October 2007 to reduce the emissions allowances allocated in the National Allocation Plans for 2007 and for the period from 2008 to 2012.  Bulgaria supports the Hungarian position calling for an equal reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 18% for each EU member state instead of the differentiated approach put forward by the European Commission.  Bulgaria also supports the exclusion of the metallurgy and energy sectors from the regulations governing the allocation of greenhouse-gas emissions allowances for the period after 2012.


NGO activities


Non-governmental organisations in Bulgaria are visibly active on climate change issues, but more needs to be done, as most of them are involved with climate change issues mainly in connection with their work on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Representatives of non-governmental organisations are now always present when climate-change issues are discussed on the media.  NGOs are also invited with increasing frequency to debates on climate change that are organised by the government. Non-governmental organisations in Bulgaria have made efforts to act as partners with the government in connection with the drafting of a new Renewable Energy Sources Act.  NGOs also take part as observers in the Parliamentary Energy Commission, where they have managed to submit 6 proposals, of which two were adopted. As a whole, however, non-governmental organisations have very little influence in the relevant policy-making process.  This is mainly due to the style of governance and decision-making adopted by politicians in Bulgaria, which tends to be opaque and lacks adequate consultation mechanisms.  The Bulgarian government’s obvious efforts to develop a fossil-fuel-based economy represent a further obstacle excluding the adequate participation of environmental NGOs.


Together with the Stern review, the IPCC 4th Report is an extremely important source of information which the non-governmental sector uses in discussions, seminars, press conferences and media interviews. NGOs in Bulgaria mainly work in the area of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Their activities include public information campaigns; practical training seminars on energy efficiency and on fitting solar panels for hot water supplies; and advocacy to encourage the government to provide more successful incentives for households to improve energy efficiency by means of tax relief. Some NGOs give presentations in schools.  Some have published a climate-change and energy-efficiency handbook for teachers. For example, the NGO “Za Zemjata” participates in a school education project on energy efficiency (SPARE).  In order to increase their political influence, NGOs are meeting ever more frequently with politicians and members of Parliament.


Media coverage of CC


The Bulgarian media take a sporadic interest in climate-change issues, for instance in connection with the International Day of Action on Climate Change.  Media interest was also provoked by the Nobel Prize awarded to Al Gore and the IPCC team and by EU summit meetings on climate change.  The media are most active when there are disputes between the Bulgarian government and the European Commission arising from Bulgaria’s non-implementation of measures to combat climate change. In the course of the last 12 months the Bulgarian media have provided information on the future greenhouse-gas emissions reduction targets in detail and relatively frequently in connection with the specific action expected from Bulgaria in meeting its obligations as an EU member state.  In this connection Bulgaria is usually presented in the media as a country under pressure from the European Commission.


For example, in connection with the National Allocation Plan for 2007 and the period from 2008 to 2012, the media only began to cover the issue when the EC threatened to impose financial sanctions on Bulgaria due to its long delay in drafting and submitting the plan, despite the fact that the NGO sector reacted one whole year earlier with letters to the administration, to the EC and to the Bulgarian media to draw attention to the shortcomings in the drafting of the plan.  Most of the popular media support the view of the government and the business sector that the requirements for Bulgaria to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are excessive and detrimental to the development of the Bulgarian economy. This was clearly demonstrated after the EC decision of 26th October 2007 to reduce overall EU emissions by 10%, which means a 20% reduction for Bulgaria in 2007 and a 37.4% reduction for the period from 2008 to 2012. An extensive media campaign was organised in Bulgaria against this EC decision after it was announced.  The campaign was driven mainly by representatives of the government, including the Minister of the Environment and Waters as well as the Minister of the Economy and Energy, in concert with representatives of the business sector, representatives of the Bulgarian Chamber of Trade and of the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria, politicians, Members of Parliament, Bulgarian Members of the European Parliament, and journalists.  All of these parties asserted that the European Commission’s policy on Bulgaria is discriminative, disseminating the message that this decision was intended to stop the inexorable progress of the Bulgarian economy, thus to condemn the population to poverty and unemployment. These "arguments” were repeatedly voiced by their representatives on all media.  We were witness to yet another ostentatious campaign depicting malevolent Europeans as trying to prevent Bulgaria's development and to condemn Bulgaria to live in the dark and cold because they dislike Bulgarians and only care for their own development and welfare.


Thanks in part to our efforts to invite them to our events and to provide them with information, a small circle of journalists has now been created from among media specialised in the economy and a number of radio stations. It is essential for efforts to continue in Bulgaria to broaden the circle of journalists who are competent on climate-change issues, paying particular attention to the most popular media which so far only raise the subject in the event of natural disasters, disputes with the European Commission, or sanctions imposed on Bulgaria.


Issues of adaptation to climate change are almost unknown in Bulgarian society and are absent from government programmes as well as from strategies on climate change. A few representatives of non-governmental organisations deal with these issues in their activities. Two newspapers with a profile in economics named "Kapital" and "Dnevnik" have permanent sections dedicated to climate change; they have journalists familiar with the topic and a relatively objective view of the issues.  These newspapers have small circulation figures but are read by the most economically active section of the population. The results of the 4th IPCC report were widely presented in the media, but there was a lack of in-depth comment and analysis about what the implications are for Bulgaria.



Policies and Measures


Public debate on climate change organised by the government was intended to stimulate opposition to the specific emissions reduction targets imposed on Bulgaria by the EC.  The arguments used by the government were that Bulgaria is a poor country and should be allowed to continue to rely on carbon-intensive technologies.  The government's position was to call for a longer period before Bulgarian industry is compelled to meet European requirements. The Bulgarian government opposes the use of the year 2005 as the base year for calculation of emission reductions in the ETS.  The argument used by the government is that Bulgaria has only been an EU member since 2007 and that in the year 2005, Block № 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant was working at full capacity (two of these blocks were decommissioned at the end of 2006).  Another argument was that owing to the extensive flooding in Bulgaria during 2005, the hydroelectric power plants were able to generate more electrical energy than usual.  The official position is that Bulgaria will manage to achieve the EC targets. Non-governmental organisations in Bulgaria support the ambitious EU targets, but consider that they should go further.  We are calling for more radical measures as recommended in the Stern review. The EU proposal is unlikely to enjoy the mass support of the media or the public as long as the Bulgarian government presents it as an obstacle to the country's economic prosperity.


Emission trading system

The government supports the Emissions Trading Scheme and is generating expectations that considerable profits will ensue from it. There is currently no information available about anybody in Bulgaria profiting unduly from emissions trading.  This may occur at a later stage. The government has promised to achieve the greenhouse-gas emissions reduction target set out in Annex I of the IPCC in the period after 2012.  However, it is unlikely that the target can be reached without fundamental changes in the country’s energy and economic policies.  Changes are required in the country's strategic documents, for example in the Energy Strategy for Bulgaria adopted in 2002 concerning development until 2015 and in the Concept for Bulgaria’s Energy Strategy put forward in 2008, along with the National Long-Term Program for Encouraging the Use of Renewable Energy Sources.  The development of renewable energy sources is given a very low priority in comparison with the country’s plans to develop nuclear energy and coal mining.  The Bulgarian public and industry are not prepared for higher energy prices to support investments in new clean technologies, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Informing the public about reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, increasing energy savings, and the potential of renewable energy sources is not a government priority.  The government continues to uphold the mistaken philosophy of continuing economic growth using fossil fuels and high-carbon technologies.  There is little incentive for politicians to adopt measures reaching further into the future than the end of their own mandate.


Renewable energy

State policy on renewable energy sources is based on the Renewable and Alternative Energy Sources and Biofuels Act (RAESBA), promulgated in the State Gazette (SG) № 49/19.06.2007; the Energy Act, promulgated in SG № 107/09.12.2003; the Energy Efficiency Act, promulgated in SG № 18/05.03.2004 and the existing National Long-Term Program for Encouraging the Use of Renewable Energy Sources 2005-2015. These documents include the following incentives: compulsory connection of energy from renewable sources to the electricity transmission network, simplified administrative regulation of renewable-energy generation and the construction of the necessary installations, and preferential feed-in tariffs for the purchase of renewable energy over the course of 12 years. The accelerated connection of renewable energy sources to the electricity transmission network provides more security and improved opportunities for cash-flow planning.  In fact, these short time-frames are amongst the most significant features of the RAESBA and, in combination with the preferential feed-in tariffs, it genuinely puts renewable energy producers in a more favorable position than the conventional energy sector.


The draft Energy Efficiency Act was adopted by Parliament on first reading and sets out a framework for electrical energy consumption to be reduced by 9% by the year 2016. Loans of up to 10000 Euros, including a 20% grant from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), are available under a program of the European Commission, the EBRD and the Energy Efficiency Agency. Consumers of electricity, heat energy and natural gas may apply for funding for energy-efficiency projects from the Energy Efficiency Fund in accordance with Article 31 of the Energy Efficiency Act. Another source of funding/co-funding for energy-efficiency projects is the International Kozloduy Fund, which has an overall budget of 570 million Euros until 2009.  The EU structural funds for the period from 2007 to 2013 also include funding for the development of energy efficiency. According to the analysis drafted for the second national plan on climate change, structural changes in the economy led to a drastic reduction in end-user energy consumption by 55% up to 2002, while primary energy consumption dropped by 45% during the same period.  End-use consumption of energy per unit of GDP during this period dropped by 42% as compared with 28% for primary energy consumption per unit of GDP. According to the Concept for the Bulgarian Energy Strategy until 2020, Bulgaria’s economy is 5.6 times more energy-intensive than those of the rest of the EC 27 countries. Bulgaria's EU accession treaty contains an obligation for renewable energy to constitute 11% of the overall energy produced in the country.  In recent years the proportion of energy generated from renewable sources in Bulgaria has been between 6% and 8%, mainly comprising hydroelectric power.  Immediately after the update of the European plan to cope with climate change by 2020, the Bulgarian Vice-Premier and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivailo Kalfin announced that Bulgaria can only obtain between 2% and 4% of its energy from renewable sources and can only achieve 10% by 2020.  The EC target is 16%. The minister maintained that the reason is the high price of investment in renewable energy.


Bulgaria could be described as the European champion in terms of the number of government documents dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, but in terms of the reality of energy efficiency in the European Union, the country is at the bottom of the league.  The relevant documents include the National Short-Term Energy Efficiency Program 2005-2007; the National Long-Term Program for Encouraging the Use of Renewable Energy Sources 2005-2015; and the National Long-Term Energy Efficiency Program until 2015. The representatives of NGO sector believe that renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies are being established in Bulgaria far too slowly.  They anticipate that this state of affairs will continue, as the energy lobby and industrialists are highly influential in the government in promoting the development of fossil fuels. 


New power plants

Currently AES is building two new lignite coal-fired power generation blocks at the Maritza East 1 Thermal Electric Power Station with an overall capacity of 670 MW (2 x 350 MW) which will use fuel from the Maritza East coal basin.  The investment is valued at €1.1 billion, with 12% of the investment intended for environmental protection.  A sum of 790 million Euros has been provided by major international banks including the EBRD.  The first block is expected to be put into operation in June 2009.  AES has promised that its sulphur scrubbers will cut sulphur emissions by over 94%.  Clean combustion technology will be used with a pulverised-fuel system.


New power plants are not currently planned.  The main aim is to rehabilitate the existing ones.  Implementation of this aim has been deliberately delayed in order to promote nuclear energy in Bulgaria as the only realistic solution. The government of Bulgaria maintains that nuclear energy should be fundamental to the country's energy policy.  With the construction of the new Belene nuclear power plant with two 1000 MW power generation blocks, the government claims that the country will reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions and avoid the need to purchase emissions allowances after 2012, in this way ensuring the country’s energy independence. This, however, is far from reality, since the reactors, the power-plant fuel, and the construction contractors all come from Russia.  This fact in itself excludes any possibility of energy independence.  The government has organised a highly compromised tender procedure for the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant.  One of the conditions of the tender was a requirement to use Russian VVER-1000 reactors. The Bulgarian government has insisted on this project despite the universal view of economists in Bulgaria that the project constitutes a major risk and is uneconomic, ignoring as well the view of scientists from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences that the project constitutes an environmental hazard.  Funding is still being sought at the moment for this economically senseless megalomaniacal project, as most major European banks refused to take part in it despite a state guarantee of €600 million.  The price was initially set at €2 billion.  The sum currently referred to is between 4 and 7 billion Euros.






Other information


The Ministry of the Environment and Waters deals with climate-change issues.  The same ministry cooperates with the Ministry of the Economy and Energy on issues related to emissions trading.



Sources of information: