The regional meeting in Belitsa took place on 21 March, in the multimedia room of “St. St. Cyril and Methodius” Secondary School. The meeting was attended by the local municipal administration, local environmental experts (such as the State Forest Service – Belitsa), teachers, representatives of the local community center, project experts and others.
The host school of the meeting and the opportunities it provides for climate change education were introduced. The project manager of the project “Changing with the Climate”, Ms. Mariana Bancheva, shared the activities, which are going to be implemented and the objectives of the project.
The representatives of the institutions and organizations expressed their support and willingness to contribute to the implementation of the project activities within their competences.
Experts the “Changing with climate” project demonstrated the content of the planned information and education portal through examples, games and videos. Messages from leading international and national climate-related documents, as well as various educational games and materials, were also on the agenda.
The possibility of introducing climate change education in schools through the regulations of the State Educational Standard for Civic, Health, Environmental and Intercultural Education was discussed in detail; the ways and forms of implementation; framework requirements for learning outcomes and the interconnected nature of the themes and issues, with a particular focus on climate.
Participants were divided into 3 groups, each working on one of the following key areas – climate change and environment; climate change and economic and urban sectors; climate change and human health. In each group there were students, climate experts, representatives of institutions, representatives of the project team.
The outcomes of the discussions focused on climate change at the local level and its implications for human health. Lack of sufficient trees within the territory of Belitsa reduces oxygen, which can lead to respiratory problems and diseases. Higher temperatures are a cause of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and heat stroke. Deforestation of large areas leads to an increase and transport of fine particulate matter, which causes problems with the respiratory system, eyes, skin and a number of allergies. Changes in climate affect mental health and can lead to eating disorders, stress, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, depression.
Local institutions reported an interest in renewable energy (solar systems and solar collectors), about 500 families have installed such facilities. Households are mainly heated using pellets and wood. The municipality has three hydropower plants which, due to insufficient rainfall, are of little use to meet demands and in turn impact biodiversity and private farms;
The citizens of Belitsa are interested in the use of photovoltaics and the introduction of energy efficient measures in the building stock. In this respect, national/regional programmes to promote the use of PV and renovation would find a warm welcome at the local level.
People in the region noted that winter tourism is unreliable due to late onset of significant snowfall, insufficient snowpack, and shifting seasons. The cost of maintaining snow cover for periods of time increases, as does the use of nitrates to delay snowmelt. It becomes impractical to maintain maintenance staff long term and reduces the opportunity for snowshoeing. Other changes in the local climate have been noted, such as flood risk due to extremely heavy rains and more frequent hailstorms. Climate change is affecting biodiversity, reducing the harvest of wild fruits and plants.
Regional introductory meeting within the project “Changing with Climate”, hosted by Secondary School “St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, Belitsa, 21 march 2022