Deadline looms for Kyoto

Public Works and Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou ratified the Kyoto Protocol last week along with her other European Union counterparts. «By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the European Union is sending a strong, clear message to the international community,» Papandreou said after the EU environment ministers’ council at which the decision was made. Her expression of satisfaction however, was not convincing, as neither she nor her predecessor Costas Laliotis have done anything substantial to prepare for the event, which requires Greece to make specific commitments that it is not likely to fulfill. First of all, Greece will have to incorporate the provisions of the protocol into its national legislation by next May, as will all other EU member states. In Kyoto, the EU committed itself to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions of 1990 by 8 percent by 2010. As part of the distribution of responsibility among EU member states, Greece is permitted to increase its emissions, but by not more than 25 percent by 2010 (compared to 1990 figures). This was a rare privilege afforded to it only after much pressure from Greece, which maintained that as it has minimal industrial activity, it has not contributed to the greenhouse effect to any great extent. However, it does not seem likely that Greece will be able to keep within even these loose limits. None of the provisions of the National Action Plan on Climatic Change, first drawn up by the Environment and Public Works Ministry in 1995, have ever been implemented, even though the plan was updated and added to in 1998 and 2001. According to data from the Athens Observatory, which is officially responsible for measuring emissions, there has already been a 17-percent increase in greenhouse gases between 1990 and 1999. The best-case scenario for 2010, if at least some measures are implemented at this late date, is an increase of 36 percent. However, if things continue as they are at present, we can expect a 55-percent increase. Greece will have a heavy price to pay if it does not meet the 2010 deadline, as it will have to buy out another country’s surplus percentage. At the going rate of $30 per ton of pollutants emitted, Greece will have to pay 403.8 million euros annually (for 36 percent) or 1.1 billion euros (for the worst-case scenario of 55 percent). Greece has considerable but unexploited reserves of clean energy sources, such as solar and wind power. According to the National Action Plan, implementing energy conservation measures in the home and in the tertiary sector could result in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of the order of 9.3 million tons annually, 10 percent of the country’s total emissions. Germany and Denmark, where cloud cover is almost continuous, have 100 times more solar power units than sunny Greece, making it easier for them to achieve their goals and save a good deal of money after 2010, when they will be selling their «surplus» percentages to countries like Greece.

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