Political leaders and environmental experts offer their views on pollution

Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas: «Our country is fully committed to combating the greenhouse effect. Greece was the first EU country to adopt the green paper for saving energy in June 2005. We are applying measures that aim to improve energy performance and save energy with natural gas, renewable energy resources and biofuels. Over the last few years we have applied a scheme to extend natural gas to new areas in the country. We have introduced a new framework for the construction of wind farms, photovoltaic and hydroelectric systems as well as the introduction of biofuels. We are also incorporating EU directives into national law to improve the energy performance of buildings and promote co-production. We are also raising citizens’ awareness on these issues. «We are proceeding with the implementation of bold measures such as connecting all state buildings to natural gas, replacing light bulbs with higher energy performing bulbs and the installation of isolators in all civil service buildings and those of the wider state sector. We are setting an example by starting with the state sector.» PASOK deputy Christos Papoutsis: «2007 must be the year for action. There are encouraging signs that citizens and their leaders have woken up. It is the countdown. Political decisions are required, to be enacted immediately. «Protecting the environment is a priority of vital significance. It is absolutely necessary that targets for energy and environmental policies converge. Particular emphasis must be given to promoting renewable energy resources, to the correct use of energy resources and saving energy. The contribution of research and development must be maximized. Transportation must be modernized with vehicles that are economic with fuel. «We must cultivate a new attitude in society, in particular among the younger generation. We need to project the dangers and the challenges of our era. We must meet the target set by the EU and lead the world toward a new industrial revolution: economic development using small amounts of carbon dioxide emissions.» Christos Zerefos, Athens Observatory head. «The issue of world energy requirements in relation to the effects on the environment has taken on significant dimensions recently. This is due firstly to the fact that environmental parameters have been disturbed in an unprecedented way over a very short period of time and secondly because politicians are in competition with each other to see who will be the most environmentally friendly. «The Kyoto Protocol has been proposed as a panacea but unfortunately draconian measures are not taken to stop reliance on petrol. The technology exists so why is it that renewable resources do not meet 30 or 40 percent of the world’s energy needs? Why don’t we replace petrol-powered engines with hydrogen-powered ones? Why don’t we use the sun? Why don’t we design houses so that their orientation and construction saves energy? Unfortunately, to stabilize the planet’s weather systems further reductions of 8 to 10 times higher than those in the Kyoto Protocol are required. They can be achieved. «Already Sweden and Ireland aim to curb their reliance on petrol. Future generations will remember our era as one subjugated to a petrol economy. Professor Panayiotis Becharakis, Athens University physiology faculty. «As we discuss the greenhouse effect we must not forget atmospheric pollution or smog, which is a part of the wider environmental problem. It is the product of erroneous environmental management but is maintained by an equally erroneous strategy of modern society that attempts in vain to combat smog with the same development mechanisms that created it. Our breathing, which uses large quantities of air over 24 hours, is the first to pay a heavy price. I have been suggesting for 20 years that the effects of smog over time on the health of the population should be thoroughly examined and I will repeat it once more. There is no point measuring the pollutants in the air we breathe. We should determine once and for all what consequences these pollutants have on people’s health in real terms. Only then will we have substantial data to take proper and correct decisions, instead of making occasional warnings and irresponsibly causing alarm.»