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What must be done in Greece after Bali

Despite its mediocre political results, the international summit in Bali, Indonesia, gave the issue of climate change a blast of publicity. In Greece, unfortunately, discussion centered on the secretiveness of the Environment, Planning and Public Works Ministry. The real issue is Greece’s ability to fulfill its obligations in keeping with the Kyoto Protocol and even take the initiative in terms of objectives. Greece must rein in the emission of greenhouse gases by 25 percent (over 1990) in the years 2008-2012. They have already increased by 25.4 percent. That does not mean Greece will not succeed, but it does make it more difficult. While Greece is struggling to meet its target, Europe is moving toward even stricter measures. Emissions must be cut by 20 to even 30 percent by 2020. That will make it even harder for Greece to demand a limited increase in emissions. It will probably be asked to reduce them. Experts say only policy changes can bring about reductions. Cooking up emission credits is not enough. Greece is at a crucial stage where it must take bold measures, such as gradually relinquishing its dependence on lignite and other polluting methods of producing energy. Christos Zerefos, president of the National Observatory in Athens «Greece must adopt the strategy of capitalizing on the advantages and tackling the disadvantages of our region, instead of simply following European Union decisions. The features of Greece (a wealth of renewable energy and the quality of the atmospheric environment) must be emphasized at the highest possible scientific level. Unfortunately, the national report ‘Expected Penetration of Renewable Energy Sources for 2010’ focuses on wind power, to a far lesser extent on biomass (the burning of which also contributes to the greenhouse effect), small hydroelectric projects and even less on photovoltaic cells, with geothermal energy the major absentee.The absence of geothermal energy is a serious shortcoming, because verified geothermal power is available and the technology has been developed for various uses, such as electric power production, heating for houses and fish farms.» Dimitris Lalas, member of the Greek delegation for negotiation on climate change 1994-2006. «Bali was a great success. Forget the road map and other decisions promoting issues such as technology transfer and the reduction of deforestation in developing countries. Bali was a success because the United Nations secretary-general came to help, because it affected the progress of an important country, Australia, which now has a minister for climate change, and even the United States was forced to retreat in the face of small countries. It was a success because I saw my old friend Yvo de Boer – executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, whom we used to call the Prince of Darkness when he was the negotiator for the Netherlands – crying. And it was a success for us because at last other ministries became aware that dealing with climate change involves diplomacy and also the economy, technology, and energy, making the Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works understand its significance.» Dimitris Karavelas, director of WWF-Hellas «In terms of overall emissions, Greece is not a major polluter. But we are a country with a large carbon footprint and poor performance in the battle against climate change. This is a time of responsibility. Can we demonstrate our readiness by taking appropriate initiatives or will we lag behind once again and pay fines? After a supposedly unsuccessful Bali, the European Union’s energy package, which will be announced in late January, is a new opportunity for Greece. The government must propose ambitious emission reductions and immediately embark on suitable policies. The government must start working on the climate, making it clear to everyone that there is no room in the country’s energy mix for polluting coal, wherever it comes from. In conclusion, after Bali, we must understand that all of us, state and people, share responsibility. We must understand that the climate depends on us.» Nikos Haralambidis, director of Greenpeace Hellas «The greatest challenge Greece has to face after Bali is inertia. It is obvious to all that climate change must be dealt with by saving energy, the heavy promotion of renewable energy sources and the creation of decentralized energy production systems. Whatever happens, new black or brown coal power stations are not the answer to the planet’s gravest problem. Nor are oil-fired stations on the Greek islands. In short, significant energy projects now being implemented come from a dirty background. That must stop and we must turn to clean solutions – now. So far, unfortunately, the minister for the environment, physical planning and public works has chosen the path of personal confrontation combined with inertia. I hope that in the new year he will take the path of action. The environment, the climate, the country’s economy, all of us need it.» Elpida Pantelaki, Greek Communist Party central committee member and deputy «The UN summit on climate change demonstrated once again that maintaining and increasing the profits of monopolies goes hand in hand with the destruction of the environment and plundering of natural resources, to the detriment of the physical survival of hundreds of millions of people. The US, the EU and other forces did not negotiate on how to save the environment but on who would gain the most from the destruction and the various protection measures. The hypocrisy is provocative. Solving the problems requires sweeping changes, both at the political and economic level. It demands popular opposition to the policy promoted by the EU’s green Bible, which sacrifices social goods (forests, water, beaches) to profiteering and competitiveness.» Stavros Kaloyiannis, deputy minister for the environment, physical planning and public works «The results of the Bali summit were fairly meager. But some positive steps were taken, thanks largely to the stance of the EU. A new compromise was achieved which gave some hope for the future – to arrive in 2009 at a global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We support the EU’s ambitious target, which we helped to formulate, of cutting emissions by 20 percent by 2020. We are ready for reductions of up to 30 percent by 2020 if other developed countries follow suit. The measures for managing climate change are considered satisfactory, but they are not sufficient. We must all realize the limits to the planet’s endurance and stop acting as if we were the absolute masters. We must shoulder our historical responsibilities and change our attitude and way of life if we want to tackle climate change effectively.» Spyros Kouvelis, head of PASOK’s environment section «We didn’t do so well. The climate summit agreed on very little. When the USA’s refusal was overcome at the last minute, agreement was reached on a road map, which, after negotiations and meetings (Poland in 2008, Denmark in 2009), may achieve agreement on timetables and binding goals that will apply after 2012 when Kyoto lapses. Greece has agreed to the EU proposals: a 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2020. Achieving those ambitious but necessary goals requires an overall program for energy performance in every area (buildings, industry, transportation and agriculture). It will need an ambitious program for developing renewable energy sources and relinquishing the use of fossil fuels. We are still way behind. Only by bold decisions and systematic work after Bali can Greece do well.» Asimina Xyrotyri, head of the Coalition of the Radical Left’s ecology section «The UN summit in Bali was an historic challenge for the global community in the fight against climate change. A compromise was eventually forged when the USA accepted the new agreement, having first watered down the emission reduction goals and certain commitments. Nevertheless, it was a step forward. «In Greece, emissions have already risen above 30 percent, when we are committed to restricting the increase to 25 percent by 2012. Greece is still heavily dependent on oil and fossil fuels. There is no central energy planning, viable town-planning scheme or incentives to use renewable resources in order to meet our commitments. «There is no effective policy and planning per sector (construction, buildings, energy use, mass transit, industry) to save energy, or for the protection of forests and other ecosystems (forest and land registries).»