On another wavelength

On January 23, at an ad hoc meeting of the European Parliament plenary in Brussels, the European Commission presented a new package of proposals for dealing with climatic change and promoting renewable energy sources (RES). In Greece, where all attention was focused on the comings and goings of a certain DVD, neither Environment and Public Order Minister Giorgos Souflias nor anyone else in the government went to the trouble of dealing with this issue, obviously absorbed by other, more serious and weighty matters. Even more recently (February 8), at a joint meeting of the European commissioners on an exchange of views on the Commission’s proposals, the Greek environment minister and development minister preferred not to attend, delegating their deputies to present the government’s positions. Nevertheless, on the three goals set in the Commission’s new proposal – a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency, a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases and a 20 percent increase in the RES share of total energy consumption by 2020 – Greece is currently way behind and certainly will not be able to meet its commitments if it does not immediately change course. Regarding energy efficiency, Greece has not yet submitted its national action plan to the EU, and recently was referred to the European Court over the non-incorporation into national legislation of Directive 91/2002 on energy conservation in buildings. As for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Greece is the only country in the EU that does not have a reliable system for recording emissions, according to the relevant UN committee. In the sector of RES – of which Greece has a plentiful supply – the government’s official statistics for 2005 is 5.9 percent of total consumption. However Athens Observatory chief Christos Zerefos recently told the parliamentary environment committee that the percentages ranged from 4 to 4.5 percent, when even Scandinavian countries – less favored from the geoclimatic aspect – meet 34-35 percent of their energy needs from RES. We have said it before: For Europe, dealing with climate change, energy security, the transformation of the European economy and the creation of new jobs in clean technologies are the great challenges of the 21st century. To achieve these goals, everyone has to pull together. It is a shame that Greece is at the end of the line in a sector in which it should be a pioneer. (1) PASOK Euro MP Anni Podimata is a permanent member of the EU’s Energy Commission.