Environmental alarm sounded for Greece

Greece was left in no doubt yesterday that it has to act quickly to improve its environmental policy as experts at an international conference in Athens warned of rising temperatures and more forest fires in the coming years. The Athens summit heard that temperatures in Greece would increase by between 1 and 3 degrees by 2060, which in turn will have an effect on water reserves and the country’s climate as a whole as there will be a smaller difference between the temperatures in northern and southern Greece. Experts also warned that warmer weather and drought could lead to more wildfires. President Karolos Papoulias, who has spoken out in the past on environmental issues, used the opportunity to send a stark warning to all Greeks that they risk witnessing again fires similar to those that devastated parts of the Peloponnese and Evia last summer. «Our disregard for nature and the consequences of the overuse of its resources contributed to the disaster,» he said. «There are no more excuses. There is no more ignorance.» With Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in the audience, Papoulias went on to put pressure on the government to separate the Environment Ministry from the Public Works Ministry. Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias has expressed his opposition to the idea. «Without institutional independence in environmental policy, it is difficult for effective action to be taken within the government,» he said. «Instead, the problems and conflicts will be covered up, temporarily, only for society to later encounter worse conditions and more onerous methods to solve them.» Papoulias brought up another sore subject when he mentioned the Kyoto Protocol. Greece was last month suspended from the treaty’s emissions trading scheme because its system for measuring greenhouse gases was deemed unreliable. In his speech, Karamanlis insisted that Greece would meet its obligations. «Greece will meet to the fullest the quantifiable obligations that it has undertaken to limit greenhouse emissions and to increase the use of renewable resources,» the prime minister said.