Plan set for green ministry

Greece has announced plans to set up a separate Environment Ministry in about 18 months as the conservative government comes under growing pressure over its environmental policies. Greece currently runs a joint Environmental, Physical Planning and Public Works Ministry, headed by Giorgos Souflias. However, it is widely believed that a stand-alone Environment portfolio would help the government improve on its poor green record. Questioned yesterday by journalists on whether an Environment Ministry is part of his future plans, Souflias said it will take shape «in about a year and a half from now.» «We are examining the issue and I will make relevant recommendations,» he said. Souflias had said in September last year that the government intended to make the move in possibly two to three years. The issue had not been raised since then. However, recent news that Greece has been suspended from the Kyoto Protocol’s emissions trading scheme for not measuring greenhouse gases properly has turned up the heat on the conservatives. «The United Nations decision means that Greece cannot buy or sell emissions rights… until it proves that it will conform to UN instructions,» said environmentalist groups Greenpeace and WWF in a joint ad published in the Greek press yesterday. Greece is the first country in the world that has been penalized for not conforming to Kyoto Protocol guidelines, according to the environmental groups. PASOK responded to Souflias’s announcement yesterday by describing the decision as a concern given the government’s record on environmental issues. «The announcement to set up an Environment Ministry after a year and a half can only raise concerns,» said PASOK MP Spyros Kouvelis. Meanwhile, Greenpeace is expected to hold a press conference tnext week on how the government can improve its environmental policies.