Gov’t heralds green agenda

Top government figures, including what appeared to be half the Cabinet, yesterday expressed their commitment to curbing pollution and dealing with climate change on World Environment Day. Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, who has been criticized for his alleged failure to promote a green agenda, sought to silence his critics by visiting Mount Parnitha, much of which was ravaged by forest fires last June. Souflias inspected reforesting works which he said were progressing «satisfactorily.» Some 57,300 trees have been planted, according to local forestry officials, who said another 300,000 would be planted by next year. Back in Athens, two MPs of the Coalition for the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and a group of SYRIZA’s youth arm members burst into the Environment Ministry’s main office and staged a one-hour sit-in to protest their opposition to Souflias’s policies. Several other ministers, and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, also stressed the government’s good intentions. Karamanlis referred to «actions and policies to curb climate change, modernize land zoning and improve the management of water and waste.» Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis called for more initiatives to raise public awareness about how to tackle climate change. Parliament Speaker Dimitris Sioufas approved a decision to replace plastic bags in supermarkets with biodegradable alternatives, a move that had been scheduled for implementation this week in Athens. And President Karolos Papoulias, who has embraced green issues in the wake of last summer’s devastating forest fires, stressed that the onus for change was «on the individual and society as a whole.» «Reversing the destruction of the environment is the major moral, political and economic challenge of our time,» Papoulias said during a visit to the Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CRES), outside Athens.