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Climate Change Issues and the Need for Growth in Greece

Submitted by on 15 Apr 2014 – 16:13

By Yannis Maniatis, Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate Change

Yannis Maniatis

Climate change has been impacting on a number of weather conditions, ranging from dangerous global warming to rising sea levels, as a result of melting polar glaciers, while the results of temperatures increasing are quite evident with more frequent storms and floods.

The factors mentioned above are believed to seriously affect the integrity of ecosystems and biodiversity in general, and more specifically water resources, agricultural crops and food supply, as well as a number of vital sectors such as industry, transport, public health and infrastructure.  Data from the most recent scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirm negative effects on various vital sectors of our societies.

Regarding Greece, tackling climate change and planning towards a sustainable low-carbon economy is one of the key priorities of the government and our Ministry.

Climate change is predicted to have significant negative impacts on many fields of activities in the country, and on various aspects of the natural ecosystems and socio-economic system of Greece; for example on biodiversity loss, species and habitat range shifts, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism, transport, activities in coastal areas and the built environment in urban centers, mainly due to increased temperature, drought, extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

According to specific climate change studies reported for Greece, the effects will lead to reductions in productivity, capital loss and additional costs as a damage repair. The cost of reducing emissions and adapting to climate change for the Greek economy is estimated to be around 500 billion euros by 2100, which, if no measures are taken, may rise to almost 700 billion euros.

A cost – benefit analysis indicates a clear necessity for mitigation policy versus no action, and benefit from an adaptation policy. The findings also support the case for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the objectives of the EU and the need to initiate procedures to determine long-term strategy for adaptation. As long as future examples of extreme climate impacts are excluded, both mitigation and adaptation policies warrant a positive result against such eventualities and therefore, their feasibility is justified.

Shipping and tourism sectors are of paramount significance for our country and thus, Greece focuses on “Blue Growth”, which is the long-term strategy to support integrated sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors. It recognizes that seas and oceans are drivers for both Greece and the EU, possessing great potential for innovation and growth. Integrated Maritime Policy contributes to achieving the goals of the ‘’Europe 2020” strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The Hellenic Presidency will explore ways to address the EU “Limassol Declaration”and implement appropriate suitable management, prevention and adaptation practices, in order to enhance the resilience of coastal areas, marine ecosystems and maritime activities, which can result both in growth and employment.

The Mediterranean region, where Greece is situated, is bordered by over twenty countries and a large part of the Mediterranean Sea remains outside national jurisdiction. As a result, co-operation on issues such as climate change and environment is vital in order to manage maritime activities, tackle climate impacts, protect the marine environment and fight pollution in the Mediterranean Sea region. During the Hellenic Presidency, we are striving for an international ministerial meeting for the Environment & Climate Change, in Athens, in co-operation with the “Union for the Mediterranean”.

The current difficult economic period seems prima facie to create obstacles for securing the funds required to implement mitigation and adaptation policies. However, the pace at which these policies are utilized could accelerate a faster exit from the economic crisis and lead to a new model of development. Its adoption, rather than getting stalled by the current acute financial problem, could substantially contribute to its solution.

The social dimension of climate change impacts deserves further study, particularly in relation to issues of increasing poverty and migration, since the effects of climate change and policy responses will be more pronounced for low-income groups of citizens, due to the fact that the latter do not have the necessary resources to address problems generated by climate change, nor to fund emission reduction measures and adaptation.

For Greece, actions to address climate change must involve a change of the current growth model towards a sustainable, green and low-carbon economy, through the use of renewable resources, energy efficiency, and innovative technology. The development of this model should be based on the horizontal co-ordination of mitigation policies and adaptation in all fields but mainly into those of energy, clean technology, industry, biodiversity agriculture, tourism and transport.