The European Green Deal and the restart of Greek economy

ARTICLE

Wind Renewal and Heinrich Böll Stiftung Greece are starting a constructive debate with researchers, body representatives, business units and experts about “Green Deal” and its significance for Greece, particularly in four fields:

  • Climate and energy
  • Agrifood
  • Housing, cities and transportations
  • Green finance

The aim is to develop, through systematic consultation, a proposal for a Green Deal that will leave no one behind and will contribute to the creation of a new production and consumption model. In that spirit, we start publishing a series of articles on the aforesaid subjects.

 
Boiler meters in a row

In this article, Margarita Karavasili - Architect d.p.l.g., ex. Secretary Special for Environment & Energy Inspectore, focuses on the restart of the Greek economy, and presents proposals for this issue, based on the Green Deal.

Dealing with climate change and the impacts of planet's overheating created the need for a new growth strategy to reduce greenhouse gases emissions in Europe. At the end of 2019, the European Commission announced the European Green Deal, deliberately and essentially integrating all the three dimensions of sustainable growth (social, environmental and economical).

While the global economy is moving at the pace of the fourth Industrial Revolution, Europe is already moving based on a sustainable policy which guaranties common benefits and collaborations in tackling climate change, protecting nature and biodiversity, improving air quality as well as water resources condition and environment in general, in response to the new global division of labour, aiming to the creation of a just and social green Europe and a better future for everyone.

On a solid basis, it promotes sustainability by radically transforming the economy, the society and the environment with clean energy, expansion of emissions’ trade, enhancement of circular economy and conservation of biodiversity as its central lines. Thus, it activates the Member States to be extroverted, produce high quality products and have highly skilled workforce.

Green Deal is already affecting companies and organisations in Europe, in both the private and the public sector, steadily leading the economy to new paths. It also leads to sustainable production and consumption models based on the transition to a climate neutral society consolidating the principles of the circular economy. Primary target is the integrated, interconnected and well-functioning EU energy market that would provide sustainable, secure and affordable energy while fully respecting the right of Member States to decide on their energy mix.

At the same time, COVID-19 pandemic has proven how vulnerable societies and economies are in times of crisis and natural disasters and, in combination with the measures for Europe’s ‘green recovery’, it has set new priorities for societies to return to a normal pace while focusing on protecting the environment and ensuring public health. After all, the management of the transition alone inevitably leads Europe to significant structural changes in regional and local economies with a development of new activities that can maintain and strengthen the economic and social structure so that the transition is fair and socially sustainable.

The Greek society is preparing itself for this radical change in its economy, including the sectors of electrical energy, industry, transportation, buildings, agriculture and forestry, each of them playing its part both separately and as a whole.

With delignification and the achievement of new energy 1 and  environmental targets as central lines, a true opportunity to design a better sustainable lignite-free and pollution-free future, the country is creating the conditions for the development of activities that will attract significant green investments in order to carry out, in a short period of time, the necessary radical restructuring of the local and national economy while strengthening the social cohesion by retraining affected workers and young people for future innovative jobs.

The foundations are set due to the development of appropriate tools and mechanisms so that it is possible to build a sustainable growth that is pursued for years without, however, becoming a reality.

For our country, the current situation (delignification, COVID-19 crisis) offers a unique opportunity for a green economic recovery in line with the European Green Deal, the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) and the Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 along with other strategies like the one for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system  (Farm-to-Fork) and the strategy for biodiversity's recovery (Biodiversity for 2030). As a first stage, through the implementation of Green Deal in our country and the 32 billion euros coming from the EU Recovery fund, green recovery measures must and can be taken not only for business support but for the modernisation of the Greek economy based on up-to-date and innovative methods already applied in the rest of Europe.

In this context, Greece can and must shape its new growth model for a competitive and extrovert economy based on production and high specialisation rather than on a mass consumption which, until today, is linked to products’ import, a number of unproductive activities and to a workforce of low specialisation.

But, putting ambitious or even emblematic climate targets is not enough. It is important to integrate the vision of tackling the climate crisis and achieving sustainable development into cost-effective long-term measures as well as into energy policy rationalisation measures (restructuring of energy production, ensuring equal and unhindered access to services and all basic goods). And this implies a coherent participatory strategic planning which will include all stakeholders in order to highlight the best development prospects –based on the real needs, capabilities and characteristics of each area– that will minimise the adverse effects, offer jobs, utilise the necessary financial tools for their implementation and enjoy wider acceptance.

Maybe one of the most efficient measures is the promotion of green buildings and their energy-efficiency upgrade that can create ‘green’ job openings as well as attract interest on clean energy, sustainable transportations and long-lasting urban infrastructure. Such a plan should include interventions in the building stock based on the principles of bioclimatic architecture and ecological construction (thermal shielding, natural cooling and lighting techniques, green roofs), extensive use of new materials, environmentally friendly, enhancement of urban greenery (pocket parks and green corridors) and serious urban interventions for remediation and improvement with a view to transform the cities to climate-neutral ones through the reduction of carbon emissions.2

Energy efficiency is the biggest challenge as it is the only way for Greece to reach the target of total energy consumption in 2030 to the same levels as in 2017, meaning 38% energy efficiency improvement. But in order for that to happen, it must, among other things, replace a great number of existing residencies with new, nearly zero-energy ones by 2030 and achieve the energy efficiency upgrade of 60,000 buildings per year.

Furthermore, an important act is the promotion of green infrastructures in the form of a green network and a favourable microclimate, a network of cycle lanes and pedestrian zones, measures to limit the use of private vehicles and upgrade public transport to accelerate the transition to clean and sustainable urban mobility and ecological mobility in general.

And, as the central goal of the Green Deal is the restoration of biodiversity and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the contribution of farmers to circular economy and biodiversity is of the utmost importance, on the basis of the “farm-to-fork strategy”, as are the enhancement of climate protection, the rural sustainability, the food security, the biodiversity's restoration and conservation, etc. In this context, in Greece too, no local product must end up in landfields by giving extra caution to local distribution chains in order to avoid food loss and to reuse products and waste.

For these reasons, the expansion of the resources of the Fund for Agricultural Development in the framework of the economic recovery plan as well as the resources of the 2021-2027 period are totally connected with a shift to CAP and particularly through eco-patterns in agriculture.

In addition, our national policy is taking measures that support the circular economy and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions while targeting to a zero-waste policy, a difficult project and, at the same time, a great challenge as part of the restart of Greek economy after the pandemic. Priority is given, rightfully, to reusing and recycling of all waste (both solid and liquid) which contain valuable nutrients, by using the funding of EU long-term budget on green projects and investments and the ones addressed to public authorities and market participants for identification and development of such projects.

While adjusting its policy to all sectors contributing to Green Deal implementation, Greece should be fully reconciled to the idea that it must also take preventive measures that incorporate the threat of climate change and consider the resistance to external hazards, such as natural disasters. The integration of the climate change in the design of new infrastructures means the selection of those that will meet the needs arising decades later (e.g. in areas where water supplies are estimated to be depleted), thus giving the opportunity for radical actions, including long-term planning that will last, so that we can hope for a new climate-neutral economy.

On its way to a climate-neutral economy, Greece must be able to set its 2050 growth target, its roadmap for 2050 and its intermediate targets. It must also design, as soon as possible, its plans for adaptation to climate change of several sectors such as agriculture, tourism, energy and transport as well as the areas in the country that are already experiencing the effects of climate change or are estimated to be hit hardest in the coming decades by structural changes (like lignite areas). Greece can be benefited by the Recovery Plan that supports actions in favour of ‘just transition’ by utilising the “Sustainable Europe” investment plan of the European Green Deal which mobilises public investments and releases private capital through EU financial instruments and especially the InvestEU that will lead to investments of up to 1 trillion euros. In addition, the Just Transition Mechanism will give adjusted financial and practical support to help the workforce and make the necessary investments in the areas that will be particularly affected and will undergo a profound economic and social transformation.

We should not forget that with the new Green Deal as well as the recent EU decisions (new strategic agenda 2019-2024 as it was granted by the European Council on June 20, 2019), “The success of the green transition will depend on significant mobilisation of private and public investments, on having an effective circular economy, and an integrated, interconnected and properly functioning European energy market that provides sustainable, secure and affordable energy, in full respect of the Member States' right to decide on their energy mix”.

  • 1. Government’s political decision about the drastic and permanent reduction of lignite in electricity production (delignification), with a forward-looking timeline over the next decade and a complete disengagement of domestic electricity production by 2028.
  • 2. Central priority of European Green Deal for 100 climate-neutral cities to be developed by 2030.