CrisisWatch

Environment minister defoliates Greece’s forests of vital legal protection

Four months after the voting of the controversial Law 4280/2014 on housing development in forests and woodlands, Greece’s Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change submitted to the Parliament a new bill, which further undermines the conservation value and clarity of forest legislation. Titled “Acts for contribution in land and cash – Land expropriation and other provisions” and submitted by Alternate Environment Minister Nikos Tagaras, it is expected to be voted before the December 17th parliamentary election for Greece’s new President of the Republic. 

 forest

Was the forest burnt? Patience!
In 5 years, you can do anything with it. (A kind donation by the Ministry of Environment).
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October 2014 editorial

The urgent and dramatic campaign of WWF Spain to avert the voting of a bill that severely weakens the conservation framework for national parks captures our hearts: the economic downturn is misused by many political leaders as an excuse to undermine basic environmental legislation and treat unique natural treasures as an infinite resource for quick and dirty financial gains. The reported decision of the Popular Party parliamentary group to freeze its legislative proposal is a sign of hope, as it proves that targeted and clearly articulated public outcry can halt the environmental overhaul. 

At the other end of Mediterranean Europe, WWF Greece unveiled its road map for a living economy in the crisis-stricken country. At a conference held in Athens on October 15th, speakers from the areas of justice, public governance and economics stated out the need for clear rules and policies that provide transparency, legal certainty and environmental integration in the development, spatial planning and economic agendas. Experts from the sectors of tourism and rural policy-making stressed the need for Greece to build a living real economy based on its unique selling point: nature. The newly elected Mayor of Kozani, Greece’s lignite powerhouse, unfolded the region’s prospects for a sustainable and healthier post-coal era. Representatives from the banking sector, a model sustainable fisheries business initiative and social enterprises focusing on green energy and waste management demonstrated that the future for a living economy is out there and that Europe, not just Greece, needs to face it as a political priority. 

As the EU’s capital is preparing to house a new Commission of historically low environmental ambition, EU leaders failed to come up with the necessary urgent and forward-looking policy response to the unfolding climate crisis. The climate and energy package for 2030 sets low clean energy targets that keep the old and climate polluting economy alive and killing and does not harness all of Europe’s green potential and talent in developing and championing policies for a living planet. 

As Tony Long remarked at the conference in Athens, “…politicians are now in the unenviable position of having only a bag of growth indicators to sell to their increasingly skeptical and knowledgeable electorates who want and need to be presented with other indicators of well-being and progress”. It is high time that Europeans stand up and demand ecologically and socially sustainable ways out of the crisis.

Theodota Nantsou, WWF Greece, and Isabella Pratesi, WWF Italy

 

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Living economy in Greece

Intervention by Tony Long, Director of WWF EPO, at the conference organised by WWF Greece / Athens, 15 October 2014 

 

I start my intervention with a quotation from the then International President of WWF, Chief Anayaoku, at a major conference in Brussels in 2007:

Our way of living is not only threatening the health and diversity of our planet’s species, but has become a huge threat to human survival as well.

·     Societies cannot continue to operate as if the planet was a business in liquidation.

·     We cannot continue to turn our backs on pollution and call it someone else’s problem.

·    We cannot continue to call income what in reality is resource depletion.

·  We cannot claim economic success for development patterns that leave hundreds of millions of people marginalised and which stoke the fears of resentment and conflict.

We need to move beyond conventional economic accounting. We are calling for new ways to measure and record progress so that we can take the necessary corrective measures to set a more wise development path.” 

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Greece going into deep environmental recession

WWF Greece announced its tenth annual review of Greece’s environmental laws and policies. The period covered by this year's report (July 2013 -June 2014), documents the culmination of a systematic process of dismantling Greece’s already poor environmental acquis.

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Greek Parliament votes anti-forest law

A new forest law was voted at the Hellenic Parliament by a Government majority of 50-47 on August 5th.

The new law was heavily criticised by environmental organisations, citizens groups, individual citizens and part of the media, as it introduces a series of critical changes to forest legislation, essentially altering its conservation character. In response to a three-day urgent call by WWF Greece for public action, over 1,000 people personally addressed the ruling party MPs who participate in the 2nd Summer Recess Section. Through email messages and personal telephone calls, MPs were urged to vote against the draft law.

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To beach or not to beach? Greece legislates for rapid coastal development

In a draft law placed under public consultation on April 17th, the Greek Finance Ministry prepares to propose to the Hellenic Parliament a new legal framework that will:

  • restrict the longstanding public right to unhindered access to the coast;
  • restrict the number of lakes with a legally protected coastal ecosystem to those that are larger than 9,450 sq.m.(!);
  • legalise existing illegal developments on the coastline, upon payment to the public purse of its “objective value”;
  • facilitate beach concessions primarily for the benefit of bars, umbrellas and   summer beds (currently the allowable area for each concession is 500 sq.m., with a min. 100 m. of free land between concessions);
  • encourage permanent constructions on the beach for business purposes;
  • abolish the requirement of coastal zone delineation, as a prerequisite for the approval of private or public developments; 

According to George Chasiotis, Legal Coordinator at WWF Greece, “this draft law is a radical change for the worse of a long-standing, time-honored regime that protects the Mediterranean coast, both as a commons and a valuable, fragile ecosystem. Instead of moving towards the direction of the Integrated Coastal Management, Greece opts for a piecemeal, perfunctory and environmentally destructive approach, which will eventually not only degrade its natural heritage, but harm its tourist sector as well. ” 

Read more: Draft law (in Greek)

Links:

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Thousands of citizens call on the KfW Bank Group to stop investing in coal, starting from Greece

WWF Greece and WWF Germany met with the KfW Bank Group, in order to hand over the petition signed by 15,000 citizens calling the development bank to refrain from financing a new coal plant by PPC: “Ptolemaida V” in Northern Greece. WWF and KfW also had the opportunity to discuss the prospects for a truly sustainable Greek economy, focusing on the necessary shift to a clean, innovative and competitive energy model. During the meeting, WWF Greece’s Director Demetres Karavellas discussed with Dr Norbert Kloppenburg, member of the Executive Board of KfW, the need for influential financial institutions to divest from coal and lead the world towards a clean energy path. According to WWF Greece, Ptolemaida V is not a viable investment, since its true costs outweigh its stated benefits. Also present at the meeting were Mr Markus Scheer, Member of the Management Board of KfW IPEX-Bank, and Eberhard Brandes, Director of WWF Germany.

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As crisis offers excuse for fossil fuel revival, reactions mount against coal

The recent decision of an Italian chief prosecutor to order the closure of two power stations at Vado Ligure is probably the first legal case for manslaughter and environmental damage opening against the coal-fired energy industry. On another case, the Court of Rovigo sentenced two former CEOs of ENEL to a two-year prison term for the severe pollution derived by the operations of the Porto Tolle Power Plant. Environmental groups WWF Italy, Greenpeace and Legambiente have expressed hope that this judgment will signal the end of coal conversion projects in Porto Tolle. However, the impact of these important legal developments on the energy policies of EU member states is yet to be seen.

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