LIVING ECONOMY

Primary production

1. Knowledge: Completing the knowledge bases and decision making tools (forest maps, cadastre, olive cultivation register, records of sea grass habitats and high nature value farmland, etc.) that are necessary for planning and organizing primary production.

2. Plan: Comprehensively planning for primary production based on intersectoral local or regional development plans and focusing on:

  • the rational spatial organization of activities to alleviate pressures on local resources, mitigate conflict with local communities or other economic uses and combine primary production activities with natural capital management and conservation needs;
  • the competitive advantages, making use of local breeds and varieties in production and marketing their special flavor and environmental qualities, standardizing and labeling local products and promoting small-scale non-intensive production and its specific environmental, social and quality attributes. 

3. Management: Managing inputs, residues and waste/run-off to optimize product quality, cut production costs and create added revenue sources.

4. Support: Revising the subsidy system to support processes and areas that bring a clear competitive advantage or environmental benefit and to discourage opportunistic involvement in production. Although the structure of the subsidy system has been largely fixed by historical data, the Common Agricultural Policy and rural development measures provide the opportunity to change the subsidy policy and implement it for the benefit of a sustainable primary production sector.

5. Certification: Certifying and labeling products and production processes. Product certification and labeling is internationally one of the main tools for establishing and promoting competitive advantages and traceability. The following are the main certification categories, which should be widely promoted and applied:

  • Integrated management certifies the implementation of good production practices, following the product throughout the market chain. Sustainable forest management (FSC, PEFC) and sustainable fishery (MSC) certifications fall into this category. Adapting and implementing international standards for fish-breeding should also be considered a priority. 
  • Organic production certifies the implementation of organic standards in agriculture, animal husbandry and fish-breeding as well as in processing their respective products. 
  • Special labeling may be used to highlight certain quality, flavor or geographical attributes of products, capitalizing on specific consumer receptions and/or ensuring the satisfaction of specific consumer preferences. Emphasis must be placed in developing a national labeling system for protected area products.

6. Interconnection: Connecting activities and sectors. Planning concrete policies and undertaking initiatives to effectively interconnect rural activities is necessary to achieve economies of scale, increase the economic and ecological sustainability of exploitations, alleviate pressures on natural resources and boost the marketability of products. Specific objectives include:

  • the multiple use of land and resources through measures such as the combination of animal husbandry with tree cultivation, the localized installation of renewable energy systems in fields and agricultural facilities in ways that do not alter their character, and well-planned grazing in forest areas to serve forestry objectives;
  • the interconnection of distinct sectors, starting with agriculture and tourism and aiming at utilizing tourist activities (hospitality and restauration) to promote local products and creating local market supply chains between producers and tourism enterprises; 
  • the multiple use of infrastructures and labor aiming at the systematization and organization of multiple job holding and the creation of revenue and employment stability, particularly for vulnerable groups (youth and women) and groups that depend on seasonal employment.

7. Training: Even though primary production plays an unquestionably important part in society and the national economy, human resources employed in it are very weak. Interventions are proposed in the following three fields:

  • developing the human resources involved in production, which currently have very little training and, as a result, lack the ability to develop efficient business plans, adopt good practices, and achieve and manage products with high quality attributes. Given the extent of seasonal employment of personnel with no relevant training, the most necessary interventions are constant consultation and the supervision of the productive process.
  • strengthening decision-making structures by training members of the administration, developing local decision-making bodies and creating a competent central structure that will accumulate the necessary experience and knowledge to provide guidance on practices and decision-making at a local level.
  • creating cooperation and co-exploitation structures by supporting producer groups in developing strategic and business practices, know-how exchange processes and networks and competitive products, as well as by promoting collective exploitation schemes, such as animal husbandry parks, collective processing and standardization activities, and the development of collective infrastructures and activities to process and utilize production waste and residue (e.g., producing fuel out of agricultural residue and processing olive mill wastewater).

Special focus: forestry

As a land-related activity, forestry has many different aspects connected with rural development in general. The structure of the administration related to state and private forests and forestry in general is complex and involves many institutions with different perspectives, interests and capabilities. Today, the crisis has hit most of the public and private sector activities, and developing and exploiting primary production has become an important way out of the crisis with clear prospects of ecological sustainability and economic prosperity. As a primary economic activity, forestry could play an important part in this: it engages or could engage different production sectors in managing almost half of the area of Greece (of which 74% is public land) to the benefit of both the national economy and the natural environment. 

The country’s forest wealth presents a double opportunity:

  • Ecological: when practiced according to the forest management plans that have been approved by local forest authorities, forestry cleanses and revitalizes the ecosystem and, through the presence of people whose livelihood depends on the forest, provides protection against wildfires and environmental crime.
  • Economical: Forestry is an economic activity with significant growth prospects regarding high quality products and services, which can provide the sector with a strong competitive advantage in the international market.

A basic precondition for resolving the issues affecting forestry in Greece is strategically recognizing it as an economic activity that protects forest ecosystems, funds forest management and contributes substantially to the country’s GDP and to the creation and conservation of valuable and productive employment.

Reforms for living forestry

The institutional and political reforms that are necessary for developing ecologically and economically sustainable forestry are:

  • revising the standards of management planning regarding timber and non-timber forests based on a multi-purpose management approach and aiming at truly updating and adapting management to social conditions and to the actual potential and value of forest ecosystems;
  • implementing management plans while supporting forest authorities with the necessary appropriations and staff;
  • conducting a comprehensive economic assessment of the ecosystem services (immaterial products) provided by forests, including the connection to the emissions trading system, and integrating said assessment in forest management plans; 
  • systematically promoting non-timber forest products: organizing and supporting production and providing incentives for marketing with an extroverted focus on foreign markets;
  • mechanizing timber removal with methods that have been proven harmless for forest ecosystems (e.g., the use of cranes);
  • improving the recording and assessment system of management and production results at a regional level and incorporating economic data and indicators;
  • completing forest maps and a forest cadastre to clearly identify the area in which forest activities can be practiced;
  • connecting forestry with other productive sectors (agriculture, tourism, etc.);
  • connecting secondary production (timber industry etc.) with forest management by engaging industries in forest management based on approved plans;
  • compiling an annual sector catalog of all the products that industry is expected to require based on the related budgets (revenue, type of revenue per production line, etc.) to effectively connect primary production with the market’s needs;
  • certifying sustainable forest management in productive forests and marketing certified forest products;
  • reexamining and promoting—under certain conditions—indigenous fast-growing and other forest species in the appropriate agricultural lands (marginal lands) for timber and non-timber production.

Special focus: aquaculture

Producing ecologically sustainable and nutritionally safe aquaculture products should be an objective in a comprehensive plan to restructure primary production, particularly given that aquaculture has always exhibited active and extroverted marketing and significant exporting activity and potential and is closely linked to other sectors. 

  • The most important challenges that the aquaculture sector has to address are:
  • the lack of quality certification for products and production processes,
  • competition for the use of sea and coast with other important economic activities, such as tourism and the impact on marine environment of both not implementing legislation and using substances that cause pollution and/or eutrophication.

Reforms for sustainable aquaculture

1. Siting: Units are to be sited at least 1 M from the coast and with a minimum distance of 500 m between them. Siting in areas with breeding and feeding grounds and nurseries must be prohibited (as it already is over Posidonia meadows and fishing grounds). Aquaculture units densely located near the coast are to be removed—particularly from enclosed gulfs—and relocated to open marine areas taking local conditions into account. Considered to have the least environmental impact, the measure has already been adopted in Cyprus and Turkey for environmental as well as economic purposes, given the intensive use of the coastal zone. 

2. Unit operation: Emphasis must be placed on organic and integrated aquaculture and on mandatory fallowing. 

3. Inputs: Measures include the use of certified feeds, residue recycling, ecological water and waste management and energy saving. 

4. Certification: Integrated or organic aquaculture standards are to be implemented, and units are to be certified based on aquaculture certification systems, such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and GlobalGAP. Given the lack of aquaculture standards regarding the Mediterranean species produced in Greece, the following practices are proposed in addition to existing certification systems:

  • complete transparency regarding the content of feeds,
  • sustainable feed ingredients, fish- or plant-based, certified by acknowledged certification bodies, such as the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization,
  • maximum exploitation of fishmeals and fish oils,
  • prevention of fish escape into the marine environment and development of a related management plan,
  • health issues management plan,
  • waste management plan,
  • implementation of social criteria (training and employment issues),
  • siting outside areas that are important for marine biodiversity.

Secondary production

Given the decline of industrial activity during the past decades, the crisis must be faced as Greece’s opportunity to lay out a vision and a national strategy and policy to boost manufacturing activity and create conditions of:

  • Autonomy: reducing the dependency on raw materials and fossil fuels by recycling, reusing and making optimum use of raw and intermediate materials.
  • Innovation: promoting applied research and development (R&D) for innovation and the production of high quality and competitive products.
  • Certainty: managing and addressing the institutional and legal risks emanating from environmental violations that carry severe penalties.
  • Cleanliness: reducing pollutant emissions and the overall environmental footprint.
  • Efficiency: efficiently using, saving and reusing natural resources.
  • Stability: increasing the real economy’s resilience to the unpredictable fluctuations of raw material prices in international markets.

The concept of green or environmentally sustainable industry includes all the industrial and productive activities that substitute fossil fuels (mostly carbon and oil) with renewable or less intensive energy sources and productive activities that yield products with a small ecological footprint. In Greece, there is a considerable field for developing ecologically sustainable entrepreneurship in the sectors of food, energy, ecological chemicals (detergents, paints, etc.), sustainable waste management and building material production, among others. There is an important gap in research for innovative methods and products with low ecological footprint and high added value, which must be filled while connecting research to production.

Reforms for living and sustainable industry

  1. Good siting: The abolition of the provision for off-plan siting of manufacturing units is now imperative. A step towards the gradual abolition is the prohibition of derogations, which is already in force. Given that urban planning already includes about 450 areas designated for industrial uses and 48 business parks, which have hardly been exploited, conditions are ripe for abolishing the provision for off-plan siting of new facilities altogether.
  2. Incentives: Taking into account that relocating existing businesses to areas organized for industrial use is a funding priority for the new programming period and covered by EU co-financing, political emphasis must be placed on orienting state investment policies to that direction. 
  3. Inspection: It is absolutely necessary to intensify inspections of the operation of all industrial facilities, particularly in informal and off-plan industrial areas. It being a well-known fact that many units lack the necessary environmental management infrastructure, particularly with respect to waste disposal and pollutant emissions, the need for intensive inspections to achieve conformity and environmental restoration is urgent. This measure indirectly boosts the attractiveness of organized industrial areas that have complete infrastructures and meet the standards of good practice. 
  4. Good practice: Given that the current administrative systems are focused on repressive measures to achieve legal conformity, it is necessary to supplement the desired strong and effective inspection mechanism with a framework of preventive action and improvement of the environmental performance of businesses. 
  5. Transparency: Complete transparency and public accountability are preconditions for businesses pertaining to a living and sustainable economy. Environmental data and regular reports on performance and on the margins of improvement, based on specific indicators, must be made available to all interested parties.

Tourism

One of the most important sectors of the Greek economy, tourism produces about 16% of the annual GDP. Tourism-related numbers have shown an impressive increase over the past four decades. Foreign tourist arrivals went from 462,857 in 1961 to 14,918,177 in 2002—increasing by 30 times—and to 18,754,593 in 2007. According to the World Tourism Organization, Greece holds the 15th place in the world’s tourist receiving countries.

In the European Union, the environment seems to be the main factor in choosing a destination. Therefore, in Greece, the natural environment should be treated as the principal tourism product, hence clearly requiring protection and sustainable management.

  • Greek tourism can be briefly described as follows:
  • mass tourism organized mostly by tour operators;
  • 3S tourism: sea, sun, sand;
  • intense seasonality and concentration in the country’s coastal and island zones;
  • significant yet unmeasured ecological footprint;
  • questionable relation between the cost and quality of services.

Today, the Greek tourist development model is in crisis. 3S tourism became increasingly popular and thrived thanks to the rise in purchasing power. Mass tourism offer grows rapidly to meet the constantly increasing demand. This results in the rapid growth of specific tourist destinations. At some point, however, this growth rate begins to slow down. Greece is a tourist receiving country currently witnessing the decline of the 3S and the sunlust models and should have turned its focus to reforming, changing and enriching its tourism product years ago.

Guidelines for living and sustainable tourism

Greek tourism must achieve the highest possible economic benefit in combination with the highest possible degree of conservation and good use of natural capital, cultural heritage and landscape, which are its fundamental assets.

Specifically, sustainable tourism must:

  • be an active part of the Greek economy without degrading the capital it is based on, i.e., Greek nature and cultural heritage;
  • conform to the sustainability standards of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council;
  • adopt measures to minimize its ecological footprint;
  • contribute to the protection of the natural and human-made environment;
  • boost the local economy and empower the local community;
  • employ the best internationally available sustainable tourism practices (including those for managing visitors and respecting the carrying capacity of destinations) and promote solutions that are innovative and suitable for Greece;
  • develop alongside rural development policies and strategic theme-based visions for each region to avoid tourism monoculture, which makes destinations susceptible to seasonality and demand fluctuations;
  • receive support as part of a national and local support strategy regarding thematic tourism with small environmental footprint (e.g., sailing, health and convention tourism, agritourism and recreational tourism);
  • receive support by a subsidy system for investments that meet environmental sustainability criteria as well as criteria regarding aesthetics, the promotion of cultural and natural heritage, the personal engagement of investors in the enterprise, operation in traditional settlements and environmental management certification;
  • grow in line with studies regarding the quality of the services and experience provided and the carrying capacity of each area, including the local community and economy. Such studies should be taken thoroughly into account in tourism development planning, including planning investments, licensing, creating business incentives, allocating EU funds for local development, marketing the tourism product, etc. In addition, a study of the carrying capacity must be reflected in spatial planning. Without a clear and concrete plan, including land use and spatial and urban planning, we are left with uncontrolled tourism development lacking infrastructure, networks and aesthetic values.

Energy

To prevent the worst consequences of climate change, the reduction of global emissions by 40% by 2020 and by 95% by 2050 is a WWF global priority, to be achieved by cutting power generation emissions down to zero. The course towards this objective is outlined in the Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy by 20501. Concerning Greece in particular, WWF Greece has released a study entitled A Low Carbon Vision for Greece in 20502, which demonstrates that a 93% reduction of emissions in electrical energy generation by 2050 is feasible.

In recent years, in Greece as well as internationally, clean energy policies have been blamed for the rise in electrical power prices. These allegations are, of course, far from the truth. To disprove this misleading myth, WWF Greece has released a series of papers, interventions and proposals. A section dedicated to deconstructing said myth is included in our proposal for a Living Greek Economy.

In a policy statement3, WWF Greece highlighted the most significant problems that the development of renewable energy sources (RES) faces in our country: a fickle central policy, questionable investor and administration practices that distinctively underestimate the ecological value of certain areas, and social disdain for RES accompanied by ostensible objections regarding the works as well as valid environmental and social concerns.

Clean energy guidelines

  1. Renewable energy sources: increasing the share of RES in the energy mix and keeping fossil fuel units as cold reserves. Apart from the obvious environmental benefits, satisfying the country’s overall demand with clean forms of energy will contribute to the decentralization and dispersion of energy sources and to the national energy security and autonomy. Stress must also be laid on promoting all related technologies, particularly ones that offer baseload coverage, and on developing schemes with citizen participation.
  2. Saving: reducing energy demand and increasing efficiency. Said increase will, among others, reduce the implementation cost of the other clean energy measures. Stress must be laid on sectors with significant potential for improvement or social benefit (e.g., buildings). Acknowledging the added value of the measures is a prerequisite for the promotion of this guideline. In the future, it will be necessary to shift focus towards the overall efficient use of natural resources.
  3. Electrification: extending the use of electrical energy to other final energy uses. Simultaneously implementing efficiency measures will certainly mitigate the consequences following from the increased use of electricity during peak demand.
  4. Storage: developing energy storage means in building facilities, vehicles and heating systems, as well as at a larger scale, while providing adequate incentives.
  5. Management: promoting demand flexibility and management mechanisms. The objective is to shift demand to hours when RES energy is available while reducing peak demand. Consumption patterns can be modified by an appropriate configuration of energy prices. 
  6. Infrastructure: modernizing networks. This measure is an essential requirement for achieving 100% clean energy. In this regard, another requirement that must be stressed is that the state retain its central part in managing and supervising the energy system to ensure a cohesive and synergistic approach to network and infrastructure development.

1WWF International. (2011). The Energy Report. http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/climate_carbon_energy/energy_solutions

2WWF Greece. (2008). A Low Carbon Vision for Greece in 2050. Athens, October 2008 .
http://climate.wwf.gr/images/pdf/epistimoniki_ekthesi_wwf_low.pdf (in Greek)

 3Renewable energy sources. WWF Greece policy statement. (January 2013). WWF Greece. http://www.wwf.gr/images/pdfs/Renewables-position-paper-January-2013.pdf (in Greek)

 

Financial sector

The financial sector plays a crucial role for the health and operation of the economy, since it is the circulatory system of modern economies and determines, to great extent, the volume of business and household savings and their redirection to financing and investment.

Handling environmental externalities requires that the following approaches and indicative measures be adopted by institutional investors.

Environmental integration in the financial sector

The main guidelines towards reducing the financial sector’s environmental footprint and shifting financing to ecologically and socially sustainable investment plans are:

  • assessing the environmental dimension of investments and their dependence on natural capital;
  • creating joint deliberation, cooperation and synergy platforms to promote negotiation on significant issues related to public investment;
  • cooperating with the political leadership and regulatory and normative authorities in promoting policies that facilitate the internalization of the environmental costs of investments and establish a clear framework of sustainable investments;
  • creating an effective mechanism for monitoring and reviewing how investors handle the environmental risks of their portfolios;
  • including environmental cost parameters in the methodological tools of rating agencies and financial analysis organizations;
  • actively supporting research on the interconnection of corporate externalities, ecosystem goods and services, corporate financial risks and investment return.

A step that would be of great significance for Greece is the creation of a collective investment scheme (fund) comprising Greek, EU and private funds with the objective of raising capital to fund environmental research and innovation and small- and large-scale environmental conservation projects and to support sustainable entrepreneurship with a focus on the sectors of the Greek economy that present a clear competitive/comparative advantage. 

WWF Greece calls for an essential mid-/long-run redefinition of the country’s financial model aiming at fusing together the sector’s environmental, social and economic sustainability. 

Enhancing the supervisory and regulatory role of the Bank of Greece and the European Central Bank to promote environmentally sustainable banking is an inextricable part of the vision for a living economy. It is also necessary to abolish subsidies to polluting activities while providing incentives for environmentally friendly practices in the core sectors of the Greek economy (energy, primary production, tourism) and for the creation of new and innovative sectors whose business models will be based on environmental conservation and the sustainable distribution of the product.


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