Posted on 30 November 2021
Small steps forward, but still not in line with 1.5oC global warming limit, WWF warns
The draft climate law submitted for one-month public consultation by the Greek government is a good step forward, yet lacks ambition and misses the historic opportunity for Greece to become a climate champion.
Being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, Greece is already experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis with immense cost on human lives, climate induced disasters and economic damage. The only reasonable way forward is for Greece to become a champion for innovative and future-looking climate policies, which are aligned with the 1.5oC and contribute substantially to the global effort to prevent climate collapse.
Τhe Greek government’s climate bill needs to raise its climate ambition and include:
1. Climate targets
Greenhouse gas emissions targets are indeed upgraded compared to the existing - meager - targets, yet they remain insufficient compared to what science dictates. It is also clear from the wording of the relevant provisions that the emissions reduction targets are "pursued", without therefore being legally binding.
Targets of the climate bill
Science-based targets *
At least -55% of net emissions
At least -65% of gross emissions
At least -80% of net emissions
At least -95% of gross emissions
2045 at the latest
* Based on the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The provision of an intermediate target for 2040 and sectoral carbon budgets are positive aspects, yet their trajectories must be further specified through intermediate, 5 year targets.
The targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency are vague and unclear. Specific, ambitious, legally binding targets that will transform the energy system into 100% renewables by 2035 with strong environmental and social safeguards must be specified, in order for the transition to do no significant harm and leave no one behind. The promotion of energy efficiency and properly planned full deployment of renewables, under clear rules that safeguard biodiversity conservation, is the most efficient and cost-effective pathway for rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The sector specific energy targets (transport, buildings, and non - interconnected islands) are in the right direction. However, they should not be limited to a technology switch, but also address social issues, such as protecting the most vulnerable households and ensuring meaningful citizen participation in the energy transition.
Lignite phase-out is moved back to "no later than 2028", when just in September the Prime Minister announced an earlier deadline by 2025. Although the bill provides for the review of the deadline in 2023, it should be emphasized that for each year that the new lignite plant Ptolemaida V will operate, Greece will emit an additional 4 million tons of carbon dioxide or about 5% of the annual its emissions. At the same time, just a few weeks ago, the government silently granted derogations from emissions limits for existing lignite plants.
Red flags of the climate bill:
- No legally binding phase out date for fossil gas.
- No termination of hydrocarbon exploration and production including a clear ban to all new concessions and renewal of existing exploration and drilling permits. Science is clear: new oil and gas development is inconsistent with limiting temperature increase to 1.5oC.
3. Nature conservation
The bill notoriously fails to include the crucial component of biodiversity conservation and nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. References to climate adaptation are not satisfactory.
It is imperative that at least the nature conservation targets of 30% protected areas and 10% strictly protected areas, commitments announced by the Prime Minister at the IUCN Conference (Marseille, September 2021), must be explicitly included in the climate law.
4. Climate governance
The climate bill fails to bring science to the forefront of climate policy making, while ensuring its political independence and non-partisan character. The establishment of a scientific committee reporting to and appointed by the Environment and Energy Minister cannot satisfy the paramount need for impartial scientific monitoring of the implementation carbon budgets.
Transition to climate neutrality requires robust scientific support. WWF insists in the establishment of an independent climate authority, based on best practices developed by other independent authorities operating in Greece. This is expected to decisively contribute to the legitimization, transparency of and accountability for the whole venture. Such good practice will enhance the level of political and social acceptance of those measures and policies implied by the transition to climate neutrality.
The climate bill also ignores the need for meaningful public engagement through the creation of a people’s climate assembly, which will empower citizens by way of endowing them with rights and powers, as well as by enhancing the framework of transparency and accountability.
The bill omits any reference to the crucial chapter of recognizing the right of all citizens to climate stability, access to best available science and safeguarding of the environmental acquis. The immensely important chapter of the just labor transition has also been ignored.
In December 2020, WWF Greece launched the public debate on the need for a national climate law and presented the first legal text ever developed in Greece. WWF Greece’s initiative was supported by 12 civil society organisations, while the legal proposal was submitted for an open and transparent public consultation for two months. The final climate law proposal was announced on May 7th 2021. At a special parliamentary debate on the need for a national climate law, on May 18th, the Prime Minister announced his government’s commitment to introduce a climate law to Parliament before COP26, while the major opposition parties stated their willingness to back a high-ambition climate law based on the initial proposal developed by WWF Greece and the coalition of civil society organisations.
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