Important victory against fossil fuels in Greece!

Posted on May, 31 2022

This marks another important victory in our long effort to stop petroleum companies from drilling in Greece. Following the withdrawal of Repsol from its blocks in Western Greece in 2021, now Total pulls out, stating that it will instead “pursue its engagement in the development of renewable energies in Greece”.

In recent years, the Mediterranean Sea has seen an intensification of oil and gas exploration activities, including exploration, drilling, transportation and storage.

The two blocks abandoned by Total were by far the largest oil and gas concessions, which were granted to two oil majors (Total and ExxonMobil). Earlier in 2018, WWF Greece, jointly with Greenpeace and the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, submitted a petition to the Council of State (Greece’s supreme administrative court) against the approval of the strategic environmental assessment. Specifically, WWF challenges the unacceptably special treatment of petroleum operations by Greek legislation, which allows seismic testing to proceed without an environmental impact assessment. The hearing of our case at the Council of State is scheduled for October 2022.

International petroleum companies withdraw from Greece

Despite the withdrawal of Total from the petroleum blocks of the Sea of Crete, the Greek Government insists on the oil and gas exploration and drilling programmes. Of the 12 blocks that had originally been awarded to oil companies (8 offshore and 4 onshore), covering 75.000, four are now canceled, while three international oil companies have pulled out of their concessions.

In 2018, WWF Greece launched an international campaign to urgently address the unprecedented threat of oil and gas that can have severe and potentially irreversible impacts on the Greek iconic marine ecosystem, economy and local communities. 

The approval of new oil and gas concessions does not align with the fast and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to meet the climate targets of the Paris Agreement and secure a climate-safe future. WWF calls on the Greek Government to immediately ban new hydrocarbon exploration and drilling, following the recent examples of Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and New Zealand.

The withdrawal of Total from Crete coincides with the most recent statement of the International Energy Agency’s executive director that no new oil and gas projects can be justified by the current energy crisis and the Russian war on Ukraine: “Nobody should imagine that Russia’s invasion can justify a wave of new large-scale fossil fuel infrastructure in a world that wants to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. …. Long-lived assets also carry a dual risk of locking in fossil fuel use that would prevent the world from meeting its climate goals – or of failing to recover their upfront development costs if the world is successful in bringing down fossil demand quickly enough to reach net zero by mid-century.

It also comes at a time of historic significance for Greece’s climate policy: the Parliament recently voted the country’s first national climate law. WWF Greece, together with many other NGOs and partners had taken the initiative of drafting a climate law in order to catayse this process. The law that was finally adopted in parliament is not as ambitious as we would have liked. It fails to set a deadline for fossil fuel phase-out and avoids to specifically set a date for the termination of new oil and gas permits - it does nevertheless signal a start for Greece’s journey towards climate neutrality. Climate policies and drilling for new oil and gas are at odds.


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