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Greece going green

Greece is on the right side of history with respect to the environment – and that holds true across the political spectrum.

Unlike what we see in other western countries, and despite the expected criticism from opposition parties on specific acts or measures by the government, there seems to be a broad acceptance for the need to “go green” by both progressives and conservatives.

Recently, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a conservative, told the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in Dubai that Greece had “one of the best performances of any European country” in terms of renewable energy, having cut its coal use by over 80% and drastically reduced emissions, with the penetration of wind and solar being the seventh highest in the world, generating half of the country’s electricity needs.

The planned increase in the capacity of offshore wind power generation systems in the Aegean “will literally redraw the energy map of the region” he declared, noting that Greek islands are “laboratories for cutting-edge sustainability.”

In that context, one has to ask how green the country’s “green islands” – Astypalaia, Halki and, soon, Poros – are, in the sense that the focus is more on energy generation and less on polluting transportation, waste or sewage.

The whole pro-environment effort has boosted the number of visitors to the small islands participating in the project, something which doesn’t really work in favor of their sustainability.

A visitor to Greece recently noted that he was appalled to see rubbish everywhere including the water and no significant recycling effort, adding that some education of the public is required.

At the same time, through tax and other incentives, many homes across Greece are being renovated in a more environmentally friendly way. A carbon storage and capture chain also is being built for heavy industry.

Last, but not least, for a country that represents nearly 25% of the global shipping fleet, the issue of maritime decarbonisation is of special significance to Greece and that is why there is an ongoing discussion with Greek shipowners about adopting new technologies that will contribute to decarbonisation, in a sector which is indeed hard to decarbonise.

There is obviously still a long way to go, but one can safely say that for a small to medium sized country, Greece seems to be contributing its fair share in dealing with the climate crisis.