Whether it is dramatic loss of biodiversity or rapid climate change, we are all becoming painfully aware of a very real planetary crisis. To make matters even worse, the outbreak and spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world has revealed to us in the most dramatic way that humanity is losing its balance with natural systems and that something has gone very wrong in our relationship with nature and the services it so generously offers. So the real challenge is how can we regain the balance? What needs to happen so that the injured natural world can recover? Now is the time for transformational change.
At the end of 2019 the European Commission announced the European Green Deal whose aim is a sustainable social environmental and economic growth. The Green Deal on a solid basis promotes sustainability by radically transforming the economy, the society and the environment with clean energy, expansion of emissions’ trade, enhancement of circular economy and conservation of biodiversity as its central lines. Thus, it activates the Member States to be extroverted, produce high quality products and have highly skilled workforce.
The Green Deal is already affecting companies and organisations in Europe, in both the private and the public sectors, steadily leading the economy to new paths. It also leads to sustainable production and consumption models based on the transition to a climate neutral society consolidating the principles of the circular economy. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven how vulnerable societies and economies are in times of crisis and natural disasters and, in combination with the measures for Europe’s green recovery, it has set new priorities for societies to return to a normal pace while focusing on protecting the environment and ensuring public health.
For Greece the transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient and circular economy is of paramount importance to ensure environmental protection. As the country is preparing itself for a radical change in its economy, including the sectors of electrical energy, industry, transportation, buildings, agriculture and forestry, a true opportunity to design a better sustainable lignite-free and pollution-free future has arisen. At the same time, the country is creating the conditions for the development of activities that will attract significant green investments in order to carry out, in a short period of time, the necessary restructuring of the local and national economy while strengthening the social cohesion by retraining affected workers and young people for future innovative jobs.
Maybe one of the most efficient measures is the promotion of green buildings and their energy-efficiency upgrade that can create “green” job openings as well as attract interest on clean energy, sustainable transportations and long-lasting urban infrastructure. Such a plan should include interventions in the building stock based on the principles of bioclimatic architecture and ecological construction, extensive use of new materials, environmentally friendly, enhancement of urban greenery (pocket parks and green corridors) and serious urban interventions for remediation and improvement with a view to transform the cities to climate-neutral ones through the reduction of carbon emissions.
Energy efficiency is the biggest challenge as it is the only way for Greece to reach the target of total energy consumption in 2030 to the same levels as in 2017, meaning 38% energy efficiency improvement. But in order for that to happen, it must, among other things, replace a great number of existing residencies with new, nearly zero-energy ones by 2030 and achieve the energy efficiency upgrade of 60,000 buildings per year.
Finally, as the central goal of the Green Deal is the restoration of biodiversity the contribution of farmers to circular economy and biodiversity is of the utmost significance, on the basis of the “farm-to-fork strategy”, as are the enhancement of climate protection, the rural sustainability, the food security, the biodiversity’s restoration and conservation etc. In this context, in Greece too, no local product must end up in landfields by giving extra caution to local distribution chains in order to avoid food loss and to reuse products and waste.
While the global economy is moving at the pace of the fourth Industrial Revolution, Europe is already moving based on a sustainable policy which guaranties common benefits and collaborations in tackling climate change, protecting nature and biodiversity, improving air quality, as well as water resources conditions and the environment in general, aiming at the creation of a just and social green Europe and a better future for everyone. Greece as a member state of the European Union demonstrates her commitment to adopting environmentally friendly practices. We should not forget that with the new Green Deal as well as the recent European Union decisions “The success of the green transition will depend on significant mobilisation of private and public investments, on having an effective circular economy, and an integrated, interconnected and properly functioning European energy market that provides sustainable, secure and affordable energy, in full respect of the Member States’ right to decide on their energy mix”.