Greece

   

Environmental Policies

#35
Key Findings
With short-term economic gains taking precedence over environmental policies, Greece scores relatively poorly (rank 35) with regard to its environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point as compared to 2014.

Industrial production and greenhouse gas emissions have declined as a result of the economic crisis. Central and local authorities have become increasingly sensitive in implementing environmental legislation, but the country has not pursued a systematic approach to key environmental protection targets, including climate change, renewable water sources and forest biodiversity.

The promotion of renewable energy, boosted by significant natural capital in the form of solar, wind and tidal resources, has yielded tangible results. An eco-tax has been imposed on plastic bags. Some progress has been made on waste-management issues, ecosystem protection and the implementation of the EU’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

Environmental policymaking is fragmented across different ministries and agencies. Greece participates in international conferences and signed the Paris climate accord.

Environment

#35

How effectively does environmental policy in your country protect and preserve the sustainability of natural resources and environmental quality?

10
 9

Environmental policy goals are ambitious and effectively implemented as well as monitored within and across most relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 8
 7
 6


Environmental policy goals are mainly ambitious and effectively implemented and are monitored within and across some of the relevant policy sectors that account for the largest share of resource use and emissions.
 5
 4
 3


Environmental policy goals are neither particularly ambitious nor are they effectively implemented and coordinated across relevant policy sectors.
 2
 1

Environmental concerns have been largely abandoned.
Environmental Policy
4
In comparison to many other countries, Greece performs rather well on environmental policy. In the Yale University’s Environmental Policy Index 2018, Greece was ranked at 22nd place out of 180 countries for overall environmental performance, with a score of 73.60. Greece is among the 10 top world performers in terms of access to water and sanitation, but compared to residents of other more industrially developed countries, Greeks overuse water sources and create a lot of waste.

Given that Greece, which has a population of 11 million inhabitants, receives an annual inflow of approximately 30 million tourists, one should expect a reliable policy of waste management. Such a policy, however, does not really exist. Particularly during the prolonged tourist season, waste overflows landfills in tourist areas.

Industrial production and greenhouse-gas emissions in Greece declined after 2010, as one consequence of the economic crisis. Recycling has increased only modestly over the past 15 years, and waste management is not systematically practiced.

Several causes lie at the root of Greece’s environmental challenges: a lack of state mechanisms capable of controlling sources of pollution, unchecked urban development, large infrastructure projects and negligent consumer behavior. Environmental and forest management is haphazard and subject to the vicissitudes of changing political leaderships and interests.

The crisis has exacerbated a tendency to privilege economic growth at the expense of environmental protection; nowadays growth is pursued at all cost. For example, on Greece’s coasts new hotel construction is mushrooming without much care for environmental concerns. In cities and rural areas, public works and town planning have likewise always been afforded priority over environmental protection. The result has been that important targets of environmental protection – climate change, renewable water sources and forest biodiversity – have never been pursued in a systematic fashion.

On a positive note, since 2017 the government has implemented a new eco-tax for every plastic bag used for shopping or garbage. Greeks use plastic bags at twice the average European rate. It has been estimated that plastic bags make up half of the waste in Greece’s waters.

In general, environmental policy cannot be regarded as ambitious. Due to the financial crisis, governments since 2010 have focused more on immediate economic concerns than on long-term environmental goals. Environmental policymaking is rather fragmented across different ministries and state agencies, which negatively affects its integration across policy sectors. If there is one priority area in which tangible results have become increasingly obvious, it is the promotion of renewable energy. Here, the country has significant natural capital in the form of solar, wind and tidal resources.

In sum, as the latest EU Environmental Implementation Review notes, there has been some progress on waste-management issues, ecosystem protection and the implementation of the EU’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. However, complex administrative structures and procedures continue to cause significant delays and bottlenecks. Paired with local political hurdles and “not in my backyard” movements, these are among the main obstacles to the implementation of environmental legislation. Nevertheless, central and local authorities as well as state and private companies have become increasingly sensitive in implementing environmental legislation.

Citations:
Data on Greece’s performance regarding renewable energy sources, water management and recycling is drawn from the SGI database available on this platform.

Data from the Environmental Performance Index for 2018 is available at https://epi.envirocenter.yale.edu/epi-topline

European Commission, The Environmental Implementation Review 2019 (https://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_el_en.pdf)

Global Environmental Protection

#36

To what extent does the government actively contribute to the design and advancement of global environmental protection regimes?

10
 9

The government actively contributes to international efforts to design and advance global environmental protection regimes. In most cases, it demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, contributes to their being advanced and has introduced appropriate reforms.
 8
 7
 6


The government contributes to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes. It demonstrates commitment to existing regimes and occasionally contributes to their being advanced and/or has introduced some appropriate reforms.
 5
 4
 3


The government demonstrates commitment to existing regimes, but does not contribute to their being advanced and has not introduced appropriate reforms.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute to international efforts to strengthen global environmental protection regimes.
Global Environmental Policy
4
Greece participated in the negotiations and signed the Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015. However, owing to its prolonged economic crisis, Greece has not carried enough international clout to substantially contribute to strengthening global environmental protection regimes. Moreover, any emissions reduction is owed less to the strengthening of environmental protections than to the fact that the economy has remained stagnant for a long time, with industrial and other businesses closing down or relocating to other countries.

Citations:
Data on emissions reduction is provided by tables available on this SGI platform.
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