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Greek Island Turning Green

The Greek island of Astypalea introduced a transition to ‘green infrastructure’ in a recent announcement made by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. With the aim of meeting the country’s climate goals aimed primarily at reducing carbon emissions and ensuring climate neutral mobility for everyone, Astypalea becomes one of the first islands to replace old, fuel powered vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). With a long-term goal to transition to smart technology and rely more on electric energy, the Government has placed great emphasis on ensuring climate neutral mobility and supporting the Greek population in acquiring a more sustainable lifestyle. Designed to give a significant boost to the economy by 2026 with increased economic activity in the renewable energy sector, creation of jobs leading to better living standards for many, the island plays a pivotal role in Greece’s transition to a ‘green’ country.

The Greek island of Astypalea
The Greek island of Astypalea

With an estimated 1,500 old vehicles on the island– and a third of them being cars – the Government strives to replace them all. The Prime Minister shared a detailed outline of plans to further enhance this transition, highlighting the motor company, Volkswagen’s role in allowing this shift to EVs is instrumental in facilitating the transition and increasing cooperation between private sectors and the government. One of the highlights of the transition includes all of Astypalea’s police cars being electric now. The establishment of a Solar Park to support the entire island’s new electric energy requirement is yet another revolutionary investment to successfully create a green island. It is also anticipated to cover 50% of the island’s overall energy requirement by 2023.

As part of the new ‘Greece 2.0’ plan, this transition is highlighted as the main objective for Greek political leaders to work towards combating and reducing the effects of climate change. Engaging in policy making, improving access to essential services, better waste management as well as implementing and monitoring the progress of this new plan, the Greek government has displayed a hands-on approach to making this transition a success. With a budget of 10 million Euros, Astypalea becomes a test case for Greece, as they attempt to introduce green power and energy to non-interconnected islands across the country. Largely funded by private business owners and the EU, this budget serves as a hefty investment for the Government to ensure the country’s sustainable development.

The chief executive officer of the Volkswagen group states that “Astypalea will be a blueprint for decarbonisation in Europe.” Having revealed numerous recharging stations, and incorporating solar energy to regular use, the world’s eyes rest on Astypalea to see the success of a ‘green’ island which will serve as inspiration for other nations around the world. Since the recent announcement, Greece has proven to be able to adopt groundbreaking and innovative strategies to counter and limit the effects of climate change. Focusing primarily on the transport industry, Greece, alongside the European Union (EU), has agreed to introduce and replace fuel powered transport and fuel storage with EVs. Unlike countries and policy makers who often overlook accessibility in a bid to devise ambitious plans and implement radical changes that limit the opportunity for the public to make a change and engage in the process, the Government has further ensured that such changes are affordable and accessible to the entirety of the Greek population to ensure the success of this newly adopted development plan by unveiling charging stations across the island of Astypalea.

Efforts to introduce facilities such as 5G networks, increased urban planning, better connectivity between the islands and public building is counter productive for a green transition, as it greatly increases greenhouse emissions and destroys biodiversity. The Greece 2.0 plan however, is devised to keep the environmental impact of such initiatives in mind, as the Government attempts to rely on green energy, invest in reforestation and prioritise the maintenance of the biodiversity of the region. Backed by the EU, the Greek government plans to effectively avoid environmental damage with progressive and green strategies. By encouraging a lifestyle that allows for harmonious coexistence with nature, Greece becomes one of the leading countries to drastically yet effectively tackle and counter the effects of climate change. Aiming at a 7% increase in GDP by 2026, the Government is seen to further initiate the creation of 180,000 jobs through this green transition.

The European Union is seen to be greatly supporting the Greece 2.0 plan and encouraging other countries to devise similar strategies. Working In collaboration with the Greek alternative finance minister Thodoros Skylakakis, the Greek government is currently working towards expanding this project across various Greek islands and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. This initiative further contributes to the conjoint European target of cutting 55% of greenhouse emissions by 2030.

Countries such as Iceland, Denmark, Norway are acquiring similar strategies by shifting to more renewable sources of energy including wind and solar. Policies to be announced in July 2021 are expected to impose stricter laws targeting a switch to biomass as a renewable energy source in sectors that have been relatively behind in functioning sustainably, especially across Nordic countries. The EU is expected to announce the law in July, 2021. Costa Rica, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and Uruguay are some of the leading nations outside Europe that continue to make similar efforts by introducing electric vehicles, encouraging the use of public transport, promoting the use of green energy and working toward significantly reducing their coal usage and production by imposing carbon taxes as well as reducing taxes on essential goods and services, making it economically sustainable. Creating cycling tracks and investing in infrastructure to better the condition of sidewalks and pavements, governments of these respective countries, further promote walking and the use of bicycles to reduce carbon emissions.

Leaders around the world are making effective and immediate changes to initiate a ‘green transition’ to better support their climate goals and promote a more sustainable lifestyle for their people. Seen as a radical approach to decarbonise Europe, the EU ensures that it does not fall behind leading countries such as the US and China, who are also seen to adopt ambitious methods to ensure they meet their climate goals. The USA's Green New Deal, sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, has been the most popular counter to climate change in recent years, greatly increasing environmentally sustainable jobs and introducing carbon taxes to better curb the effect of this global crisis. Although ambitious, this deal is aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions across the US, while sustaining their economic growth. The introduction of the Green New Deal, has allowed for a decline in common pollutants found across the US. With a 12% decline in carbon monoxide between 2010 and 2020, the US continues to work towards decreasing pollution levels.

By supporting cooperation between various sectors and private business, the EU aspires to meet its decarbonisation goals, and adopt sustainable energy sources, promoting the same among the general population as well. Both the US and the EU, collectively the largest polluters around the world, continue to take harsher action against the effects of climate change, environmental policies becoming a priority for nations globally. The formation of interdependent relations between intergovernmental organisations, private business and banks, the EU not only funds such green transitions, but also guides leaders to prioritise and incorporate the sustainable development goals in their economic policies, furthering healthy development. This cooperative approach continues to give the public accessibility to changes being implemented by the government, to better support the creation of not only ‘green islands’ but also ‘green nations’.

Edited by Thenthamizh SS


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