On Tuesday, September 26, an event was co-organised by Terra Cypria and the Department of Environment at the University of Cyprus.
The event included a full discussion of Cyprus’ current climate policies as well as the revised targets and policies planned in the context of the National Energy and Climate Plan’s (NECP) revision. The Environment Commissioner, Ms Maria Panayiotou, as well as the Director of the Environment Department on behalf of the Director General of the Directorate General of the Environment, Ms Elena Stylianopoulou, attended the event, while officials of competent government departments and representatives of the research and scientific community contributed to the event with their presentations.
In her speech, Ms Stylianopoulou stressed the urgent need to collectively promote sustainable energy and environmental practices that will work “for the benefit of our planet and future generations”. Regarding the revised NECP draft, Ms Stylianopoulou recalled that the draft was submitted to the European Commission following the Council of Ministers’ approval and that the public consultation for the revision of the final NECP continues until June 2024. She acknowledged that “we have a long way to go until the final NECP is completed and even longer to achieve climate neutrality by 2050” but considered that “low emission growth in the future” is possible with the right foundations in place.
The Executive Director of Terra Cypria, Ms Kyriaki Michail, described the issue of the climate crisis as “a matter of life and death” in her own address. She also stressed that “Cyprus, the Mediterranean, and the whole planet are now becoming impacted by the serious consequences of our footprint”. She added that Cyprus needs to find a way to achieve the “green transition in a timely manner and in a socially just way”, stressing that the cost of inaction “far exceeds” the cost of action.
The need to implement sustainable measures was also highlighted by the Environment Officer A’ of the Environment Department, Dr Nikoletta Kythraiotou, who spoke about the revised national target, inter alia. The said target projects a 32% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared to 2005, accruing from the EU’s Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR). Dr Kythraiotou also talked about the revised draft submitted to the European Commission in July 2023, which achieves only a 23% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030. Dr. Kythrayotou added, however, that the inclusion of other measures, which are still under examination, could fill the gap to achieve this target before the submission of the final NECP, in June 2024.
On his part, Mr Marios Theofilou, representing the Directorate General Growth, spoke about the economic cost of implementing the revised NECP by analysing the investment needs for the two scenarios therein included. These are the With Existing Measures scenario (WEM), the investment needs of which reach 17,6 billion (2.2 billion of which derive from public expenditure) and the With Additional Measures scenario (WAM), the investment needs of which reach 17.7 billion (with an additional public expenditure reaching 540 million). Public expenditure involves both European funds and part of the State Budget.
The role of energy and transport in the fight against the climate crisis
In addition, Mr. Alexandros Stylianides, representing the Energy Service of the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, and Industry, spoke about the key policies and measures to promote Renewable Energy Sources (RES), improving energy efficiency in buildings, the importance of the EuroAsia Interconnector and about the need for the modernisation of the electricity transmission system.
In her turn, Ms. Evie Anayiotou, Senior Executive Engineer of the Department of Public Works, spoke about the green transport transition in Cyprus. She noted, in particular, that the exceeding of the national target for the year 2021 by 200 thousand tonnes of CO2 eq. Stems, among others, from the non-implementation of effective policies and measures in the transport sector. Ms Anayiotou also stated that “there is no time” and that the implementation of measures needs “strong political will and a change of mindset”.
Establishing ambitious and credible targets
The presentations by governmental representatives were followed up by Theodoros Zachariades’ presentation, Professor at the Cyprus Institute. Mr. Zachariades, analysing Cyprus’ climate policies, spoke of a “lack of ambition”, which can be seen in the failure of the revised draft NECP to reach the 32% GHG reduction target. He also spoke of a “lack of implementation”, which refers to the failure to adopt some policies and the limited effectiveness they may have. He also notes that “it is not enough to look ambitious, but also to be credible”, adding that achieving a 32% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 albeit achievable, could come with a significant public and private cost.
At the same time, Mr Pierantonios Papazoglou, Head of Research and Strategy at the CERIDES Research Centre of Excellence, stressed the need for a multi-level revision of climate policies that will take into account “modern scientific trends and data”. He added that the disasters of the last decades, from fires to floods in Cyprus and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, are “closely linked to the intensifying climate crisis” resulting in a number of serious socio-economic impacts.
At the end of the event, all stakeholders called for active public involvement in the formulation of the final NECP. In the context of the climate crisis we are now facing, the only way for effective and timely action is for the relevant stakeholders and the wider public to join forces for a better future, free of GHG emissions.