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The EU’s Green New Deal after the COVID-19 Pandemic: Concerns and Revelations
The Center for Research on Democracy and Law of the University of Macedonia (Greece) and Heinrich Böll Stiftung Greece are co-organizing a conference titled "The EU’s Green New Deal after the COVID-19 Pandemic: Concerns and Revelations" on Thursday, 26 June 2021, 17.00 (Greek date/time), within the framework of the Conference for the Future of Europe.
The conference aims at addressing issues relevant to the EU Green New Deal from a multidisciplinary perspective, including the implementation of the Dear after the COVID-10 pandemic at the national and supranational levels. Speakers include academics, representatives from civil society organizations, and elected officials at the local level.
Event report1. Introduction The Center for Research on Democracy and Law (CEDLAW) of the Department of International and European Studies of the University of Macedonia in Greece and Heinrich Böll Stiftung Greece (HBSG) co-organized an online (ZOOM online platform) conference titled “The EU’s Green New Deal after the COVID-19 Pandemic: Concerns and Revelations” on Thursday, 24 June 2021, 17.00 (Greek time), within the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe (https://futureu.europa.eu/processes/GreenDeal/f/2/meetings/19108). The language of the conference was English and attendance was free following registration (certificates of attendance were provided). The conference aimed at addressing issues relevant to the EU Green New Deal from a multidisciplinary perspective, including the implementation of the Deal after the COVID-19 pandemic at the national and supranational levels. The conference was coordinated by the Director of CEDLAW, Associate Professor Ioannis Papadopoulos, with the Director of HBSG, Mr. Michalis Goudis, contributing opening remarks. The speakers were Professor Emmanouella Doussis (University of Athens), who spoke on “The climate crisis and the European Green Deal after the COVID-19 pandemic: prospects and challenges,” Dr. Miltiadis Lazoglou (Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage in Greece; ELLINIKI ETAIRIA) on “Climate change: Developing adaptation guidelines for the Greek landscape and cultural heritage,” and Mr Yiannis Anastasakis, MSc Civil Engineer (Deputy Mayor in the Municipality of Heraklion Greece) on “The Strategy of Municipality of Heraklion towards energy transition to low-carbon economy.” Following a Question-and-Answer session, the conference concluded with remarks by Assoc. Prof. Papadopoulos and Mr. Goudis. 2. Brief overview of contributions Ioannis Papadopoulos, Associate Professor of International and European Studies at the University of Macedonia in Greece and Director of CEDLAW, welcomed the attendees, introduced the conference’s co-organizers and highlighted that the conference focuses on the European Union’s (EU) Green New Deal after the COVID-19 pandemic considering that in many policies and, mainly on green policies, a quantum leap would be desirable. The vulnerability of humanity has been revealed by the pandemic and the large-scale environmental hazards that have occurred. This is the time to start talking about what will ensue the pandemic and especially the green policies in the EU. He also emphasized that the conference is a part of the Conference on the Future of Europe and, actually, is one of the very first events in Greece that is associated with a conference on the Future of Europe, noting its highly multidisciplinary nature, including both academics but also experts (thus differentiating from a strictly academic conference). After all, the green transition is not restricted to the environment, but rather covers all policy sectors and it cannot but be at the same time a combination of sustainable economic growth and social inclusiveness. Michalis Goudis, Director of HBSG, welcomed the attendees, introduced HBSG, its main agenda and affiliations. He argued that the local level is particularly important concerning the EU Green Deal, considering that it is not just one Deal, but a set of different deals, and local realities and different characteristics and challenges that regions face have to be taken into consideration, such as local traditions or demographic/infrastructure challenges. The transition is Green only by being truly social, fair, inclusive, and a practical expression of respect for both the environment and people’s concerns. With this conference, HBSG wanted to show through bringing together representatives from academia, local initiatives, civil society and local administration that the key challenge under the Future of Europe framework is to reach people’s concerns. It is essential to manage the recovery and resilience plan, and the funding under the Green Deal, the EU’s budget, etc., in a coherent way. The priority should be to look beyond the typical hardcore financial indicators through to the social and environmental impact indicators as key components of the projects that will materialize under the Green Deal. Emmanuella Doussis, Professor of International Institutions at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, UNESCO Chairholder on Climate Diplomacy, and Director of the Institute of European Integration and Policy, began with some preliminary remarks in relation to the climate crisis. Climate change is global and its management requires the cooperation of states with very different and often contradicting interests, priorities, capacities, levels of development, and greenhouse gas emissions profiles. In addition, countries most responsible are not the ones most adversely affected. States have very different views as to what constitutes a fair outcome. The protection against climate change is essentially a public good, and the most difficult challenge when it comes to public goods is how to ensure the participation of everyone in the effort, especially of those who are most responsible for causing the problem. International coordination is essential. 2021 opens a window of opportunity to a better deal on the climate crisis and to making progress towards the implementation of the Paris agreement. Hope lies on a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and on making climate action an integral part of COVID-19 relief plans. State authorities have never been in a stronger position to boost the sustainable agenda as industry, business and individuals claim of state aid. So new relationships can be forged with the private sector, introducing conditions that encourage businesses to decarbonise. Global warming should not be seen as a lower priority issue of the pandemic, but as the other side of the same coin. The European Green Deal connotes the EU’s leading efforts to promote its very ambitious plans and despite the disruption caused to the global economy by the coronavirus pandemic, achieving the goal of climate neutrality remains a priority. This Deal has several readings, an environmental (protecting the climate and setting as a priority to make Europe a climate-neutral continent by 2050), an economic and social connotation (aiming to create a sustainable economic model strengthening Europe’s energy economy), and an international (persuading other countries to create a large coalition for the transition to climate neutrality). Miltiadis Lazoglou, PhD, Urban & Regional Planner and Environmental Policy Coordinator of ELLINIKI ETAIRIA - Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage in Greece, began by highlighting the projects that ELLINIKI ETAIRIA has taken in order to preserve environmental and cultural heritage, not only within Greece but outside it, such as in Venice or Cappadocia, as well as to educate in relation to all the above. In the main part of his presentation, Dr. Lazoglou expanded on the participation of ELLINIKI ETAIRIA in the 8-year, EU-funded (14.2 million euro as budget) LIFE-IP AdaptinGR program (Boosting the Implementation of Adaptation Policy Across Greece), which aims at catalyzing the Greek national and regional adaptation plans through outreach actions at the national, regional and local levels. ELLINIKI ETAIRIA, as a partner to the project, undertakes educational actions and actions to raise public awareness in relation to adaptation to climate change, and conducts polls, etc. Yiannis Anastasakis, Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Heraklion in Greece and civil engineer, began his presentation by highlighting the need for a green recovery and the need for the prevention of a possibly more severe crisis, that of climate change. The EU policies have been often perceived by the general public as irrelevant but the recovery plan presents a new opportunity. On the local level, the municipality of Heraklion has been experiencing climate change, environmental degradation as well as increasing pressure from tourism and development. As a response, the municipality has set a specific, holistic strategy for a transition to low-carbon economy, reducing emissions by at least 31% by the year 2030. The key aspects of the strategy include, among others, the reduction of environmental stress through infrastructure, integration of renewable energy sources, improved energy efficiency and awareness-raising actions for the general public. Securing funding for those projects has not presented a problem so far. Additionally, Deputy Mayor Anastasakis presented current progress and future plans for other relevant sectors, such as buildings, public transportation, urban infrastructures, energy communities, funding programs, and awareness-raising. There has already been notable success, for example in the area of public transportation through the purchase of electric buses under EU funding, which provide free transportation during certain hours of the day. This has changed the microclimate of the city center and has allowed for the creation of pedestrian routes in avenues that used be full of car traffic. He also noted that climate policies require long roadmaps and thus are a difficult choice politically, as there are not always immediate benefits that the public can observe. However, after consultations with many stakeholders, a 10-year strategic plan was signed, which will remain in place even if the local authorities change. 3. Q&A, Discussion Evangelos Astyrakakis, Coordinator of the Democracy Programme - Gender Focal Point of HBSG, asked on the role of biodiversity, and if it could be used as a tool on meeting the goal of climate neutrality within a climate law. Professor Doussis responded that climate laws can certainly be a tool to connect biodiversity issues and climate change, and that she hopes that the law that is being drafted will include these issues. He also asked Deputy Mayor Anastasakis about the main challenges in applying theGreen transition on the local level. The main challenge was the lack of vision from the Municipality, which was partly caused by a lack of knowledge. Another significant challenge was the lack of time to implement the long-term plans. Director Goudis also asked Deputy Mayor Anastasakis about the challenge that tourism presented to the plans, the need for economic growth as a competitor to climate adaptation, and the collaboration to this end with the regional authority and the relevant Ministries. The Deputy Mayor responded that there was a strategy devised 8 years ago, to make Heraklion a city break destination. However, it got blocked due to bureaucratic challenges. The cooperation with the regional authorities is good; however, the cooperation with the central government has ups and downs. Another challenge is the outdated urban development design. Director Goudis also asked about the long-term commitment on the national climate law and whether local administration can play a key role for the law to be effective. Prof. Doussis answered that the legislation is a step towards the long-term perspective, and despite the existence of an EU climate law, a national law is still necessary in order to manage the transition towards climate neutrality; indicators on legal implementation are needed as well. Associate Professor Ioannis Papadopoulos posed a question to Dr. Lazoglou on the terms of “insularity” and “bearing capacity” and whether there should be a legal recognition of them at national and regional level. He also pointed out to citizen deliberation, and asked whether there should be a structured debate that would lead people to comprehend the issues in a long-term perspective. Dr. Lazoglou highlighted the campaigns and studies of ELLINIKI ETAIRIA in certain Greek islands and the current efforts to design measures that should be followed. He also talked about the need to persuade local authorities that new investments should be focused on local and traditional activities. New urban plans will be created and insularity must be included in these plans. The authorities in Greece are not keen on deliberation and long-term plans; however, there are more initiatives on deliberation both in Athens and in local societies throughout Greece nowadays. Finally, a question was asked related to the transition to clean energy and if it is by itself a sufficient long-term solution or if there should be stricter regulation in energy consumption. Professor Doussis brought up individual responsibility, since changing the system is not sufficient by itself if the way of living and consuming remains the same. Therefore, the overall energy consumption should be regulated more strictly. The conference closed with concluding remarks by Associate Professor Ioannis Papadopoulos and Director Michalis Goudis on the key issues brought up by the speakers.
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