Does Greece give priority to nature?

Minimal progress has been noted in the attainment of Greece’s National Biodiversity Strategy targets, according to a new report by the Green Tank.

To what extent has Greece responded to its biodiversity commitments? The new report titled «Priority to nature: As assessment of the implementation of Greece’s National Biodiversity Strategy” which was launched today by the environmental think tank, the Green Tank assess the implementation of Greece’s National Biodiversity Strategy from its approval in 2014 to 2020 as well as its first Action Plan.

The Green Tank analysis concludes that in none one of the 13 general or the 38 specific targets of the National Biodiversity Strategy has significant progress been noted. In fact, in 12 of the 39 targets progress has been minimal.

While Greece is no exception compared to other countries in relation to the inadequacy and ineffectiveness of measures to tackle biodiversity loss, the report concludes that it is imperative for the country to acquire a national biodiversity policy on a par with its natural richness.

In fact, the timing is right, as a new post 2020 biodiversity policy framework is emerging at the global level, while the European Green Deal, which was announced a year ago, set biodiversity conservation at the heart of the EU’s new development strategy.  

Greece, being one of the countries that strongly supported the European Green Deal must now act on its commitments. The conclusions and recommendations of the new Green Tank report can contribute in this direction.

The report sets out the following recommendations on the new five-year Biodiversity Action Plan that Greece must prepare in the coming months:

  • Provide for targeted measures to explore and respond to new threats to biodiversity, such as invasive alien species.
  • Try holistic approaches in biodiversity conservation, integrating, for example, landscape diversity conservation.
  • Give great emphasis to nature restoration. This will restore natural ecosystem services, such as flooding protection, will promote nature-based climate solutions, especially in relation to climate adaptation, and will highlight new opportunities for sectors of the economy, which, as of yet, have not been tested in such an approach.
  • Integrate biodiversity across all sectors, and especially across such sectors as spatial planning, tourism and the primary sector. Indicatively, setting measurable targets such as halving the use of chemical pesticides or increasing organic farming to cover 25% of all cultivated lands can speed up the transition of Greece’s agriculture to sustainable practices.
  • Direct in a binding way the planning of the 2021-2027 programming period, as well as the Recovery Fund, making use of the rare opportunity created by the coincidence that the drafting of the new Biodiversity Action Plan and the planning of the new co-funded programmes take place at the same time. In this way, in fact, Greece can achieve even earlier than planned (2024) the commitment to dedicate 7.5% of the annual EU budget to biodiversity, reaping the corresponding benefits early.
  • Encourage green diplomacy initiatives, aiming at biodiversity conservation, particularly in southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

At the same time, Greece must strengthen nature conservation by implementing existing commitments, such as the complete designation of the country’s protected areas. In fact Greece has the opportunity to promote its protected areas as models of sustainable development, including actions for the creation of a national nature brand (e.g. Nature Greece) which will grant added value to local products and offer new opportunities for the tourism sector.

For all above actions, the Ministry of Environment and Energy must take on a coordinating and supervisory role, by consolidating the collaboration among all ministries that share responsibility on biodiversity conservation and networking all engaged stakeholders.

«We must not dwell on the discouraging picture of the implementation of biodiversity conservation measures to date. We must stand by the hope that scientists give us, that if we proceed with drastic changes, nature can recover, and as a result, shield public health and provide solid foundations for the transition to a sustainable economy. By giving priority to nature, now, Greece can not only preserve its unique natural richness, but can also proceed with the transformation of its national economy on a sustainability basis,” noted Ioli Christopoulou, Policy Director of the Green Tank.

The report is a deliverable of the «Priority to nature» project which is implemented under the Active citizens fund in Greece by the Green Tank.

The Active citizens fund in Greece is supported through a € 12m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021. The program aims to develop the sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector in Greece, and to strengthen its role in promoting and safeguarding democratic procedures, active citizenship and human rights. The Fund Operator for the Active citizens fund in Greece is Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow.

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Notes to editors:

  1. Applying a tri-level scoring scale (significant progress, partial progress, minimal progress), the report assess implementation progress for each one of the actions foreseen in the country’s first Action Plan under each general or specific target of the National Biodiversity Strategy for the period 2014-2020.
  2. You can read the full report or its executive summary. The Annex with the detailed analysis is available in the Greek version.