Search

 

Cablegate: Environmentalists Fight the Good Fight in Greece

VZCZCXRO1826
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHTH #1411/01 2830437
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 090437Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2607
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 001411

SIPDIS

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/ERA FOR BEH/NELSON, EUR/PGI FOR TESSLER,
OES/PCI FOR FITE/HUDAK, OES/EGC FOR FENDLEY

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/08/2018
TAGS: KGHG EAGR SENV ENRG TRGY GR
SUBJECT: ENVIRONMENTALISTS FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT IN GREECE
ON MARINE PROTECTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE

REF: A. ATHENS 01350
B. ATHENS 00851

Classified By: Ambassador Daniel Speckhard for Reasons 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) Summary: As part of the Embassy's initiative to
expand its dialogue on the environment, the Ambassador hosted
a September 23 lunch for Greek NGO environmentalists. A key
point raised included the challenges of protecting the
environment against big business interests, such as tourism
and shipping. The group discussed positive U.S.-Greek
efforts on disaster relief in fighting wildfires. Attendees
included: Christos Zerefos and Alcibiades Bais, who were
singled out for their contributions to the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the 2007 Nobel
Peace Prize with former Vice-President Al Gore. Other
attendees included representatives from Elliniki Etairia
(Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage) and
Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association(HELMEPA).
One invitee, who was unable to atend the luncheon, met
separately with EconOff and blamed internal Government of
Greece (GoG) politics for impeding progress on climate
change. End Summary.

Fighting the Big Fish
---------------------

2. (C) As part of outreach efforts to build cooperation with
NGO environmentalists, the Ambassador hosted a September 23
luncheon. Greek NGO participants shared their perspectives
on how hard it is to protect the environment in Greece,
particularly when they must compete with powerful business
interests who have the ear of the GoG. The head of HELMEPA
Dimitris Mitsatsos said that tourism operators frequently
lobbied the GoG on environmental issues. He further added
that Greek politicians, who in many cases had their own
conflicting tourism interests, pressured various NGOs,
including the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature
(HSPN), to reduce the number of environmental criteria for
beaches and marinas. This contributed to Greece being
aarded 430 blue flags, an award given to the mos
ecologically-friendly beaches. This places Greece at a
number 2 ranking on a list of forty nations and is in part
due to the lower criteria to get a blue flag.

Protecting the Little Fish
--------------------------

3. (C) Mitsatsos opined that the GoG faced domestic
political pressures which often superseded environmental
concerns. For example, Greenpeace reported that most fish
species in Greece are severely overfished, despite EU and
national regulations on minimum sizes and types of commercial
species. Mitsatsos added that he was impressed in a recent
visit to California where they imposed strict regulations for
businesses operating on the coastline. Zerefos suggested
that Greece with 15,400 km of coastline could learn from such
places and exchange information on how to respond to climate
changes to protect not only its marine environments, but torespond to natural disasters such as the fires that ravaged
both Greece and California.

U..-Greek Fire Cooperation
---------------------------

4. (C) Despite outside assistance and high-level attention
following last year's devastating wildfire season, the GoG
continues to face challenges in coordinating an effective
response to the wildfire situation. (Post will report in an
end-of-fire season septel). In response to queries by the
attendees at the lunch, the Ambassador highlighted the solid
bilateral cooperation on USG-funded traiing and exchanges
facilitated by USAID and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to
target the needs of the Greek participants. He added that
five Greek firefighters from the Hellenic Fire Service, in
turn, had recently traveled from Greece to assist California
in fighting its wildfires during the difficult fire season.


Internal Fisticuffs over Climate Change
---------------------------------------

5. (C) Movement by GoG on climate change is likely to remain
slow, according to the founder of the Center of Renewable
Energy Sources (CRES) Dimitris Lalas. He told EconOff in a
September 29 meeting that internal Greek politics were to
blame for Greece's censure in May by the EU for failing to
maintain a proper national system to record greenhouse gas

ATHENS 00001411 002 OF 002


emissions, key to compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. Lalas
explained that his contract to manage the national inventory
of emissions ended in April 2007. He blamed the GoG for
failing to appoint "five warm bodies" to take over the
national inventory. As a result, Greece was cited in breach
of its Kyoto Protocol requirements in April 2008. Lalas
stressed that party politics and bureaucracy were to blame
for a situation that could easily have been avoided.

6. (C) According to Lalas, Minister of Environment and
Public Works Giorgos Souflias was given the incorrect
information to release to the public by his Deputy Minister
Stavros Kalogiannis in an attempt to hide any wrong-doing by
the present party in power on climate change. Further, Lalas
believes that the wrong measurements were issued to shift
blame onto the previous party in power. In spite of the
current political scandals weakening the GoG, Lalas notes
that Souflias continues to hold a significant amount of power
in Karamanlis' Cabinet and remains one of his key advisors.

Comment
--------

7. (C) Although the GoG is slow to move on environmental
issues, it is aware that it needs to meet EU and Kyoto
Protocol obligations. We are seeing a GoG that is focused on
renewables with pending legislation to ease licensing
procedures and provide new financial incentives for
investors; however, given Greece's current political climate,
it is likely that concrete action on the environment will be
further delayed. Post will continue to engage with the GoG
and the NGO community as part of its ongoing efforts to
expand dialogue on environmental issues. End Comment.
SPECKHARD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC