Greece urged to step up environmental progress

OECD performance review paints mixed picture of green achievements, challenges

Greece's environment is in a generally good state, but it is lagging behind other EU countries in the pollution "intensity" of its industry and its capacity to enforce environmental rules, according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report suggests that Greece should increase the speed of environmental improvements to meet EU standards and to keep pace with economic growth.

Greece's major environmental challenge is to overcome a "lack of enforcement", according to the report, which is the first in the OECD's national "environmental performance review" series to focus on the country. It approves of plans to establish a national environmental inspectorate. The report says the country's use of environmental impact assessment (EIA) rules could set a useful precedent.

It also says that Greece must prepare to reduce its dependence on EU funds - which have mainly been used to upgrade environmental infrastructure - and shift toward a permanent, nationally-financed system of environmental management. Such a system should develop the use of polluter and user pays principles as well as economic instruments to internalise the environmental costs of water and energy. Analysis of the cost-effectiveness of different policies should also be prioritised.

The government should start regular environmental reporting, says the OECD, ranging from general "state of the environment" reports to tracking progress through indicators and pollutant release data. NGOs should be encouraged to participate in public environmental awareness raising.

Noticeable improvements in urban air quality should be built upon, according to the report, since the country still suffers from among Europe's highest per capita air pollution rates. In particular, sulphur dioxide levels need to be decoupled from GDP growth. Current air quality monitoring and emissions inventories are both deemed inadequate. On water and biodiversity protection, the OECD points to a need for national management strategies.

The report refers to Greece's poor track record on waste management only in passing. The country's failure to comply with two EU waste management directives led, in July, to it suffering the first ever daily fine imposed on a member state for non-compliance with EU legislation (ENDS Daily 4 July).

Follow Up:
OECD Environment, tel: +33 1 45 24 82 00. See also the Greece environmental performance review.

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