Mediterranean Green Development Investors Forum
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Greece. I am happy to address such a distinguished audience with such strong interest in the opportunities for green growth and green investment in the Mediterranean that stand before us.
Those of you who have already moved ahead and are now business leaders in this sector will be the first to reap the benefits of green development in a region with a huge untapped potential like our region.
In our country where we have vast, untapped sources for alternative energy, we expect to attract either from European funds, or private funds or state funds, public investments, approximately € 45 billion for investments in green infrastructure from now until 2015.
This is a hopeful sign at a time of severe economic crisis, particularly for our country Greece. This is why we, our government for over a year now and before that as an opposition party, were convinced that our country’s development model should be a low carbon model. This is the mainstay of our government’s strategy aimed at revitalizing the economy and creating new jobs.
I believe that what came out from yesterday’s discussion, which I want to emphasize again today, is that the economic crisis should not be seen as an obstacle to combating climate change.
Here in Greece we believe that these two situations can be dealt with as a joint crisis with joint solutions and this can be achieved through development that needs however to be green development.
We have taken over our duties as a government one year ago. We had to face a truly huge problem, the prospect of our country’s bankruptcy. It was a real nightmare but within a year we succeeded in saving Greece right from the brink of disaster.
In addition to the short-term austerity measures that we had to take in order to be able to control deficits, we are now implementing structural changes so that our economy may become sustainable and competitive in the long run.
We know that our country’s old development model has reached its limits. Our country’s development, and this may well have been one of the problems of the crisis we faced, was not based on a competitive economy.
We believe that we cannot become a competitive economy by resorting to the classical methods of reducing a few salaries, but by investing in a different development model, a green development model, by giving value to our products, whether these are agricultural products or services, like tourism, or the electricity networks that connect development, our homes, our islands, our mountains.
We are developing economic incentive mechanisms and have already promoted fast track permitting procedures to speed up green investments and infrastructure projects. We have deregulated the energy market, a critical sector where public-private partnerships can play a pivotal role.
In 2009, investment in renewable energy projects in Greece represented only € 400 million. These investments are expected to triple already in 2011 reaching € 1.2 billion.
Fully aware that global problems, like climate change, are not confined within a country’s borders, Greece does not act alone. This is why we have supported this initiative that was signed by so many Mediterranean countries yesterday, in order to deal with and mitigate the problems of climate change in the Mediterranean.
We are of course promoting proposals also through the European Union and at international level, such as the carbon dioxide tax or if you like a tax on greenhouse gas emissions more generally that can become a source for financing green infrastructure and know how transfer to developing regions in the world. Moreover, they will provide incentives for more investments in green economy.
We are developing strategic and partnership relations with neighbouring countries for the interconnection of our energy networks both within the framework of the EU’s Mediterranean Solar Plan initiative and Desertec.
The Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative that we launched yesterday in Athens represents an important element of our own green Greek strategy. The leaders of this region made the commitment yesterday to accelerate our coordinated action and of course to attract investments through this effort and become the champions of green development.
The development of ecologically profitable economies is not simply an environmental requirement as Jeffrey Sachs said; it is also a matter of energy security, an issue that concerns our society, our way of life, our quality of life. It is also a strong impetus for world economy to come out of the recession.
Approximately 3 billion dollars have been invested in green support programs in 2008 -2009 worldwide. In our region we cannot afford to wait for the remaining world to move ahead and this is why we have decided to launch this initiative demonstrating our common political will for change and, as we said yesterday, in a region with strong confrontations, many political problems and conflicts, we managed yesterday to bridge these differences around a common purpose, this initiative on climate change in the Mediterranean.
I believe that this shows our determination, but will also motivate international investors, I think, to back green development projects in all the countries of the region.
Ladies and gentlemen, by showing a united political will for change, I do hope that the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative will motivate international investors to back green development projects across all partner countries.
The main purpose of today’s meeting is to start putting our ambitions, our vision into action. We are exploring innovative new funding mechanisms, in order to speed up implementation of technological innovations. We are turning green policies into measurable investments that will facilitate economic growth, job creation over the coming years.
The business community will be a crucial partner in this endeavour. A healthy return on investment is, I do believe, guaranteed. The Mediterranean region has unrivalled potential to become a major hub of renewable energy, for both domestic and neighbouring markets.
The potential for the creation of new businesses and jobs arising from eco-efficient cities, eco-efficient buildings, transport, industry, tourism – all these haven’t yet even been explored in depth. So there is great potential.
As well as taking advantage of these new opportunities, the private sector must also face up to its responsibilities in sustainable development. And I believe taking the lead will be appreciated, not only as a question of social responsibility, but I think even as those who are more and more sensitive consumers, more and more sensitive to the issues of climate change and environmental sensitivities.
One of the most important realisations of the twenty-first century must be that the environmental protection and economic growth can never again be seen as a zero-sum game, but can become a win-win game. Our goal is to balance a rapid transition to low-carbon growth, with quality investments that will yield the highest returns in the long term.
We want to ensure balanced regional development, stimulate new green industries, products and labour markets. Let me give you just a few examples of the many such initiatives we have launched in Greece in recent months. And as Professor Sachs has said, we need these partnerships so that we can bring in correctives, or incentives, if you like, in a market which doesn’t immediately, automatically, on simply market principles move into this area.
But this is why we create a policy framework in order to help with incentives and certainly lower the risk of investing in this area.
We have passed a new law to promote the development of wind parks on Greek islands. Greek islands have possibly the highest wind potential in Europe. Surplus energy will be fed into the national grid, making the islands energy-independent, but also creating a new revenue stream for remote regions. Green islands will also become huge tourist attractions.
Renewable energy companies that cover the cost of laying submarine cables connecting the islands to the mainland will benefit from up to 25% higher feed-in tariffs.
New rules on improved energy performance for all public buildings will provide a much needed boost to the construction industry. We have launched a EUR9.5 billion urban renewal programme for both Athens and Thessaloniki, which will focus on retrofitting public buildings to make them more energy efficient.
In line with our green development agenda, we are reorienting our agriculture towards our more traditional Mediterranean diet, which slowly has been overcome or has somewhat been diluted by the more fast food culture, bringing back the agricultural traditions, but in a way which is environmentally friendly and much more efficient concerning water resources and of course the quality.
Tourist industry, also linking this, again, with the Mediterranean diet and the green energy/clean energy islands, so that they all respect not only our natural capital but also our cultural heritage, which is part of our environment, if you like.
A cleaner, greener economy that provides economic growth and prosperity without causing environmental degradation is for all of us in our interests.
So I look forward to working with you, with all of you, to achieve this goal. And you can be sure that we not only have the political will but we are quickly moving and building up the capacity, and do want to become the leaders in this region, to make Greece truly a green growth economy, be out there in the forefront. And we want you to be with us, as we are moving in the forefront of this green economy, which is a certainty in the next years to come.
Thank you very much, and good luck.”