1. POLICY SETTING
- The Ministry of Environment & Energy is responsible for environmental policy, the preparation of plans and programmes, and overseeing their implementation. The Ministry is also in charge of the transposition of EU environmental Directives into national law. At the decentralised level, the regional and municipal authorities exercise, within their areas, certain environmental competences and assure the practical application of various environmental measures (e.g. water quality, waste management, impact assessment).
- In 2014 Greece (Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change) adopted its National Biodiversity Strategy, which refers to Green Infrastructure: “The concept of ‘natural green infrastructure’ [….] changes our perception of ecosystems, because it highlights the services they provide, which might be replaced by manmade means, but with greater financial cost compared to the cost of protecting ecosystems. Essentially, it is a network of natural agricultural, freshwater and marine areas, including national parks, forests and other areas, which, as a network, regulate the water cycle, have a role in temperature regulation, decrease the risks of flooding, improve air quality, etc.” The strategy highlights the need for a national system of incentives to promote and preserve ecosystems and the functions they provide, with a particular emphasis on the mapping and preservation of natural floodplains and “maintaining biodiversity islands within the urban fabric”.
- The National Operational Programme “Environment – Sustainable Development 2007 – 2013” included a specific section on the “Protection of natural environment and biodiversity”.
2. IMPLEMENTATION OF GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
While not directly implementing GI, the following projects and initiatives have the potential to support connectivity and help in the creation of green infrastructure in Greece:
- FOROPENFORESTS - Conservation of priority forests and forest openings in "Ethnikos Drymos Oitis” and “Oros Kallidromo” of Sterea Elladato (09/2012-11/2017) – The aim of this project is to implement a conservation management system for forests and forest openings by conservation, restoration activities (Total budget: EUR 1,750,840, EU contribution: EUR 1,309,840).
- LIFE-Stymfalia - Sustainable management and financing of wetland biodiversity – The case of Lake Stymfalia (10/2013 – 10/2017) – This project aims to establish a sustainable management and financing system for an important but degraded wetland ecosystem in order to improve the conservation status of target species and wetland habitats and to ensure a viable scheme that will, in the long term, finance all necessary management activities. Total Budget: EUR 2,013,290, EU contribution: EUR 1,006,646.
- The Prespa Park is the first transboundary protected area in the Balkans, established through a joint declaration by the Prime Ministers of Greece, Albania and FYROM, following a proposal from the Society for the Protection of Prespa and WWF. In February 2017, the Greek parliament ratified the international ‘Agreement for the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park Area’ by an overwhelming majority. The agreement was originally signed on 2nd February 2010 by the Ministers of Environment of the three littoral countries and the EU Commissioner for the Environment, but Greece did not ratify it for the seven years that ensued. Nonetheless, it has now done so and the agreement can enter into force and be implemented (WWF, 2017).
- SKYROSBIODIVERSITY - Demonstration of the Biodiversity Action Planning approach, to benefit local biodiversity on an Aegean island, Skyros (09/2010 – 09/2016). The objective of this LIFE+ Biodiversity project is to establish integrated planning methods and management capable of enhancing biodiversity whilst remaining compatible with sustainable economic and social development. The actions will be based on the development of a Biodiversity Action Plan focusing on important habitats and species. The project also aims to demonstrate the compatibility of tourism and biodiversity conservation. Total budget: EUR 1,437,655; EU contribution: EUR 704,527.
- Ioannina and Pavlos Melas participate in the Horizon 2020 project COproductioN with NaturE for City Transitioning, INnovation and Governance (CONNECTING) which aims to co-develop the policy and practices necessary to scale up urban resilience, innovation and governance via nature-based solutions. An open innovation ecosystem approach bringing together city governments, SMEs, academia and civic society will be used to co-produce usable and actionable knowledge in all cities.
- The EU Natura 2000 network is at the core of the EU's Green Infrastructure. 27.9% of the national land area of Greece is covered by Natura 2000 sites (EU average 18.1%), with Birds Directive SPAs covering 20.94% (EU average 12.3%) and Habitats Directive SCIs covering 16.21% (EU average 13.8%). Greece has so far designated 419 Natura 2000 sites, including 241 SCIs under the Habitats Directive and 202 SPAs under the Birds Directive (European Commission, 2017)
3. MAINSTREAMING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
- The project LIFE AgroClimaWater (09/2015 – 08/2020) is designed to develop a climate change adaptation strategy for agriculture and prepare the agricultural sector for adapting to climate change by introducing water management adaptation strategies (WMAS) in selected farmers’ organisations. The project puts into practice the four principles of the EWS standard of the European Water Partnership (EWP): Sustainable Water Abstraction, Good Water Status, High Conservation Value Area protection and Equitable Water Governance. Though GI is not explicitly mentioned, there could be opportunities for promoting GI in this context. Total budget: EUR 2,423,223.
- There is a lack of urban green spaces in Greece. According to recommendations from the World Health Organisation, the ideal ratio of green spaces is 9 m2 per inhabitant. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has calculated Athens’ total green space at 0.96 m2 per resident, while the Aristotelian University rates Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, only slightly better with 2.14 m2 per city inhabitant (WWF, n.d.).
Disaster risk reduction
- Management and prevention of floods is an area where potentially more economical nature-based solutions could improve resource efficiency through reducing costs and delivering multiple benefits (EC, 2017). Over the last decade Greece has claimed damages to the EU Solidarity Fund for one major and three regional floods, which caused damages of over EUR 3 billion. The total EU aid granted amounts to EUR 112.7 million. The absence of flood risk and flood hazard maps in Greece is the subject of an infringement procedure initiated in 2015 (EC, 2017).
Marine and coastal policy
- In Greece, coastal and marine areas are subject to many problems because of the high concentration of human activities and land use types (which are often incompatible with the natural landscape), the lack of political will and lack of comprehensive planning for the preservation and management of these areas, the deficiency of control mechanisms and the lack of coordination of the relevant authorities (National Biodiversity and Action Plan, 2014). Main issues include: inadequate planning; loss and degradation of natural habitats; pollution; overexploitation of natural resources (particularly fisheries); coastal erosion; invasive alien species (National Biodiversity and Action Plan, 2014).
- Since the launch of the LIFE programme by the European Commission in 1992, a total of 228 projects have been co-financed in Greece. Of these, 149 focus on environmental innovation, 66 on nature conservation and nine on information and communication. Some have directly focused on restoration efforts (see examples above). The total investment of projects funded through LIFE amounts to EUR 305 million, of which the EU's contribution is EUR 162 million (LIFE, 2017). It is not clear if any part of the budget is directly dedicated to green infrastructure.
- A major obstacle to the effective protection and management of Natura 2000 sites as a whole is the lack of a national system for the comprehensive administration and functioning of protected areas (including strategy, structure, management schemes, responsibilities, financing, enforcement, monitoring). The lack of awareness (among authorities, stakeholders, public) about Natura 2000 and its benefits, coupled with a lack of incentives for investments promoting those benefits, as well as the poor capacity to support sustainable land management and integration with other policies and to enforce legal provisions, are also acknowledged as major obstacles to achieving the objectives of the Nature Directives (EC, 2017).
- So far there has been limited implementation of Art. 10 of the EU Habitats Directive. There are references to relevant actions in the Biodiversity Strategy as well as the national Climate Adaptation Strategy, but they have not been implemented (Interview WWF Greece, May 2017).
- The project "Mapping and Assessment of the Ecosystems and their Services in Greece: Towards a Natural Capital Accounting" was approved in 2014 (still under development, with Professor Panayotis Dimopoulos leading the process) to apply MAES methodologies at national scale in selected ecoystems (e.g. forest, freshwater, agro-ecosystems).
4. FINANCING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
5. CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR GI DEVELOPMENT
5.1 Best practice/points of excellence
6. KNOWLEDGE BASE
7. LIST OF CONSULTED REFERENCES
Convention on Biological Diversity 5th National Report of Greece (2016). https://www.cbd.int/reports/nr5/
European Commission (2013). Green Infrastructure (GI) – Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital. COM(2013) 249 final.
European Commission (2017). The EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Report – GREECE. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_el_en.pdf
LIFE (Last updated: 19/04/2017) http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/countries/greece.html
LIFE Project Database (n.d.)."FOROPENFORESTS - Conservation of priority forests and forest openings in "Ethnikos Drymos Oitis” and “Oros Kallidromo” of Sterea Elladato" Accessed 28.11.2016: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=4304
LIFE Project Database (n.d.)."LIFE-Stymfalia - Sustainable management and financing of wetland biodiversity – The case of Lake Stymfalia" Accessed 28.11.2016: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=4719
LIFE Project Database (n.d.)." SKYROSBIODIVERSITY - Demonstration of the Biodiversity Action Planning approach, to benefit local biodiversity on an Aegean island, Skyros." Accessed 28.11.2016: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.dspPage&n_proj_id=3810
National Biodiversity Strategy & Action Plan (2014). https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/gr/gr-nbsap-01-en.pdf
WWF (n.d.). GreenSpaces mobile app. Accessed 21.04.2017: https://translate.google.be/translate?hl=en&sl=el&u=http://greenspaces.gr/&prev=search
WWF (2017). ‘14th February 2017: A historic day for transboundary Prespa’. Available at: http://www.wwf.gr/en/news/1932-14th-february-2017-a-historic-day-for-transboundary-prespa