Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country is pushing the green transformation of its economy to become a world leader in decarbonizing the shipping industry.
Mr Mitsotakis, who became prime minister in July 2019 after a landslide election victory that made him head the country’s first majority government in more than a decade, said Greece is focusing on sectors where it believes it is a leader in the global climate can agenda.
“Greece controls 25 percent of the world’s merchant shipping. You should be at the forefront of decarbonising shipping, ”he said in a seminar hosted by the President of the UK Industry Association, Lord Karan Bilimoria, during the CBI’s annual conference.
“It’s not clear how this will happen, but we want to make sure we leaders aren’t laggards.”
Greece is one of a number of major shipping nations that received a proposal from the International Chamber of Shipping for a research and development fund of 5 billion this week.
The fund is paid entirely by industry, with no real cost to governments or taxpayers.
As Greece recovers from its second economic crisis in 20 years, the prime minister said the country is focused on creating green and digital jobs, strong economic growth, sustainable tourism and tax reforms.
Mr Mitsotakis praised the UK approach at the recent Cop26 Environment Summit in Glasgow and the conclusions of the event.
“Cop26 was an important step in the right direction. Obviously we would have liked some countries to be more ambitious, but I fully understand the complexity of negotiating with so many stakeholders, ”he said.
Mitsotakis said while much of the focus at Cop26 is on coal and more than 40 countries have agreed to phase out coal, Greece made the decision two years ago to move away from the non-renewable energy source.
“We were and still are in part very dependent on lignite, the dirtiest form of coal,” he said, adding that all old lignite-fired power plants would be shut down by 2023.
Lignite, often also referred to as lignite, is a combustible, sedimentary brown soft rock formed from naturally compressed peat and is considered the lowest coal because its high moisture content and lower carbon content lead to more carbon dioxide emissions than harder bituminous coals.
“We’ll keep one [lignite plant] active, by 2028 at the latest, and will then use natural gas as a transition fuel and of course aggressively switch to renewable energies, ”he said.
The Greek head of state said the country has been blessed with wind and sun and has “plenty of room for progress when it comes to the penetration of renewable energies”.
“We are involved in offshore wind, a subject that the UK has done well on and we are very careful about the UK regulatory framework, but also to potentially attract companies that have been active in the UK to build our offshore facilities to develop wind potential, ”he added.
Another area of focus in which Mr. Mitsotakis wants to take global leadership is the decarbonization of the country’s small islands.
The government has started some pilot projects on two islands “to really show that this is possible with relatively little investment”.
On the island of Astypalea, for example, Greece has partnered with Volkswagen on a six-year project to convert all transport systems to electric vehicles and renewable electricity generation as an example of climate-neutral mobility.
The approximately 100 square kilometer island in the southern Aegean with around 1,300 inhabitants will become a CO2-free tourist destination for 72,000 visitors annually.
The project, which started in the summer, will replace the 1,500 cars on the island with electric cars, install several charging points and introduce carpooling.
A hybrid energy system will also replace aging fossil fuel-based generators to cut energy costs by 25 percent and reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent in the first phase of the project.
“When it comes to changing our tourism products, in my opinion there is only one way to go towards sustainability. So we will be ruthless to make sure we protect our main tourist destinations and make sure that we steer all new investments in tourism towards sustainable tourism, ”Mitsotakis said.
Other green initiatives include an aggressive plastic strategy to clean up the sea around the Greek islands and 25 percent of the $ 32 billion.
“For example, we have a very aggressive program to renovate our buildings. These are great programs because they create lots of jobs, support local businesses, reduce carbon footprint, but also reduce household energy bills, ”said Mitsotakis.
He added that the rising natural gas prices Europe has faced in recent months should spur all countries towards renewable energy.
“If anything, we need to duplicate all of these initiatives and make a swift transition to renewables. They are by far the cheapest form of energy, “he said.
“And of course, any program that reduces household energy consumption is a clear winner in my opinion. And there is a lot of European money to support these programs and make them economically attractive. “
Mitsotakis said that Greece received a record investment inflow into the country in 2021 after “following the basic game book on how to attract foreign investors to a country”.
Strategies to achieve this include “significant tax cuts” to improve the business environment, simplify company admissions procedures and reorganize the labor market that has led to “the sharpest drop in unemployment during Covid of any European country”.
“My goal is very simple,” he said, adding that he wanted to use the term “leveling” which is “very popular in the UK” as the country tries to ensure that it is “no longer the latecomer of Europe” is.
“If anything, I think we’ve proven that we can be quite innovative about our policies. So the message I want to send is that the Greece of 2021 has no comparison to the last decade. “
Given that Greece and the UK have a strong economic partnership with a long history of cooperation, as well as strong educational and cultural ties, Mr Mitsotakis wants to expand those relationships by encouraging not only the UK to invest in the country but also by attracting more tourists to visit and attract British people to live, work and retire in the country.
“Greece is becoming more diverse in terms of economy and business,” he added.
Updated: November 24, 2021, 3:00 a.m.