The transition to eco-friendly sustainable growth: How far has Cyprus come and the steps it needs to take moving forward.
Sustainable growth and eco-friendly growth (green growth) have been throughout history considered to be completely different concepts where one did not necessarily drive the other. In recent years, and after understanding the drastic effects of climate change and global warming on the long term growth of economies worldwide, more and more governments have started employing policies to reduce unsustainable fossil fuel based growth and promote more environmentally friendly growth.
In the past there have been countries which didn't take climate change as a serious threat, for instance, the USA was pulled out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. This was rectified in February 2021 when the new President reentered the USA into the agreement setting the country onto the right course in the fight against climate change, which has become a serious concern especially for developed nations around the world including most of the EU Member states.
The 2015 Paris Agreement is a prime example of not only western developed nations but instead most nations buying into the reduction of green-house gas emission and the investment in more environmentally friendly forms of energy and economic development. In fact, 197 countries initially signed the pairs agreement, including the European Union, and there are currently 189 nations worldwide adopting and honouring this agreement.
In its roots, this agreement has as its long term goal to promote and secure a low-carbon environment and come closer to achieving sustainable economic growth globally. To achieve this, the agreement has set aims to limit temperature increases worldwide to 2 degrees Celsius within the next century and significantly decrease the emission of greenhouse gasses.
As mentioned above though, western nations and in particular the EU and its Member States understand that there is much more to be done in terms of sustainable investment and environmentally friendly growth. That is why the European Union has introduced the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) for its member states in order to meet certain strict climate related goals until the year 2030. For example, the EU has as its target to have a combined reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 40% by the year 2030.
In general these NECPs cover aspects such as:
- Renewable energy production targets;
- Reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases;
- Energy efficiency;
- Innovation and Research and Development (R&D) for sustainable growth.
Particularly, each EU Member State has its own NECP tailored specifically to its own individual circumstances when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and their position in terms of renewable energy generation. On top of that, every member of the European Union is also forced to generate a progress report to show their progress of meeting the targets set by the EU in the NECP of each country.
As it is obvious, Cyprus is also entitled to an NECP and has the obligation and abide by it and progress towards certain targets that the EU and the Cypriot government have set for us. One of Cyprus's main environmental goals between the period 2021 and 2030 also stated within the NECP is the fact that the nation aims to up its share of production and consumption of renewable energy from 13.9% to 22.9%.
This comes after the island having already met its initial 2020 renewable energy target of 13% and in fact exceeding it. A great contribution to achieving this goal has come from the government's wind farm projects with the first one of them being a 170 million Euros project consisting of 41 wind turbines close to the city of Paphos and with an 82MW capacity.
Even though, this is a prime example of the island's steady and sustained transition to a more environmentally friendly and sustainable long term future, it must be noted that the target of 22.9% falls way behind the EU average target of 32% and this reflects that even though Cyprus has made great improvements in its journey towards sustainable growth it still lacks behind a lot of its counterparts within the European Union.
Moving forward though, there are several steps and actions Cyprus can take and will take according to its NECP that will bring the island much closer to its ultimate goal of sustained and environmentally friendly economic growth. In particular, the island estimates and aims to facilitate a total of 13.7 billion Euros of investments in sustainable production and is working towards ensuring a favourable environment and framework that will allow private organisations to invest these large sums of money.
More importantly, realising that sustainable growth is not only based upon environmentally friendly development, Cyprus has also committed to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out in 2015 by the United Nations.
The SDGs tackle aspects such as poverty, gender equality, income inequality, quality of education and many others including climate action. The island is in the great position to claim that it has already fully met a number of the 17 goals that were initially set out. Though, in no case has the nation reached perfection as there are several areas of concern where there is significant margin of improvement. These include the island's agriculture which only accounts for a very low share of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but also its high share of non-attainment in science, mathematics and reading.
All and all, Cyprus along with most countries worldwide have come a great way in securing a sustainable growth path with renewable energy currently being the fastest growing energy source worldwide. Reflecting this, is the fact that from 1980 to 2019 worldwide renewable, eco-friendly energy generation has increased by approximately 295% from 1781.05TW to 7,027.93TW.
Nevertheless, the exit of the United States from the Paris agreement, a country that accounted for 13.4% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide in 2017, clearly shows that there are still non-believers in the concept of climate change and its consequences. Therefore, there is still a lot to be done in Cyprus and worldwide to both help educate people in understanding the effects of climate change and what we can all do to slow it down. Finally, and considering the investments countries such as the United States make in areas such as the military and space exploration, there is also a lot to be done in terms of investment in R&D that can lead to renewable or energy efficient innovations that will facilitate sustainable growth even further.
Originally Published by A.G. Paphitis, March 2021
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