By Poly Pantelides
TODAY marks World Environment Day and for Cyprus the day serves as a reminder of a considerable list of actions that need to be taken just as finances tighten. Environment commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou said she was focusing future actions on activities that would yield financial advantages alongside with environmental benefits.
“Although most countries include in their agendas ecological problems, the necessary funding for actions and interventions [in Cyprus] to protect the environment is expected to be minimal,” Panayiotou said during a news conference on Wednesday.
She said Cyprus needed to channel part of EU funding for the 2014-2020 period on environmental sectors.
She also said she would focus on waste management policies, which through recycling and proper waste processing, could be cheaper and environmentally friendlier, she said.
The government is looking to set up more waste processing plants to clean up landfills and avoid EU fines.
Action needs to be taken soon, because authorities are trying to avoid what could be a daily fine of €16,000 from the European Court of Justice, where Cyprus was referred to in June last year. More waste processing plants – an easy solution to avoiding the fines – may translate to rubbish collection fees to households of at least €300 a year, according to Panayiotou’s predecessor, Charalambos Theopemptou.
But setting up a better recycling and composting network in local communities could reduce waste by at least 50 per cent, taking away the need to set up as many costly waste management plants, Theopemptou has previously said.
Panayiotou said she had been meeting with stakeholders to push for an integrated waste management policy on a local level.
But in contrast to waste management policy and external threats of penalties, Panayiotou also has the chance to spearhead a more thoughtful policy on energy consumption.
Cyprus needs to comply with EU regulations that will eventually apply to all new buildings to bring their energy consumption to nearly zero by 2021.
This could generate jobs through the need to train and introduce specialists across the board, including contractors, engineers and property experts who will need to implement the EU directives, Panayiotou said.
Panayiotou has suggested implementing related schemes in industrial zones. “We believe the schemes should be connected with a simultaneous rent reduction, e.g. 10 per cent, as an incentive to businesses implementing such systems”. And the government needs to start upgrading its own buildings, with Panayiotou recommending upgrading 3.0 per cent of government buildings each year.
Meanwhile, a series of events is taking place tomorrow to raise awareness for a possible tram network in Nicosia, following a recent call for tenders for a feasibility study. Supported by central government, the events will feature a discussion in parliament on transport alternatives to cars, as well as a walk to the presidential palace to distribute material on trams with students due to hand over a letter to President Nicos Anastasiades or a government representative at about 10.30am.