Cyprus is expected to miss its EU 2020 and 2030 environmental targets by large margins, a damning country report of the EU environmental implementation review for 2019 showed on Tuesday.
High levels of municipal waste and increasing rates of landfilling in conjunction with slow implementation of EU environmental policies remain a source of concern, the report said, adding that as was the case with the review conducted in 2017, “there is currently no overarching policy framework for the circular economy in Cyprus.”
With the EU 2020 municipal waste recycling target of 50 per cent looming, the report showed despite a steady decrease in landfilling in 2009-2014, the rate increased again in 2016, with Cyprus now sending 76 per cent of its municipal waste to landfills. The EU average is only 24 per cent.
Just 16 per cent of Cyprus municipal waste is recycled, well below the EU average of 46 per cent.
Municipal waste generation in Cyprus is also significantly higher than the 2017 EU average (637 vs around 487 kg/y/inhabitant).
Though the report states that there has been some progress on waste management, as the strategic framework for waste is now in place and the national waste management plans for all waste streams have been adopted, it said that “Cyprus needs to make significant efforts to establish an adequate network of facilities that would effectively manage all of its waste in line with the waste hierarchy if it is to reach the 2020 targets and even higher recycling targets.”
The report highlighted that despite Cyprus’ 2015 municipal solid waste management plan, which prioritises separate collection of waste and introduces economic deterrents such as a landfill tax, and pay-as-you-throw schemes, “the implementation has been quite slow.”
Further difficulties arise in implementing the relevant EU waste policies and in meeting its 2020 targets. The reasons for this, according to the report, is a lack of infrastructure and systems for collecting recyclables and for diverting biodegradable waste from landfills, and a lack of coordination between different administrative levels and lack of capacity at local level.
Regarding emissions, the report asserted that “Cyprus has projected that it may miss its targets for 2020 and 2030, by large margins.”
For 2020, Cyprus’ national target under the EU Effort Sharing Decision is to reduce emissions by 5 per cent compared to 2005, and by 24 per cent compared to 2005 by 2030.
“With existing measures Cyprus projects to miss its 2030 target by 47 pp,” the report said, noting that with additional measures, “the gap may be reduced to 17 pp.”
A main source of concern are transport emissions, the report said, as they continue to increase despite being the main cause of air pollution in cities. In Cyprus, transport emissions increased by 8 per cent from 2013 to 2016.
According to the report, Cyprus adopted a new National Adaptation Strategy in 2017, which identified that the sectors most vulnerable to climate change are water, agriculture, soil resources, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry, biodiversity, public health, tourism, coastal zones, energy and infrastructure.
Air quality, and Cyprus’ ability to ensure citizens’ health and quality of life, is also a source of concern.
While the report acknowledged a reduction in emissions between 1990-2016, as seen by the 3.66 per cent reduction of sulphur oxides (SOx) and the 15.68 per cent reduction of nitrogen oxides (NOx), emissions of volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) nevertheless increased by 5.83 per cent between 2014 and 2016, emissions of ammonia (NH3) increased by 4.72 per cent and emissions of fine particulate matter PM2.5 increased by 14.78 per cent during this period.
According to the European Environment Agency, it is estimated that for 2015, some 750 premature deaths were attributable to air pollution, the report said.
Another source of concern is Cyprus’ ineffective protection and conservation of its natural capital.
“The effective protection of Natura 2000 areas – especially coastal zone – from incompatible activities or developments that fragment or degrade them, remains a concern,” the report stressed.
It added that “management plans for these areas must be completed and properly implemented and all necessary environmental assessments carried out correctly before potentially damaging plans or projects can be approved. The necessary mitigation measures should be properly applied.”