Chairman of the Scientific Council, The Institute for Advanced Studies in Levantine Culture and Civilization
In the current context, a discussion on “Environment and Green Energy” might seem a less rewarding topic. Yet I am glad that the Department for Sustainable Development has offered me the opportunity to debate it during this conference of the BSEC countries on “The Intensification of Regional Cooperation for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven, once and for all, that whatever we might have considered of utmost importance, of direst urgency, can at any point be outclassed by another event. Before the advent of the virus, issues of environmental and climatic changes featured in the highest-level discussions throughout the world. The pandemic has driven these issues into the background, yet it has not nullified them outright. On the contrary, some states took rash decisions which only serve to weaken the consolidation of available resources put forth by international actors in their struggle against drastic environmental change. This change, though gradual, will in time irredeemably affect our quality of life.
The pandemic has also demonstrated – were we to have forgotten – that everything around us lies in a state of interdependence. Perhaps, in this grave context, we will prove unable to control climate change. Yet we have the resources to ensure that we cause no further harm to our environment, and to use that which it offers in order to become more efficient, more productive, and less prone to destructive action.
The exploitation of conventional energy sources – coal, oil and natural gas – is extremely useful in dramatically improving the economy of a country; yet it has a deeply negative impact on the environment in the circumstances of aggressive exploitation. On the other hand, drawing on sources of renewable energy – environmentally-friendly solutions that do not employ harmful extraction methods – can prove a viable solution to the economic and environmental problems we are faced with. Such an approach can serve to draw our focus away from the predatory exploitation of, for example, the newly-discovered natural gas reserves lying on the bottom of the Black Sea, and move us toward more sustainable energy and climate initiatives devised on the basis of scientific input such as the recent Blue Growth Strategy.
Moreover, renewable energy is a source of strength, through its very renewability. For instance, wind power is seen as one of the most sustainable energy sources, closely followed by hydroelectric, photovoltaic and geothermal energy. Beyond merely representing so many forms of renewable energy, they are also instances of “clean” energy, and ever more efficient in reducing the effects of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. To incorporate these resources into a workable system can lead to a significant expansion of available workplaces, an improvement in our standards of living and in the levels of community engagement, an increase in wages and the development of local communities, all important factors of potentially significant impact in the broader context of our efforts to implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. I would like to highlight here that the use of the afore-mentioned renewable resources is all the more important in the Black Sea Region, which is an area of immense energetic potential and in the context of the Blue Growth Strategy, which focuses, among others, on developing those sectors with a high degree of employability rate. And such sectors can be those employing the use of renewable energy resources.
Recently, the European Union has launched its “Green Deal”, an ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. This plan is made all the loftier in the context created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which shifted public attention towards the need to aid stricken actors and support their flailing economies. However, the European Union’s salutary critical effort remains praiseworthy, as an economic and political project drives its attention towards environmental concerns and seeks solutions that draw upon the entire community.
We are currently facing a health crisis, an economic crisis, an educational crisis and a labour crisis at the same time. All the while, our environment continues to deteriorate as a result of our society’s consumerist outlook. Moreover, while we avidly continue to consume, we fail to see the true potential of various renewable energy sources to improve our lives and help in the recovery of our economies severely afflicted by the current pandemic. We must more carefully manage the environment that shelters us and is the source of our well-being. We must become more efficient and proactive, and fashion policies that both protect and sustain it, in our attempts to capitalise as much as possible on the fruits of its natural labour.