Cyprus & environment – Score: 1-0.

June 20, 2023
Orestis Matsas, an environmental activist from Cyprus talks about the European Green Deal and its enforcement in his country.

The European Green Deal sets ambitious but feasible goals. Cyprus scores low in the effort to implement these goals. There are a few best-case practices in Cyprus like “Pay as you throw” and “Green Points” but this is not enough. Waste management should be high on the agenda as Cyprus is flooded with garbage. More green areas are needed inside the urban structure. Active citizens take initiatives like planting trees. Young people should demand from authorities certain measures to protect the environment. These are some of the focal points of our interview with Orestis Matsas, a local activist and member of the “Cyprus Greens-Citizens Cooperation”. You can read more about his role here.
Read more below and find out how Cyprus is dealing with the greatest challenge of our century, climate change, and how it responds to the European call for action, thus the European Green Deal.

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Cyprus natural beauties: 1. Akamas region, 2. Athalassa National Park

What is the importance of the European Green Deal in your opinion and more specifically about European Union countries and Cyprus?

The European Union recognises that the planet faces a climate crisis in the last years. Through laws and acts, it tries to put limits, or better to streamline people’s activities. It is a political vision of the European Union, of how European citizens should live and act in the next years.

How ambitious or feasible are the goals of the European Green Deal?

We should say that indeed the goals are very ambitious. The reduction of greenhouse emissions is one of the main goals. The reduction of almost 100% by 2050 and 55% by 2030 is a goal that affects several activities. Surely the goal is ambitious but it is feasible as well given the constant development and progress in technology and information.

“Garbage has intruded to such an extent into the ecosystem of Cyprus that I do not know if it is irreversible or not. If it doesn’t biodegrade, I cannot imagine how the state will manage to collect it.”

What is the position of Cyprus concerning these goals right now?

Cyprus has shown very slow progress (regarding the EGD goals). Actually, Cyprus has reduced goals in comparison to other member states. Every time a goal is set, for example, the reduction of greenhouse emissions, Cyprus has reduced goals, as it is a remote EU member state. It does not have, for example, energy interconnections with other member states. Nevertheless, even if Cyprus has reduced goals, it remains in the bottom index position. Some EU countries have already shown concerns about the environment, so they have already reached a very satisfactory level. A characteristic example is the northern and central European countries, which have higher percentages in the use of renewable energy sources in comparison with southern European countries that have the advantage of sunlight. They show us the way and confirm that the goals are ambitious but can be implemented. 

What is the number one environmental problem in Cyprus?

I believe that the most important problem is waste management. There is no sorting at the source. There is no adequate network for sorting waste. There is not enough infrastructure for recycling and processing purposes. Garbage has intruded to such an extent into the ecosystem of Cyprus that I do not know if it is irreversible or not. If it doesn’t biodegrade, I cannot imagine how the state will manage to collect it. The truth is that currently some steps have been taken just before the sanctions by the EC. Some regulation has been put into place aiming at better waste management. Illegal landfills existed for up to 2 years before. There were three main landfills mainly managed by the state. The European Commission said to us that this is not right, actually, it is illegal. You have to close them down or else you will pay penalties. I think Cyprus received a couple of penalties until landfills were closed. Some facilities for solid waste management have already been constructed (I.S.W.M.F). Unfortunately, they do not work as they should.

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1. Dumping ground in Cyprus – Philnews

“According to recent evidence, Cyprus has around 700 premature deaths due to bad air. This proves that in our cities we do not breathe the air we deserve!”

Are there some best-case practices and good examples that have already been in place in Cyprus?

Yes, there are some. Now, we have proceeded to a new model, named “Pay as you throw”. In Cyprus, only the municipality of Aglantzia implements this system. From 2024, together with the reform of the local authority, it will become compulsory. The local authority will demand to buy pre-paid bags for your organic waste. The pre-paid bags will cost more than the plain bags and only these will be collected. Thus, to minimise the use of these bags, you will recycle more. Also, we have these new “Green Points”, where several materials that cannot be thrown at your bin, are sorted and collected, such as electric appliances, old furniture, that kind of stuff. Green Points are very few, around 15. In my opinion, to cover the needs of all territory of free Cyprus, they must be 40. In the civil society of Cyprus, there are a lot of initiatives and this is positive and promising. There are groups who plant trees massively. One of the main aims of the European Union for 2050 is to plant 3 billion trees. Cyprus state had set in 2019 the goal of planting 2 million trees by 2050.

pay as you throw
PRASINA SIMEIA

                      1. The “Pay as you throw” campaign, 2. The Green Points campaign

What should an active “green” citizen demand from the central and local authorities in Cyprus?

What a citizen should ask from the state of Cyprus is to realise where the European Union moves, politically, socially, and environmentally. We will spend millions to build infrastructure for the import and export of natural gas. Not only will the transition to renewable energy sources not be accelerated but it will delay even more, and it will be blocked. Since we already know that in 2050 we won’t use fossil fuels, it is an oxymoron, it is absurd to invest today millions to import and export fossil fuels. Something else that a citizen could ask from the state is to give emphasis on the green areas inside the urban areas, the big cities which simply do not exist, they are very few. They are not valued and also get destroyed. According to recent evidence, Cyprus has around 700 premature deaths due to bad air. This proves that in our cities we do not breathe the air we deserve!

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Citizens collecting garbage in Cyprus

Our project Green Artivism

At Future Needs, we run projects that relate to environmental issues and thus aim to tackle some aspects connected to the main problem, climate change. One of these projects is Green Artivism, an Erasmus plus European project, that promotes the use of art tools when protesting against climate change. You can read more about this project on our website

Also, check!

You can also read more about Cyprus and the environmental issues, some best-case practices, and find more information on the European Green Deal in the following links:

The European Green Deal in Cyprus

From the Press

The Green party, “Cyprus Greens-Citizens Cooperation” 

https://cyprusgreens.org/

NGOs active in environmental issues

Portal about energy (Greece & Cyprus)

https://energypress.gr

Public transportation in Cyprus

https://www.publictransport.com.cy/

Cyprus Environmental Foundation

https://cyprusenvironment.org/

Raise awareness video on #ClimateChange by Cyprus Energy Agency

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTKboQiES7M

The Green Points in Cyprus (“Prasina Simeia”)

https://prasinasimeia.com/

The “Pay as you throw” system in Cyprus

https://aglantzia.org.cy/aigli/en

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