Policy --- Supporting Sustainable Growth
The last few years have given me multiple opportunities to realise the gravity of how careless we collectively continue to be with our environment. I’ve used my writing and convening to help nudge policies towards a balance between economic growth and cultural and environmental conservation. In my endeavours I have focused on Greece, since it’s a place I know, love, and enjoy spending time in.
Starting in 2020, I began working with one of Greece’s top NGOs, the Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage, ELLINIKI ETAIREIA (ELLET). As a strategy advisor I wrote about the issues relating to tourism and growth, noting the risks to Greece’s environment and social fabric as it tries to leverage a massive investment drive. Together with ELLET’s Chair, Lydia Carras, I co-authored an OpEd in Kathimerini on the grave risks we’re facing, and prepared a letter sent to the Greek Prime Minister K. Mitsotakis, signed by 60 leading Greeks and friends of Greece from business, science, and academia.
This writing led to a collaboration with the Tourism Minister H. Theoharis and his Secretary General, V. Loizou. Together we are working to structure a pilot project to support sustainable tourism, focused on the island of Kea. This effort, developed jointly with ELLET, top consultancies, trade bodies (e.g. the Hotel Operators Association), and local authorities and NGOs, has finally been approved as part of the Greek Public Investment initiative in collaboration with the U. of the Aegean (Prof. Spilanis). Our aim is to preserve cultural and environmental richness, using sustainability as an engine of growth. We intend this pilot to provide a template that can be rolled out and scaled at the national level. I have enjoyed this pro bono work, as this opportunity to use my skills towards a passion project on such an important issue!
Beyond tourism, another OpEd I wrote with Prof. Dimitris Vayanos of the London School of Economics, focuses on the risk of policies that are GINO (Green In Name Only), ticking boxes for those keen to show their ‘green’ intentions while ignoring the context and reality of the true environmental consequences. For instance, wind turbines erected in sensitive areas could more effectively, and without the same environmental consequence, be placed in offshore wind farms or substituted by geothermal projects. Or, subsidies that are put to work on new touristic villages ought to be directed to the reinvigoration of increasingly abandoned traditional settlements instead. Such a call for action has raised awareness. While the Development Minister, K. Hatzidakis, collaborated with us with the goal to shift towards a more balanced and environmentally sensitive approach, we are still awaiting for a sustained interest and focus.
It is precisely this lack of consistent support of environmental goals that has led to my final initiative, which is to revive the proposal for a Greek Environmental Protection Agency, which will be an Independent Authority with standing and funding that may allow it to improve the state of affairs. I am currently working with the Deputy Prime Minister, P. Pikrammenos, in fleshing out how this should be structured, as I think we need to be far more cognizant of our environment!
Especially after the devastating wildfires gave a serious blow to the Greek environment, and laid bare the lack of attention to the environment, I’ve been writing more frequently about the need to act now.