Dealing with an environmental impasse

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis


A roundtable organized by the Association “Law-Nature” and the Tsatsos Centre for European Constitutional Law, coming soon after environmental extreme events have shaken public opinion in Greece (wildfires in summer, floods in autumn), tried to put in perspective the means available to deal with such unprecedented climate challenges that are becoming part of our life.

As stated by two participants coming from different walks of life but resolutely trying to shed light on ways to face the new environmental reality – professor of Constitutional Law Giannis Tassopoulos and Chairman of “Diazoma” NGO, former Minister Stavros Benos – the essence of all efforts to deal with an ever more difficult future of natural disasters brought about by climate change is two-fold: seriously engaging in prevention and strengthening governance.

Unless both sides of this equation are put into play in earnest, we will end up watching the deterioration of our collective way of life and lamenting over successive disasters. An ever-wider set of rules put forward at EU and national level form a framework for action, but the pressure put on existing structures, be they environmental, economic or social, is such that adaptation to climate change seems a distant goal. “Resilience” is the main objective all are looking for – but bringing together the efforts of the authorities (at State or local level), of the private sector and of the local communities is proving a daunting task. Effective coordination proves even harder than ensuring the necessary funding for putting new, adequate infrastructure in place.

A further point, of special relevance for the Greek case, is that just as the need becomes evident for a more active role of the public sector in environmental matters, budgetary constraints and an overall distrust towards public institutions have caused new weaknesses to surface. Civil Protection is fast becoming an essential service to be provided to citizens, but sufficient resources as well as better-running procedures have still to be ensured.

The participation of citizens to efforts undertaken so/as to face climate change (just as it shifts to climate crisis mode) is a major pre-condition for the effectiveness of any policy of preventive nature; still, unless a credible dialogue with society is established, we may remain mired in an environmental impasse.