Ecology and the Environment
(21st Congress of AKEL – November 2010)
The issues regarding the environmental and ecological crisis are a central cause of concern all over the world and in all societies. AKEL considers the crisis to be a political, economic and social issue. Humanity’s life and actions over time have relied solely on the management and exploitation of natural resources, both for its survival and for economic and social development. With the development of capitalism, the competition between society and nature manifested itself in an explosive way, with the productive relationships being based on the senseless use of natural resources and the exploitation of labour, and profit being the main aim goal, and the accumulation of capital the main result. This is reflected today in the global crisis of capitalism and deterioration of international environmental problems, the main effects of which are the inequitable distribution of wealth, accumulation of poverty for half the world’s population, the terrifying effects of climate change with extreme weather phenomena, and the dramatic reduction of bio-diversity. AKEL believes that only through a sustainable model of development can humanity and the natural environment as a whole survive and have true choices in the near future, and only thus can the planet remain capable of sustaining life in the future.
The development model that was followed in Cyprus after independence evolved in parallel with international trends. The forceful division of the Cypriot ecosystem has worsened the environmental problems after the Turkish invasion, as well as by unfettered development, but also by the absence, for decades, of a correct and comprehensive state policy on development and the environment.
AKEL considers that environmental policy today should primarily include the adoption of new policies for economic and social development, the strengthening of the legal framework for protection of the environment and the environmental management structures. This can be achieved through:
– Implementation of the Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development, where the main criterion should be the availability of the island’s natural resources for current and future needs and,
– The establishment of a Central Environmental Agency that will act as an umbrella for all government services dealing with environmental issues.
In recent years, there has been increased awareness among public opinion on ecological matters. At the same time, despite the problems accumulated over decades, a series of important issues were promoted for solution: the energy problem, coming of natural gas, gradual promotion of renewable energy sources, the Akamas Management Plan, the transport problem, partial promotion of household waste management, the assertion of the right of Cyprus to be declared a GMO-free zone, the legislation on integrated water management, etc.
Furthermore, we are aiming at the following:
1) Climate change
Over the past decades, global warming has become irrevocably linked to the gradual rise in temperature and unfettered exploitation of natural resources and capitalist industrial development. Owing to its geographical position, Cyprus is among the first countries to experience the effects of climate change with increases in temperature, extreme weather phenomena and the threat of desertification. Our aim is to elaborate a Strategic Plan aimed at adjusting to climate change, which will provide for the drawing up of proposals and suggestions to the EU, as well as the assertion of funds from relevant programmes. In order to tackle the problems arising from climate change, as AKEL we consider it essential to implement the measures adopted by the special session on this issue which was held in April 2010 in Bolivia.
2) Bio-diversity – Food
AKEL attaches particular importance to the protection and safeguarding of bio-diversity, which constitutes the wealth upon which all forms of life are based on. The recognition by the EU of the right of Cyprus to be declared a fully GMO free zone is a very significant issue, so that their cultivation and the destruction of the bio-diversity of the island can be prevented. In addition, the quality control of food and the harmonisation with the European REACH programme is imperative.
3) Energy- renewable energy resources (RES)
Human activity, as any other form of activity is based on the use of energy and this is a basic operation of the eco-system in all its forms. The strategic goal remains the gradual replacement of fossil fuels through the utilisation of Renewable Energy Sources (solar and wind), the promotion of energy saving systems and the rational use of the RES Fund to the benefit of the lower-income classes. With a view to ensuring viability of the RES Fund, it is essential to evaluate the entire philosophy of the scheme.
4) Waste Management
The problem of waste management is one of the greatest environmental issues of contemporary societies. All actions in this area must aim at reducing the production of waste and its reuse. Specific policies have been defined for the management of specific waste flows as part of a comprehensive waste management strategy. The project and its implementation phases are proceeding at satisfactory rates.
5) Water Resources
Water is a very precious resource for our island and it is therefore essential to ensure its rational management. The Integrated Water Management Law and the establishment of the Water Management Advisory Committee will mean that all powers will be concentrated within one agency that will be able to plan and implement a comprehensive management policy.
6) “Natura 2000” – Akamas
The EU Natura 2000 Network promotes the protection of bio-diversity through the preservation of natural habitats, flora and fauna, the inclusion of specific areas and the drawing up of Management Plans. The Council of Ministers’ decision on the Akamas Management Plan has given a solution to a long-standing problem. The plan must be implemented.
7) Built Environment
We support the implementation of the basic policies of the government programme of Demetris Christofias with regard to the built environment. These include:
- Completion of prioritisation of Development Plans by drawing up an Island Plan and Area Plans and the replacement of the Policy Statement on the countryside with regional Spatial Plans;
- Revision of town planning zones through transparent and participatory procedures;
- Preparation and implementation of master plans in all communities;
- Preservation and promotion of our architectural heritage through the radical revision of the incentives scheme and the increase of grants for listed buildings.
8) Transport – Traffic
Transport and traffic are prioritised as among the most serious problems of contemporary Cypriot society, particularly in large urban centres. The government has made many efforts in the right direction, proving the determination of the Christofias government to find a solution. AKEL welcomes the beginning of the implementation of the new public transport system, which is indeed a radical and necessary innovation. In general, the alleviation of the problem of traffic/transport requires above all political will, significant investment and the cultivation of a new culture among the population.
9) Soil and Mineral Resources
The soil is a non-renewable resource, fundamental to human survival because it provides sources of food, raw materials and housing. The building and road development observed in Cyprus and elsewhere relies exclusively on the exploitation of these non-renewable resources and it is imperative to implement careful planning for the sustainable development of these resources.
AKEL evaluates the struggle for tackling ecological and environmental destruction at the top of our political agenda, since it is to do not only with the struggle of the working class, but the struggle for life itself and our planet. In addition to our specific actions, our aim is to orientate the education system towards raising the public’s awareness with regard to our culture and historical tradition, an understanding of the values of an alternative lifestyle and in general, encouraging the participation of people in the shaping and exercising of environmental policy.
AKEL supports and greets the activation of the organised Environmental Movement. It considers its contribution and action as positive and will aim to strengthen co-operation with it based on common aims. This issue is deeply political and the level of organisation of the forces, which resist the catastrophic course that is being followed, will determine the lives of future generations. It is for this reason that we must be more actively involved in environmental issues, whether as a Party or as individual members and officials. Environmental policy is for AKEL a matter of the production of civilisation.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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- Nov13 2014-11-13