EDITORIAL: The business of energy in Cyprus [Financial Mirror]
The European Commission will launch the second EU Sustainable Energy Week on Monday to debate strategies for a more sustainable future in terms of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, clean transport and alternative fuels.
Though the focus of the campaign is energy efficiency and greater use of renewable sources as the main response to climate change and the risks of energy import dependency, Cyprus needs to see the greater picture before it is too late.
‘Do carbon emissions affect Cyprus?’ any naïve citizen may ask, not realising that we are now partners in the greater effort to help Europe assume the leadership towards reaching a low carbon society.
The present administration’s initiative to create the office of the Commissioner for the Environment was the first step, but remains short of drastic measures as many still think that energy and the environment are issues reserved only to long-haired and unshaven ‘Greens’ who demonstrate to save the turtles.
But Commissioner Theopemptou has said on many recent occasions that energy and a clean environment affect all stakeholders of society. He has even suggested that there is money to be made in the business of clean energy and environmental clean-up.
Trouble is, he mans an office so small it is often forgotten or neglected. The office may have an unlimited budget, as it sources its funds directly from the Presidential Palace, but it does not have the legal tools to enforce some measures that are necessary and may even turn out to be cost-saving in the end.
The Commissioner’s role should be upgraded to a super-regulator, one who will have a direct say not only in waste management and saving natural resources, but should also be considered as the independent watchdog to ensure that all new energy policy decision are taken with the public interest in mind.
Furthermore, Mr. Theopemptou should not be limited to simply advising government departments on how to save energy and help reduce carbon emissions through stop-gap measures such as introducing subsidised inter-city bus services that will drastically reduce CO2 emissions and relieve the motor congestion from the two main airports.
To the government’s credit, the new initiative obliges all government procurements to include energy efficient and waste saving requirements. But Mr. Theopemptou can only force local administration to switch to, say, solar-powered street lamps if he has the full support of all the political forces in parliament to pass the necessary bill.
He should also have a say in what fleet type the airlines invest in as aviation is responsible for 2% of all CO2 emissions on this planet.
However, shipping accounts for double that figure, or 4% of all global CO2 emissions and Cyprus prides itself as being one of the ten biggest merchant marine forces in the world. Hence, the shipping community too should take appropriate responsibility to help reduce this pollution, especially if the Cyprus flag will soon account for (and be blamed for) the pollution of the seas and the sea air.