Greece Presents an Update on Progress in the Implementation of National Commitments to SDGs at the UN

In view of this year’s United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (UN HLPF) in July 2024 and following the submission of Voluntary National Commitments on behalf of Greece during the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September 2023 (UN 2023 SDG Summit), Greece presented the UN with an update on its progress in the implementation of National Commitments to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The update presented by Greece focused on the steps taken, the progress made, and the lessons learned in implementing each of the National Commitments to SDG Transformation announced by Greece at the 2023 SDG Summit. The update covered the following two commitments:

  • “Smart, Resilient and Climate Neutral Cities” Initiative of the Government of Greece – Promoting sustainable development, resilience, and climate neutrality in Greek Cities by 2030 (and in the longer run by 2050)
  • “GR-eco Islands” Initiative – Promoting sustainable development, green economy, energy autonomy and digital innovation in the Greek Islands by 2030

The full presentation of the National Commitments to SDG Transformation announced by Greece during the UN 2023 SDG Summit, as well as other useful information regarding Greek commitments and the SDGs in general, is available at the website of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Greek update on progress made in implementing each of the National Commitments to SDGs

Commitment:  “Smart, Resilient and Climate Neutral Cities”

The Hellenic Government is committed to upgrading and improving urban areas in Greece so that they can effectively respond to the current and emerging challenges of addressing climate change impact, safeguarding social cohesion, and ensuring economic growth and prosperity, in an inclusive and sustainable way, leaving no one behind.

Towards localising the SDGs at the urban context and promoting implementation of SDG 11 targets through their strong interlinkages with other SDGs, Greece is promoting a series of initiatives for achieving “Smart, Resilient and Climate Neutral Cities by 2030” in a wide array of sectors and in full concert with local governments.

The policy innovations promoted are fully in line and correspond to the priority areas of the new European Urban Agenda (i.e. air quality, circular economy, climate adaptation, cultural heritage, digital transition, energy transition, housing, inclusion, innovative and responsible public procurement, jobs and skills, sustainable use of land and nature-based solutions, urban mobility, urban poverty and security), focusing on:

  • Increasing resilience
  • Promoting climate neutrality
  • Promoting urban accessibility
  • Improving walkability and biking
  • Buildings management and renovation (energy efficiency improvement, circularity)
  • Regeneration of open urban spaces and increase of urban green areas (‘green ways’, ‘blue ways’)
  • Promotion of new technologies and digital transformation

The overall vision of the Greek Government translates into a series of dedicated thematic Strategies for all the above focus areas, providing overall strategic targets, objectives, and milestones.

Since September 2023 when the Initiative was submitted at the UN SDG Summit as a National Commitment, the Hellenic Ministry of Energy has elaborated the thematic Strategy on Walkability which has already gone through a public consultation process involving key local actors and stakeholders, and will very soon be legally adopted/enacted. 

Commitment: “GR-eco Islands”

The “GR-eco Islands” Initiative aims at promoting sustainable development, green economy, energy autonomy, decarbonisation and digital innovation in the Greek Islands by 2030. It constitutes an innovative policy approach that can inspire and instigate change that can be duplicated in related contexts across the world, and certainly in SIDS.

To address the challenges that are inter alia closely linked to unsustainable tourism patterns, there is an urgent need for a paradigm shift, at the local level, in energy consumption, energy production and mobility patterns, towards a more holistic approach for sustainable tourism as well as climate neutrality and resilience, in the Greek islands. Moreover, there is an urgent need to promote radically innovative approaches to water and waste management, turning islands into showcases and living labs of circular economy.

The “GR-eco Islands” Initiative aims to support Greece’s contribution to overall EU efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. Related interventions will be funded (among other sources) from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) with more than EUR 150 mil already secured.

The vision translates into a series of ambitions that are distinguished in 8 focus areas:

  • climate neutrality and adaptation to climate change impacts
  • energy transition
  • sustainable resource management
  • environmental protection
  • entrepreneurship and innovation
  • digital transformation
  • accessibility
  • human resource empowerment

Since September 2023 when the Initiative was submitted at the UN SDG Summit as a Voluntary Commitment of the Greek Government, the Hellenic Ministry of Energy has achieved progress by:

  • incorporating further in the islands selection criteria, parameters related to the environmental challenges directly linked to climate change as well as to the socioeconomic threats faced by each island,
  • pre-selecting around 40 Greek islands so far to participate in the Initiative and implement targeted sponsored interventions in the above focus areas,
  • developing and enriching the reference framework that analyses the interventions to be pursued in each participating Island, i.e.
    • (i) the GR-eco Island Charter, which describes what an island must achieve (aims, criteria, levels/categories, standards, procedures, monitoring, GR-eco Island Candidate Status, marketing of the GR-Eco Islands Label) in order to be awarded the GR-eco Island Label;
    • (ii) the GR-eco Island Master Plan which focuses on documenting the needs of each one of the pre-selected Islands and the assessment of the appropriate actions and types of projects; as well as
    • (iii) the GR-eco Island Action Plan which sets out the implementation plan of the investment programme and the associated organisational measures in order to achieve the GR-eco Island certification.
  • conceptualizing and securing funding for the next GR-eco Island project to be implemented on the island of Poros, under the “sponsorship” mechanism established for this purpose through the National Climate Law. More specifically, the Greek Government in co-operation with UAE based green energy company MASDAR have committed to transform Poros Island into a sustainable island, as part of GR-eco Islands Initiative. Funding from MASDAR will cover four green pillars/interventions, and specifically: the installation of a PV system with battery energy storage, the electrification of road transport, the electrification of the maritime transport as well as  waste management through a comprehensive “Zero Waste” model.
  • establishing the “Decarbonization Fund for the Greek Islands”, through a tri-partite agreement between Greece, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank. Through this Fund, Greece has been granted the right to claim 25 million CO2 emission allowances available for auction, under the EU emissions trading system, that will be used for the co-financing of the decarbonization of the energy systems of the Greek Islands. The budget of this new Fund sumps up to at least EUR 1.6 billion, while the Fund is estimated to mobilize overall investments of at least EUR 3.8 billion for the period 2025-2032. The Fund concerns three pillars of various project components, that are currently under preparation, more specifically: the development of RES and energy storage systems, including the construction of dams and reservoirs on the islands, the electrical interconnection of the islands as well as cold ironing facilities on ports and charging stations for EVs.
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