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Environment – Climate Change
The efforts of the international community, starting during the 1970s, to protect the environment, acknowledging joint responsibility, continue with the deepening and expansion of cooperation among states, through a system of multilateral, regional and bilateral agreements. The confrontation of environmental problems, which have been arising with ever greater intensity in recent years, has taken on major international dimensions due to their complex and cross-border nature.
Sustainable development, climate change, protection of biodiversity, combating of desertification, protection of the ozone layer, management of environmental pollution and water resources are important environmental issues that the international community is dealing with. Regarding these issues, international environmental policies are formulated mainly within the framework of the UN, through the adoption of multilateral environmental agreements. Moreover, beyond their environmental, social and economic dimensions, some of these issues –in particular, climate change and water resource management– have implications for the international security.
Within the framework of the United Nations, sustainable development is a particularly important issue incorporating three dimensions: the environmental, social and economic dimensions. Regarding this issue, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development took place on 20-22 June 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Rio+20 Conference took place 20 years after the first UN Conference on the Environment and Development (Rio, 1992), which led to the adoption of Agenda 21 and the Rio Principles, and ten years after the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002), which led to the adoption of the Johannesburg Action Plan and the 15-year Work Programme of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (2003-2017). The main goals of the Rio+20 Conference were to secure a renewed political commitment regarding sustainable development issues, to assess progress to date, and to confront new challenges. The Conference focused mainly on “Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication” and the “Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development”. The Rio+20 Conference adopted a text entitled “The future we want”, a foundation for future work on all levels for the achievement of sustainable development. Within the framework of shaping a Post-2015 Development Agenda for eradicating poverty and for sustainable development, and given that the target for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the eight anti-poverty targets – was 2015, the UN was called upon to formulate and adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) before the end of 2015. At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, more than 150 world leaders adopted the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the Global Goals, aim to end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education and build strong institutions and partnerships. The SDGs have a more ambitious agenda, seeking to eliminate rather than reduce poverty, and include more demanding targets on health, education and gender equality. They are universal, applying to all countries and all people. The agenda also includes issues that were not in the MDGs such as climate change, sustainable consumption, innovation and the importance of peace and justice for all.
Climate change is a global environmental and development challenge that impacts many sectors. To confront this global challenge, the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio, 1992) adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Convention, which aims at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, was signed by Greece on 12 June 1992 and went into effect on 2 November 1994. At the 3rd Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (Kyoto, 1997), the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, setting specific goals for overall reduction of emissions of six greenhouse gases by developed countries for the period 2008-2012. In 2012, the 18th UN Conference on Climate Change, in Doha, approved an amendment regarding the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period, from 2013 to 2020, when a new global, legally binding agreement on climate change is expected to go into effect, with implementation by all of the Parties to the UNFCCC. After many years of negotiations on a new climate agreement, at the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change, in Paris (30/11-11/12/2015), the Parties of the UNFCCC, adopted a new universal, legally binding global climate agreement, the “Paris Agreement.” This ambitious and balanced agreement, the first major multilateral deal of the 21st century, sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.
Greece participates actively in the ongoing international climate change negotiations and supports the EU’s ambitious efforts to lead the struggle to confront this phenomenon.
Within the framework of the European Union, the June 2003 European Council in Thessaloniki agreed to undertake an initiative aiming to promote the introduction of environmental issues into the EU’s external relations, through the creation of an informal network of competent personnel of the Foreign Ministries of the member states: the Green Diplomacy Network. The members of the Network are convened every six months by the given Presidency of the Council of the EU (the first meeting took place in Athens, during Greece’s 2003 Presidency), and as of 2012 the Network functions within the framework of the European External Action Service (EEAS). The Green Diplomacy Network promotes coordinated action of the extended diplomatic representation of the EU and its member states in order to achieve the international goals of the EU policy on the environment and climate change, and the exchange of best practices for incorporating these issues into foreign policy.