The victory of the Syriza party in Greece has many looking forward to a political party with ecological goals, but it will take a lot of maneuvering for Syriza to support both its environmental ideals and its commitment to new coal plants and other job-creating measures.
On the surface, the political setup looks good: Syriza has an alliance with a faction of the Greek Green party, which will have at least one MP in the new government, ensuring that green issues are brought to discussion. The party has also publically stated that they support small-scale diversified renewables production, working with local communities to support the environment. One example of this is Syriza’s plan to expand energy efficient renovations in the country.
“Alexis Tsipras embodies the hope for a change of direction in the European council,” said the Green party’s co-presidents Rebecca Harms and Philippe Lambert. “The Greens/EFA group in the European parliament will do everything it can to support good cooperation between the EU institutions and the new government in Athens.”
However, in a country where extreme austerity measures and massive debt have led to skyrocketing unemployment rates, the Greek government will have to directly address any and all opportunities to create jobs. One of these opportunities is to be found in clean coal production—a step up from traditional coal manufacturing, but still potentially dangerous for the environment.
Syriza is also reportedly in discussions about an east Mediterranean gas pipeline that would help alleviate Europe’s energy security concerns. How involved the party would be with the pipeline—and how the pipeline would affect the ecosystems it travels through—remains to be seen.
Other environmental issues have been tumultuous as well. The party has pledged to end a planned gold mine in Halkidiki, which would devastate the local environment. However, they also face opposition to the increased use of wind turbines, which some communities see as a way for wealthy polluters to take advantage of public subsidies. Turbines installed under the previous government often involved very little regional planning and did more to enrich industrialists than reduce carbon emissions.