A letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent the directors of four European WWF offices asking the Greek government to end all new oil and gas mines planned in Greece.

Together with WWF Hellas, the letter is endorsed by the Directors of WWF France, Spain and Italy, three European Mediterranean countries whose governments are officially placed against hydrocarbon mining and are publicly committed to investing in a clean energy system from fossil fuels. In particular, France recently passed a ban on issuing new hydrocarbon extraction permits and pledged to stop producing oil and coal by 2040, while Italy plans to cancel all hydrocarbon mining activities, some of which were planned in the Ionian region. Similarly, in Spain, offshore mining projects in the Canary Islands stopped in 2017, while the country is planning ambitious long-term energy planning, aiming at 100% RES in electricity generation and a ban on hydrocarbon mining. These countries are not the only ones to follow in this direction: Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Belize and Costa Rica have either announced that they do not approve any new exploration and extraction permits in their territory or have voted against the relevant contracts.

With the common assumption that Greece presents the richest biodiversity across Europe, which it puts at risk, instead of using it as the only source of life and development, the directors of the four WWF offices call on the Greek Prime Minister to stop the licensing procedures hydrocarbon extraction in the country. At the same time, they urge him to lead a vision for a sustainable zero carbon economy, taking into account the requirements of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, as well as the immeasurable environmental and economic damage that our country will suffer in the event of a large oil spill.

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To: Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Alexis Tsipras

Athens, 18 February 2019

Dear Prime Minister,

The signing directors of WWF’s offices are deeply concerned about the extensive development of the oil and gas exploration and extraction program covering almost the whole of Western Greece.

From the point of view of biodiversity, as you may already know, many of the granted plots include protected areas of great ecological importance. For example, the Greek Trench is a great marine habitat and a natural treasure, both European and world-wide, hosting endangered and emblematic Mediterranean marine species. However, the deep and over-mined mines planned in this area involve significant accident hazards with catastrophic consequences for the beautiful islands of Greece, its coastline and its nature.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that a possible oil spill scenario would have a devastating impact on the thriving tourist economy, the local communities that depend on it and ultimately the national economy. Experience from previous oil spill, either during mining or ship collision, has shown that the tourism sector and primary production would take too many years to recover. According to a recent report published by WWF Hellas, the total economic impact of a spill in the Greek economy could reach 2.2 billion euros, while the cost of multiple accidents would reach 7.7 billion euros (4% of current GDP), causing more than 100 losses. 000 jobs across the economy and a reduction in tax revenue of at least EUR 1 billion. These costs are mainly related to the potentially significant impact that such a pollution incident would have on incoming tourism spending. In the unfortunate but very likely scenario of a major oil pollution incident, up to 44,000 jobs would suddenly be lost in Greece. In short, the risks from hydrocarbon extraction can not be overlooked in a country like Greece where the tourism industry accounts for about 20% of GDP according to SETE. but very likely a scenario of a serious oil pollution incident, up to 44,000 jobs would be suddenly lost in Greece. In short, the risks from hydrocarbon extraction can not be overlooked in a country like Greece where the tourism industry accounts for about 20% of GDP according to SETE. but very likely a scenario of a serious oil pollution incident, up to 44,000 jobs would be suddenly lost in Greece. In short, the risks from hydrocarbon extraction can not be overlooked in a country like Greece where the tourism industry accounts for about 20% of GDP according to SETE.

Moreover, in the light of climate and energy policy, these investments make no sense. According to the Bank of Greece, the potential cost of climate change for Greece could reach 700 billion euros by 2100, while hidden subsidies to fossil fuels have cost the economy 15 billion euros in the last 15 years. Why undermine the country’s enormous renewable energy, energy security, autonomy and innovation – the Greek sun and air are comfortable in such a prospect – investing in unsustainable projects that will most likely end up being capital waste? Why not make Greece a pioneer in the global effort to halt climate change by canceling all coal and oil projects, thereby honoring the commitments of the Paris Agreement? Clean energy can give the Greek economy post-crisis economy in an innovative and sustainable way, while creating jobs without burdening physical capital.

In Europe, many countries are taking brave steps forward, stopping coal and oil. France has passed a ban on issuing new hydrocarbon extraction permits and has pledged to stop oil and coal production by 2040. In Spain, offshore mining projects in the Canary Islands ceased in 2017 while the country is planning ambitious long-term energy planning, targeting 100% RES in power generation and a ban on hydrocarbon mining. Italy plans to cancel all hydrocarbon mining activities, while Denmark recently announced that it would not approve any new exploration license and the Lower House of Ireland voted against new conventions. Outside Europe, New Zealand announced plans to cancel new licenses,

A few years ago, Luc Hoffmann, a philhellene and one of the founders of the WWF, wrote: “Looking at the Mediterranean map, Greece looks like a strange mosaic. Jupiter should strike this land with its astronomers, snaking thousands of islands and stunning the land so that the whole coastline of Greece becomes as big as the whole of the African continent. This morphological complexity has grown from a wide range of climates ranging from almost subtropical to truly alpine, and from a variety of mountains, hills and plains with wetlands. It is no wonder, therefore, that these conditions caused a wide variety and a high degree of rivalry among the people who lived and live here. ” We could not describe more clearly the natural beauty of Greece. And yet, we have come to the point of discussing, as something not given, the defense of this unique source of life and the foundation of the economy, of a serious danger. When so many countries are gradually banning hydrocarbon projects in their territories, the fact that Greece decides to swim in the gap by investing in a decadent industry with such a large environmental footprint is more like a reversal than a step towards a brighter future.

We invite you to review these plans. We urge you to lead a vision for a zero carbon economy by stopping all licensing procedures for oil and gas extraction in Greece, and to design an energy and climate strategy that looks for a sustainable future. We are ready to support you in any way we can in this vision.

Full letter below

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