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Saakashvili proclaims 'green' ambition for Georgia

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, December 10
The President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili delivered a speech at the 16th Conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico on December 8. Addressing the guests in Spanish in honour of their Mexican hosts, Saakashvili shared a vision on how a little country like Georgia can be a laboratory for confronting climate change and work on sustainable development. “Cancun has the potential to mark a new beginning in our common pursuit of a low-carbon era. We are near agreements on the UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) framework for compensating developing nations for preserving forests, as a well as on a "Green Fund" that will channel billions to poor nations to help them adapt to climate impacts, adopt low-carbon technology from developed countries, and convert to cleaner energy sources,” the President stated.

Highlighting the challenges for the whole world in climate change, Saakashvili expressed his confidence that a low-carbon world would not only benefit the environment, but help decrease regional tensions. Talking of Georgia as the country lying at a crossroads of global energy supplies in a region where oil and gas have encouraged fuel conflicts for more than a century, the President emphasized how building up local, renewable sources can help ensure that energy is not used as a political tool. The ecological concerns and policies do not only refer to big and wealthy members of the Northern World according to Saakashvili who emphasized how transitional democracies, emerging countries and small republics can also contribute to this global issue. Such countries, according to the President should see “the green ambition” as the key for their development and their stability and act as laboratories for innovation-testing new ideas, setting ambitious targets and serving as a model for others in the global fight against climate change.

“Doing this in close cooperation with neighboring countries, Georgia creates greater regional stability. Although Georgia is a small country, we believe we can have a large impact, especially in our region suffering from environmental degradation, as well as oppression and instability. Our overarching goal in Georgia is to show that lowering our consumption of fossil fuels can help us increase growth and can do so in a sustainable way,” he said, encouraging all sides to start finding solutions for other environmental and sustainability issues in addition to the question of CO2 emission.

Explaining how Georgia has taken specific steps in combating climate change, Saakashvili stressed that our capital Tbilisi has been the first capital in the region which has joined the Covenant of Mayors Initiative of the European Union to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. “Moreover Georgia is making great strides in developing its renewable energy program. We have established a friendly investment environment that has led to billions being poured into renewable energy sources, especially hydropower,” he said, sharing the rapid progress of the country with more than 80% of the electricity production coming from renewable sources.

“In fact, we are exporting renewable energy to our neighbors, and we will eventually transmit it through Turkey to the European Union. This will enable us to achieve our goal of establishing Georgia as the first large-scale renewable energy exporter to Europe,” the President said, hoping for great support from the International Community in growing the national forests and advancing carbon sequestration activities allowing natural forests to constitute around 10% of Georgian territory, ensuring significant economic and environment benefits finally leading to the rehabilitation of degraded soils and vegetation cover, the protection of watersheds, and greater local employment. “In addition to these evolutions, we are launching a program that will lead to a cleaner transport industry. And public institutions will lead by example. The Georgian Government will, starting from this year, replace official traditional cars with electric ones,” he stated.

Introducing the guests to “the tragic situation” of Georgia’s currently occupied region of Abkhazia, where the Black Sea coast has been experiencing abrasion due to the devastating practices of the occupying power and its de facto regime, Saakashvili encouraged the participants of the conference to take concrete actions towards joint long-term goodwill for the sake of future generations. “Global warming is a challenge for humankind as a whole and requires a response from a united humankind,” Saakashvili addressed the guests sharing the negative impact of the illegal search for oil in the Black Sea - the territorial waters of Georgia and the mining activities for getting inert materials from the Gumista River construction projects for the Sochi Olympics. These activities have caused landslides and degradation of the microclimate according to the President but the ongoing occupation and the violation of all cease-fire agreements are preventing the Government of Georgia from halting the process.

Executive Director of International Foundation for Sustainable Development (IFSD) Professor Alexander Tvalchrelidze told The Messenger how the ideas shared by President Saakashvili to the UN guests have been reflecting the concepts of Sustainable Development of IFSD. The idea of Sustainable Development, according to the Professor, primarily implies the use of Renewable Energy (that of water, sun, wind, geothermal waters, biomass) and the introduction of relevant renewable technologies on which the organization has been working for years. Explaining that there has been no state contribution to the fund's activities, the Professor told us that IFSD has already worked out the projects oriented on providing particular regions with renewable energy based only on self-funding, thereby giving additional taxes of revenue to the state.

Tvalchrelidze highlighted how the political course of the Georgian Government has been changed since May, 2010 as the so-called “Green Energy” had not been among its priorities last year. Encouraging the Government to move not private vehicles but taxis on to electric batteries, the Professor spoke of the advantages of processed coal (free from gases) compared to petrol and diesel, following the examples of developed countries. “As for the mining activities in Sochi, I would simply explain that 80% of South Africa is oriented exactly on mining, thus by strictly following up the regulations of the mining process would be the best solution for avoiding a possible ecological disaster in Sochi,” he stated.