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Ana Maria Icatoiu, Smart Eco Plus
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Growth through green

February 2009 - From the Print Edition

Because Romania is still in a rocky state of development, there is a massive opportunity for the country to integrate innovations in environmental sustainability into attempts to rebuild its economy.
With this optimism in mind, The Diplomat has devoted an issue to how Romania can enhance its power by arresting green initiatives.
While constructing a new energy infrastructure, the country will see the decline of its old-fashioned and inefficient coal-fired power plants. In their place, the country has resources in wind and hydro power, as well as potential in biomass and solar. These resources are spread across the nation and could help growth in less-developed areas. If the country dedicates cash to these green and energy independent resources now, it will give the country a stable foundation to attract further investment.
Romania’s real estate market is in stagnation. With profits dropping and developments stopping, quality projects will be the first to attract capital. New building designs which highlight sustainable resources and energy efficiency should therefore be more appealing. These also have better potential to secure loans from home or abroad.
In a financial crisis, products of necessity either retain or can increase in value. Therefore food production is key. Romania’s agriculture needs huge investment in consolidation and irrigation. Creating a modern and sustainable architecture of farming is now a national priority. At the heart of this plan there must be diversity, of which organic food and locally-produced food should play an essential role.
In such dire times, recycling is an impulse. In Romania, local authorities must selectively collect rubbish. This is not because it is a clueless diktat from an ex-hippy in Brussels EU HQ, who refuses to fly to Romania because it will inflate his carbon footprint. Such a move makes economic sense. Many Romanians, who live on scavenging waste from landfill sites, have known this for years. Recycling is in the country’s DNA.
Romanians receive regular criticism for failing to change their mentality. But this is unfair. The country has adapted to deep financial crises at the end of the 1980s and the 1990s and will again at the end of this decade. It has managed to move from dictatorship to anarcho-capitalism and EU membership in less than 20 years. Change and crisis is the country’s way of life.
As for the environment, the Government’s recent decision to ban free plastic bags in supermarkets has been accepted without complaint. The country would submit to similar rules concerning leaving waste in forests, throwing rubbish from cars or separating waste - if the infrastructure to support these initiatives was in place, including penalties and incentives.
In times of hardship, green initiatives can be cancelled. The incoming Government has stopped its ‘Green House’ programme to promote energy efficiency and solar panel use. But if these plans were not saving or making money, it was because they were bad projects, not because they were green projects. At the heart of the EU’s Economic Recovery Plan, EC President Jose Manuel Barroso has placed new initiatives to combat climate change, promote energy efficiency and create a new generation of green collar jobs.
This will mean the re-programming of EU structural funds to energy efficiency, the reduction of VAT for green products and services, plus five billion Euro for research and development in clean technologies for cars and one billion Euro for energy efficiency in buildings.
At the toughest moment in the EU’s economic history, the EU president has not dropped his green plans because they were a compromise to shut up the noisy environmental lobby - instead he has put them at the core of the EU’s finance strategy. This shows that green initiatives are not only business-friendly, but they also offer a clear path to profit for Europe’s economic recovery.

Michael Bird

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