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Looking ahead to a green, sustainable 2021

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It was predicted that 2020 would be the year of the flying car, a cashless society, economic recovery, and a greener, cleaner environment.

Instead, we are still learning to wash our hands and stand in a queue, need permission to get out of the house, online learning is a faraway dream, the health sector has caught the flu, frustration rules on mortgage repayments and lost trust in politics.

The biggest problem in Cyprus that is difficult to overcome, is also a simple one – slow decision making and public services dragging their feet.

Criticism of poor handling of the Covid-crisis and deploying a national vaccination plan has fallen on deaf ears. The Government still believes that sweeping an issue under the carpet will help it go away.

Little have they learnt from the social media blitz, exacerbated by home-isolated families seeking a platform to vent their anger, that nothing can be hidden any more.

Transparency is on the mind of (almost) everyone and corruption has become easier to call out, as was the fall from grace of at least two politicians.

This is also an election year, the first of three rounds of polls, starting with a new parliament in May, the race for a new President in February 2022 and new mayors at the end of the year.

This means we will be stuck with the rhetoric and inflated promises that we are accustomed to for months to come.

Even the potential of restarting peace talks to reunify the island will be a victim of politicians’ arrogance to not listen to the screams of the public for change, progress and exit from stalemate.

However, this does not mean that everything else must stop.

What is needed is a restart of the economy, rebranding our tourism and seeking niche sectors to drive a revival away from the failed plan of selling passports and the unsustainable model of property development.

Before to the pandemic, that decimated economies, abolished professions, and left workers stranded at home or on-board ships for months on end, the European Commission chief had launched her ‘Green Deal’.

That would have been the cornerstone of the EU retaking the lead in global economic recovery, creating jobs, and pushing ahead into a digital society.

Part of it was rescued, the main parameters of the Green Deal are what is driving the energy sector towards a cleaner environment, new contracts, and new jobs.

Cyprus must learn from these successes and not necessarily blame every delay on the slow progress of others.

We need to take the initiative, be smart in our relations with our neighbours and plan as if we are on our own.

A recent study suggests that decarbonising the UK’s housing stock will create 100,000 jobs annually over the next decade, with a similar picture painted in Germany.

In Cyprus, we were promised after the 2012 economic crisis that ‘green jobs’ would solve the unemployment problem.

But this vision was never supported by practical incentives and solutions.

The flow of natural gas through an islandwide distribution network for heating and home use has been but a dream while the technical schools soon gave up on training youngsters in ‘new professions.’

Converting all buildings to become energy efficient is one of the easiest ways to boost the jobs market, and a sustainable one at that, as it will be a long-term programme.

We have grown tired of saying this should be a team effort and that only by all stakeholders working together is there hope of getting back on our feet.

This must be the year of change, in both attitude and pace with which we work.