The Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources of Georgia – The Role of the Public Sector in Promoting Green Business

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“The Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee is already actively working on the draft law ‘On Water Resources Management’ and  on waste management issues, which are two the most important key elements in the process of developing green economy .”

The public sector plays an important role in the development of green business. Creating a legal framework adapted to the needs and goals of the country and acting within it contributes to the proper development of the country’s economic, social and political sectors.

In an interview with The FINANCIAL, Maia Bitadze, talked about the projects implemented in the committee, the challenges in the country and the future plans that will support the development of green business in the country.

Q. What is the role of implementing a green business concept in the development of the country? Does it respond to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

A. The implementation of the concept of a green economy plays an important role in the development process of the country. As is known, the goal of a green economy is to improve human wellbeing and social equality by reducing environmental risks. At the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, states agreed to establish a green economy as an important tool for sustainable development, insofar as it is inclusive and enables economic growth, along with employment and poverty eradication by maintaining the functioning of the earth’s ecosystems. Thus, we can consider a green economy to be one of the vital mechanisms for achieving the goals of sustainable development.

Q. What is the role of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in promoting green business?

A. The Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee actively works in the direction of promoting green business, However it  is one of the main priorities of the Committee and is included in the Committee’s 2022-2024 action plan.

To promote the growth of a green and circular economy, the Committee aims to:

  • Facilitate the implementation of appropriate reforms and incentives to encourage the introduction of the best environmental technologies in production, which is  integral part in the process of  the adoption of the “Industrial Emissions” law and the implementation of appropriate measures for its effective enforcement . The law will establish obligations related to the introduction of “Best Available Techniques” (BAT), which is particularly important from the point of view of green business development;
  • Improve legislation for sustainable extraction and the supervision of forest, water and mineral resources, however biological resources are key input in economy and will play even more important role in the formation of circular economy in nearest future. Due to this and taking into consideration that circular economy itself can significantly reduce the negative impacts of resource extraction and use on the environment and contribute to restoring biodiversity and natural capital of our country, sustainable and effective management of natural capital will be one of our main priorities during our course of actions.  
  • Refine legislation in the direction of the effective use of household inert and green waste, the inclusion of recovered waste in the economic turnover and prevention of environmental pollution. We should realize that recycling process leads to creation of new applicable resources in nature in the form of waste that are inert, both household and green waste, due to this we plan to provide incentives as for the businesses as for our citizens, who will express willingness to separate at source, in addition to encourage sharing of information and good practices in waste recycling as well as on waste-free production, in order to make products fit for a climate-neutral, resource-efficient and circular economy.

The Committee actively cooperates with the business and non-governmental sector to promote a green economy, which is manifested in the discussion of the challenges with the representatives of the relevant sector within the scope of the committee meetings. In addition, in order to ensure effective communication with the business sector, within the Committee we have created a working group with the business sector, on issues of environmental protection and natural resources management, which works on challenges in the process of carrying out ongoing reforms and introducing new regulations or applicable incentives in the field of environmental protection and natural resources.

Q. What legislative changes were made in 2021-2022 that contributed to the development of green business?

A. In 2021-2022, the Parliament of Georgia adopted important legislative changes that are contributed to the development of the green economy in the country. Among them are:

  • Legislative changes implemented in the Environmental Assessment Code, as a result of which:
  • The limits established for the extraction of minerals stipulated by the annexes of the Environmental Assessment Code were reduced, however as mentioned before natural resources are often viewed as key assets driving development and wealth creation, due to this it is crucial to take into consideration all aspects and encourage formation of legal framework that leads to their sustainable management and reduction of negative impact on natural capital, as this is only way how green business can be developed. Therefore, this legislative change is one step forward to this objective and is contribution to green business development. Based on same intention comes next legislative change which are :
  • Screening criteria were specified, as a result, the component of proximity of activities to landscape, recreation and forest areas will be taken into account when making decisions;
  • Legislative changes implemented in the Forest Code of Georgia and subsequent laws aimed at promoting the sustainable management of forest resources. The project, among other changes, integrated the procedures related to the relevant auction and removed bureaucratic barriers. Also, the regulation for sustainable extraction of non-timber resources was clarified. These changes were contributed to mitigate negative impact on environment and to avoid risk of resource depletion, however we strives for balance between these dimensions: maintaining the long-term use of resources while maximizing social benefits and minimizing environmental impacts.
  • As we know effective communication, information sharing and high level of participation in decision-making procedure from the public and the private sector is one of the key elements in the process of formation of green economy. Due to the pandemic situation, this become challenge as well, however on site meetings became nearly impossible, so based on the changes now we have opportunity to hold public hearings in a hybrid format.
  • Adoption of the Law on “Environmental Liability”. Its purpose is the legal regulation of environmental damage issues, in accordance with the “polluter pays” principle. The draft law regulates legal relations related to the prevention of significant damage to the environment, and in case prevention is impossible, the mitigation of significant damage to the environment, by the measures that needs to be implemented in the event of damage, including remedial measures for significant environmental damage and compensation for environmental damage.
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It is important to note the amendments made to the Law of Georgia “On Ambient Air Protection”, according to which, from 1 June, 2021, the operator of the activity is obliged, for the purpose of self-monitoring, which implies to carry out continuous determination of the actual amount of organised emissions of harmful substances from stationary sources of pollution into the atmosphere, using an instrumental method (self-monitoring of emissions).

Q. How do you regulate the harmful effects of business on the environment? What sanctions exist in this regard in the country?

A. In order to minimise the regulation of the harmful effects of business on the environment, the starting principles of the Committee’s law-making activities are the regulation of activities with possible significant impact on the environment in accordance with modern environmental standards and the establishment of appropriate responsibility measures in case of damage to the environment.

On the other hand, the adequate attitude of the business is also important and it is welcomed that the business thinks and expresses its readiness to conduct its activities in compliance with environmental requirements. This is an important factor for the development of the green economy.

Thus, the imposed fines are the framework that in turn encourages companies to use modern technologies in the production process and therefore, at the same time, to save the expanses they are facing in the long-term perspective , however modern technologies in addition to the fact that they are more environmental friendly they are as well more cost effective. This is a prerequisite for their integration in the modern and global space.

Q. What role does public-private partnership play in the development of green business?

A. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are becoming increasingly popular in public policy. It is expected that this partnership will improve public welfare, increase the efficiency of the spending of public finances, promote international cooperation and aid effectiveness.

A green economy is mainly based on six sectors: renewable energy, green buildings, sustainable transport, water management and waste management. PPPs aimed at reducing pollution, increasing energy and resource efficiency can be considered to be one of the important mechanisms for achieving green growth, especially in terms of green infrastructure development.

Q. What are the main challenges you see in terms of green business development in Georgia?

A. There is great potential for the development of a green economy in Georgia, especially in such fields as energy and agriculture, transport, tourism and the forestry sector.

Certain institutional foundations have been prepared for the formation of a green economy. In particular, during the last decade, the “Waste Management Code”, “Forest Code”, “Environmental Assessment Code”, “Environmental Liability Law”, etc. have been adopted, which fully take into account the legal requirements of the European Union.

Three national environmental action programmes of Georgia have also been adopted, where the environmental goals and priorities of Georgia are outlined, as well as the tasks necessary to improve the environment are defined. According to the 2021 Global Innovation Index report, which measures green economic activity, Georgia ranks 63 out of 130 countries.

The transition to a green economy is a complex process that depends on the overall level of economic development and its profound qualitative changes. Thus, it is logical that Georgia is facing challenges as our country is in the process of developing a green economy. The implementation of environmentally-safe methods is associated with considerable costs for businesses. For example, the measures to improve the atmospheric air condition in Rustavi envisage the reduction of industrial emissions, which in many cases, in addition to the installation of cleaning equipment in enterprises, also requires the upgrading of technology and change of whole production cycle, which is associated with extra expenses for them. That is why it is important to implement a consistent policy by the state, by taking into consideration business support and encouragement.

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Q. What are the main projects you’ve implemented in terms of promoting green business in Georgia in 2021-2022?

A. The Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee, with the support of the Swedish Government and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Georgia, carried out a thematic inquiry on the topic: sustainable management of inert waste. On the basis of the mentioned thematic inquiry , legislative changes will be initiated by the Committee in the Waste Management Code of Georgia, if necessary, as well as in the spatial planning and construction legislation. The mentioned changes will improve the existing legal regulation, in particular the issues of sustainable management of inert waste will be clarified, including the rights and duties and responsibilities of central and local government agencies.

The Committee, with the support of the British Government and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), together with the Parliament’s Sectoral Economy and Economic Policy Committee, launched a thematic inquiry  on the topic titled “Opportunities and Challenges of Decarbonisation in Georgia”, which aims to identify the challenges for achieving the goals of the decarbonisation policy in Georgia.

According to the action plan of the committee in 2022, it is envisaged to start the development of a draft law on climate change. In order to effectively fulfil the obligations undertaken by Georgia at the international level, it is important to create an appropriate legal framework. The project determines the creation of the Parliamentary Council on Climate Change in the Parliament of Georgia, which will significantly increase the role of the Parliament in the formation of the climate change policy and the supervision of its implementation.

In addition, effective inter-agency cooperation is also important. Based on the goals of the development of a green economy, state agencies in the field of economy and environmental protection, closely cooperate and work together, including in the direction of education and capacity building.

In addition, it is welcomed that already at the municipal level, appropriate acts are being issued that promote the development of a green economy, including the conversion of biomass into energy.

There are also governmental programmes aimed at assisting businesses in the process of transition to environmentally-friendly technologies. For the same purpose, the state spares no effort in obtaining the support of donors.

All of the above-mentioned already collectively create the basis for introducing the principles of a green economy in Georgia.

Q. What are the future goals and plans of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources that will encourage and promote the development of green business in the country?

A. The Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee is already actively working on the draft law “On Water Resources Management” and the resulting legislative changes, which represent a large-scale reform of the water sector.

In addition, Committee has other objectives and plans for the nearest future, which are following:

  • The law on “Biological Diversity” (not initiated); It will lead as solid bases for the development of legal and policy mechanisms to achieve effective biodiversity planning and to meet final objective, which is to enhance the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
  • The law on “Industrial Emissions” (not initiated); This establishes the main principles for permitting and control of large industrial installations based on an integrated approach and the application of best available techniques (BAT) and is one for the most important legal framework in the process of transposition to EU directives.
  • The draft law on climate change; This will enable us to monitor human activities that cause the emission of greenhouse gases, which persist in the global atmosphere and lead to climate change, including global warming and other climate variability and accordingly to needs, adopt measures in order to mitigate climate change. In addition, as I mentioned before, the creation of the Parliamentary Council on Climate Change in the Parliament of Georgia, will significantly increase the role of the Parliament in the formation of the climate change policy and the supervision of its effective implementation.
  • Implementing the recommendations received within the framework of the thematic inquiry  on the sustainable management of inert waste on legislative changes, in order to improve the existing legislative regulation, in particular to clarify the issues of sustainable management of inert waste, including the rights and duties and responsibilities of central and local government agencies;
  • The framework of the thematic inquiry , together with The Sectoral Economy and Economic Policy Committee of the Parliament, to identify the existing challenges for achieving the goals of decarbonisation in Georgia and to develop relevant recommendations to overcome existing challenges in this field;
  • The development and adoption of the Code on Chemical Substances to ensure the proper and environmentally-safe management of chemical substances, which includes providing information on hazardous properties and control measures of chemicals aimed at ensuring their safe production, transport, use and disposal

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