Parliament of Georgia Approves Law on Environmental Liability – Big Step for the Promotion of Green Business in Georgia – The FINANCIAL

“The most important and rising point in the 4-year plan approved by our committee is to promote a green economy. I can proudly say that just a few months ago, the Parliament approved the Law on Environmental Liability, which is a very big step forward for the formation of environmental law in Georgia.”
The effective functioning of the public sector plays an important role in the development of green business. This means taking important steps, first at the legislative level and then in terms of enforcement, to promote environmental protection, human health, ecological development, as well as green commitments to the business sector on a large scale. Both the executive and the legislature are taking important steps in this regard.
In an interview with The FINANCIAL, Maia Bitadze, Chairperson of the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee, spoke about the important projects, achievements and challenges that the Committee is implementing and facing in terms of the introduction and development of green business and a green economy.
Q. What is the impact of Georgian business (emissions) on the environment?
A. Business in general, including the activities of any human being, has an impact on the environment, and it is an integral part of our lives, otherwise development is impossible. The key is for a business to understand how to control its operations to achieve maximum economic efficiency and to minimize damage to the environment and human health. Fortunately, in the 21st century, the role of green technologies and the best available techniques is well understood, which is the best way to minimize your impact on the environment at a lower cost. So any industry, any activity, will it be  urban planning,  or chemical production, energy, agriculture, naturally everything that affects the environment, can minimize the impact on the environment and human health with those modern technologies.
Q. Which businesses have the worst impact on the environment?
A. It is very difficult to distinguish which business has the most negative impact on the environment – none. Naturally, business is an integral part of the development of the economy and humanity, and business development must be promoted in every way. But the environment is damaged by business entities, whose actions, despite the regulations are  unscrupulous, such as businesses that do not replace filters and pollute the air, or generate a lot of inert waste during subsoil extraction, or businesses that illegally damage trees during construction.  To conclude, business sector must develop, but  this development should take place within the framework established by the law.
Q. What is the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources doing to promote green business?
A. The most important and rising point in the 4-year plan approved by our committee is to promote a green economy. This is a new field of economics all over the world and especially for Georgia, and it is still difficult to perceive and understand what we are talking about when we talk about a green economy or so-called circular economy, however if we look closely at waste recycling, , it is necessary to realize that waste is not just household waste, it is inert waste, green waste. Today, waste-free production is taking place in the world, and this is what is being introduced in Georgia now, and it is good that the legislative framework has already been developed. But facilitative mechanisms are still in place to encourage our citizens to express willingness to separate at source, so that businesses can then easily recycle it. Some incentive mechanisms should be established, to recycle tree waste, for example in rural or urban areas. Special programmes should be created to encourage businesses to replace technologies and install modern filters.
This is a very large system that has already been introduced in the developed world and it is very good that Georgia is already realizing this, including  the business sector ;To sum up, modern , environmental technologies are on the one hand necessary to take care of our health and on the other hand we realize that with recycling they lead do creation of new applicable resources in nature in the form of waste that are inert, both household and green waste. 
Q. What have been your main achievements in terms of green business development from 2019 to 2021?
A. The years of 2019-2021, and those immediately preceding, were the period when we were creating the legislation. I would like to single out several laws in terms of legislation, especially laws which, on the one hand, in terms of the Association Agreement, form the basis for the development of a green economy and, on the other hand, lead to the creation of an environmental economy in the country. In this regard, the Waste Management Code, the New Environmental Impact Assessment Code,  is crucial. Also, a very  significant law that has just come into force is the Law on Environmental Liability, which forms the cornerstone for the green economy to have the legal basis on which enforcement mechanisms should be based.
However, there are still legal acts to be adopted, which we are already working on with the executive branch. This is a harmonization of the Big Accident Directive into legislation, as well as legislation related to emissions and the final approximation of fuel and diesel norms to EU legislation, which is definitely worth noting. Above mentioned processes are in progress but still needs to be completed.
Q. Can you evaluate the overall ‘green business’ situation in Georgia?
A. We will be able to better assess the general state of green business in Georgia in 10 years, because we are now going through the process that the whole developed world started in the 70s and 90s. So it is too early to talk about the state of a business that is now in its infancy stage. It is gratifying that in terms of waste recycling, as well as in green waste recycling, there are already several companies that process waste, but they still have a shortage of the product/waste  itself, so it is necessary to establish a waste collection system,  which as a result will enable  businesses to easily recycle applicable waste. On the other hand, the situation has a lot improved in terms of green business that uses modern technologies, , but anyway there is still a lot to do thus  I am glad that the issue that implies to the  business’s  role in the environmental and ecological balance is coming more and more to the foreground.
Q. What are the main challenges you see in terms of green business development in Georgia?
A. The main challenges are primarily related to awareness, because while there are many people who have been in this field for years and are well-informed, there is second side of people who are not fully aware of the consequences associated with the development of green business. However  advancement in our behaviour and perception for years is notable, as it is changing both in terms of the public and business sector . For example, I would recall when the planting project was first incorporated into Tbilisi legislation and construction norms. At the initial stage, it was very painful for businesses to understand why we are obliged, for example, to include a park or square during the construction process. But as the time passed they also realized, that landscaped yard leads to better sales in terms of the real estate and the same can be said for other areas. The issue of introducing green technologies is becoming more and more important in the field of subsoil use as well, so we will fully evaluate that in a few years.
Q. When companies try to become sustainable, what is the hardest part for them? How do you support them in this?
A. State involvement is very important. On the one hand, the legal framework needs to be developed and on the other hand, I strongly believe that sanctions and fines are not the solution that will lead to an outcome such as change of behaviour, once the legislation is drafted. The most important thing that our committee has written in the plan (and about which talks have already started loudly) are the incentive mechanisms, the same software funding or software incentives. Incentive mechanisms should be introduced by the state in order to encourage businesses.
Businesses should be encouraged by the state and motivated to replace technologies. Especially, construction industry representatives  should be persuaded to use  green, energy efficient technologies in the construction process. ,  As for the  waste recycling, we have already discussed issues related to product creation and a lot of things that the state can do, which of course will ultimately have a natural knock-on effect on the environment, air, water and our health.
Q. What role does public-private partnership play in the development of green business?
A. Public-private partnership is  crucial for green business development. When we talk about public-private partnership, it does not have to be a special-law partnership. Even within the framework of certain memoranda, it is possible to achieve a certain result in order for the business to be interested in green technologies, as well asin the innovations that the state offers in terms of the development of different directions of a green economy.
I can give a very simple example, today we see scooters in Tbilisi, which are for private entities. Scooters could not be used, for example, if Tbilisi did not have the appropriate infrastructure for this particular mode of transportation. This is also a form of public-private partnership. However, certainly there are opportunities on a larger scale to facilitate cooperation between the state and the business sector, but for smooth partnership , many incentive mechanisms need to be developed and appropriate infrastructure needs to be created in all cities
Q. What kinds of fines or limitations have been imposed on companies that have been found to be having a negative impact on the environment?
A. The effectiveness of Georgian legislation in terms of environmental sanctions can be considered in two ways: whether it creates a deterrent basis or how much it makes businesses think that they should not commit a breach. But the most important thing is that under our law, sanctions are not only monetary, but also criminal, including imprisonment when you commit a crime in the environmental field. It was a refinement, and I can proudly say that just a few months ago, the Parliament approved the Law on Environmental Liability in the third reading, which is a very big step forward for the formation of environmental law in Georgia.
According to the law, from next year, businesses will be required to accumulate certain amounts in advance, and in case of damage to the environment, these funds will be used to recycle the same soil or eliminate other problems caused by their activities, this is a variety of modern-style sanctions around the world. There is such a principle – the polluter pays to the environment, which is quite an effective mean. So our legislation is improving in terms of the environment, and the Association Agreement is one of the means of enforcing this.
Q. Do you think that the existing law is effective in terms of protecting Georgia from environmental offenders?
A. The committee is not an executive body. The committee has several mechanisms of parliamentary control: thematic investigations; monitoring and overseeing the implementation of legislation. We have very interesting projects planned and we already have partner donor organizations,  such as the European Union or other international institutions, and we have very interesting topics planned both in terms of legislation and thematic research. The first thematic study we are starting to work on is inert waste management as well as monitoring the implementation of the commitments that the Thematic Research Framework for Climate Change obliges us to do. This will have a huge impact on the business sector and we also plan to make legal changes that will make it easier for us to bring green environmental issues into the governance of each city.
We want to implement a standard in every city where sustainable urban development, environmental protection, planning and maintenance of green urban areas , sustainable urban transport system and environmental issues are in the foreground  and play vital role in the development of each city.
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