Sustainable Targets of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia

Nino Tandilashvili, the First Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, highlights the achieved results in these areas and discusses the ministry’s sustainability strategy.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia is tasked with advancing the implementation of sustainable development and green economy principles within the country. A key focus of the Ministry is the Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy of Georgia 2021-2027, which is integral to the unified state development policy. This strategy outlines the sectoral and multisectoral development directions along with the specific measures, ensuring the sustainable progress of agriculture and rural areas.
As part of the Economic Integration Mechanism and Association Agreement with the European Union, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Agreement is crucial. This Agreement mandates the adoption of standards, including the liberalization of trade in goods and services. Furthermore, it requires Georgia to align its legislation governing the sanitary and phytosanitary field with the corresponding legal acts of the European Union, encompassing areas such as food safety, veterinary medicine, and plant protection. Over the period from 2015 to 2028, the implementation or approximation with 200 EU regulations, directives, or decisions is anticipated.
The Ministry’s responsibilities, as outlined in other sections of the Association Agreement, extend to environmental protection, climate change, and rural and agricultural development. Nino Tandilashvili, the First Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, highlights the achieved results in these areas and discusses the ministry’s sustainability strategy.
What is the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia’s role in developing sustainable financing?
The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia plays a crucial role in advancing sustainable financing. Within the framework of sustainable financing, a key aspect involves enhancing financial stability and carefully considering environmental, social, and governance factors in the decision-making process for funding activities. This directly correlates with the environmental focus. The environmental protection, together with other realms, is directly interconnected with agriculture. Noteworthy global concerns encompass climate change, its mitigation and adaptation, the safeguarding and restoration of natural resources and ecosystems, diverse environmental pollution factors affecting atmospheric air, water, and soil, environmental governance, etc.
Hence, a primary responsibility of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia lies in fostering sustainable financing, which involves actively participating in the mobilization of financial resources, with a keen consideration for both environmental protection and the agricultural sector. Furthermore, emphasizing environmental factors as much as possible in decision-making about specific activities contributes to the enhancement of financial stability.
What is the Ministry’s strategy to enhance access to green finance for micro, small, and medium-sized businesses?
In Georgia, like worldwide, striking a balance between economic development and environmental protection, along with the prudent use of natural resources, presents a significant challenge. Therefore, our activities, programs, and events are designed to maximize the effective utilization of the agricultural sector’s potential, as well as promote the production and sale of Georgian products based on the international market demand. On the other hand, we aim to ensure that as the production develops and grows, our environment is safeguarded to the greatest extent possible and water, land, and forest resources are protected from pressure and damage. The consistent implementation of environmental policies is crucial to guarantee the sustainable and balanced development of the country.
The Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy of Georgia 2021-2027 forms an integral part of the country’s comprehensive development policy. It encompasses various sectoral and multisectoral development directions, along with specific measures, all contributing to the sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas. To realize the strategic vision for agriculture and rural development, three distinct strategic directions have been identified:
Competitive agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.
sustainable use of natural resources, preservation of ecosystems, adaptation to climate change.
Effective food/feed safety, veterinary, and plant protection systems.
Simultaneously, the global importance of employing energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies is on the rise. The Ministry’s “Green Grant Program” has been introduced with the goal of streamlining access to the adoption of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies for families residing in rural areas and the established business sector. In 2022, several beneficiaries were financially supported through the “Green Grant Program,” enabling them to install various forms of solar energy equipment and undertake comprehensive or partial thermal insulation of buildings.
Tell us about the Ministry’s activities in implementing the standards corresponding to the obligations stipulated by the Agreement on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).
As you are aware, the DCFTA Agreement stands as an integral component of the Association Agreement, focusing on the liberalization of trade in goods and services. To achieve this, a gradual alignment of Georgia’s trade-related legislation with the European Union’s is essential. Specifically, the DCFTA agreement outlines the harmonization of Georgia’s laws governing the sanitary and phytosanitary sphere with the corresponding legal acts of the European Union, covering aspects like food safety, veterinary medicine, and plant protection.
The legal approximation process is led by the Ministry within the agreed timelines. Between 2015 and 2028, the Ministry aims to implement approximately 200 EU regulations, directives, or decisions. The list was updated in 2023, and as of now, nearly 130 legal acts have been successfully approximated. Most of these acts have already come into effect with a designated transition period for the implementation of others, providing the private sector and government bodies the necessary time for preparation. Concurrently, the government is undertaking various support projects to introduce international standards, restructure enterprises, and provide training for personnel, among other initiatives.
Additionally, it is crucial to highlight that, beyond the DCFTA segment, the Ministry is bound by obligations outlined in other sections of the association agreement. These encompass the Ministry’s commitments in crucial areas like environmental protection, climate change, and rural and agricultural development. Substantial progress has been made in these domains, marked by the enactment of laws addressing pivotal aspects such as environmental management, ambient air quality, water resources management, environmental responsibility, environmental impact assessment, waste management, and industrial emissions. Several supporting by-laws have been adopted, and significant draft laws have been formulated concerning biodiversity and chemical substances management. Ongoing efforts include the development of a climate regulation bill.
Navigating this multifaceted process is intricate and time-intensive. Notably, the challenges arise in ensuring the effective enforcement of approximated legislation, prompting the state to take significant measures in collaboration with the partner donor organizations. The active engagement and support of international partners remain pivotal in facilitating this ongoing process.
As far as we know, digitization of the process of issuing environmental permits is planned. If so, can you tell us what the environmental benefits of this initiative imply? What will be its impact on businesses?
First and foremost, it is important to highlight the ongoing process of digitizing environmental permits, which encompasses several key components. Since 2018, the Environmental Assessment Code has implemented robust and ambitious mechanisms for public information and participation in the decision-making process in the country. This necessitated the development of innovative information tools by the state. In 2023, we established an environmental information portal to achieve this objective. The portal has significantly enhanced public access to information related to the projects of interest. Each application now carries a designated status, providing users with clarity on whether a specific procedure is complete, terminated, or in progress. Information can be categorized based on the public interest, procedure type, ongoing, suspended, or concluded procedures at the regional or municipal level, and planned or conducted public hearings.
Access to this information is not only of interest to a wide audience but also to businesses. Our goal, following the introduction of the public component, is to implement electronic submission of applications by businesses and digitalize relevant processes to establish a system that offers all stakeholders an open and transparent view of ongoing and completed permit processes. It will facilitate improved and simplified feedback from businesses to the administrative body and contribute to optimizing decision-making processes in response to the growing number of applications each year. We plan to gradually unify all environment-related decision-making, permit, or relevant authorization processes into a single, open system.
What steps are planned to be taken regarding the implementation of the carbon trading mechanism in the country?
The carbon trading mechanism is relatively new, and the formulation of its international, universally accepted rules is currently in progress during the Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in recent years. At present, our country has entered into agreements with Switzerland and Japan for cooperation in carbon trading. These agreements delineate the responsibilities assumed by the parties regarding carbon trading, specifying the sectors and types of projects eligible for inclusion in this mechanism and the rules governing emissions measuring, among other aspects. It is important to note that this mechanism is still in its early stages, and its full implementation will require some time.
What is being done and what should be done to reduce the environmental damage caused by the private sector? What is the main challenge in this direction?
Environmental protection and the elevation of environmental standards are Georgia’s key priorities. In recent years, the country has introduced several new laws related to the environment, with notable mention of the “On Environmental Liability” law of Georgia. This legislation was developed in accordance with Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and the Council on “Environmental Liability,” introducing a comprehensive environmental liability regime to the Georgian legal system. Aligned with European standards, the law addresses the prevention of significant environmental damage, mitigation of harm, and the restoration of existing damage. The law is grounded in a fundamental principle of environmental protection – “the polluter pays.” This principle dictates that individuals causing substantial harm to the environment are obligated to rectify the damage (to soil, water, protected species/natural habitats) through appropriate remedial measures, bearing the cost and responsibility.
This approach marks a significant departure from the previous system in Georgia, which relied solely on the “monetary compensation” rule, rather than restoring the environment by the polluter. Under the former system, those responsible for environmental harm paid fines and a calculated amount for the damage caused, with these funds directed to the state budget rather than directly contributing to the restoration of the damaged environment.
Moreover, the law introduced the “Environmental Program,” aimed at financing the measures for preventing damage to the environment, restoring the environment, and enhancing overall environmental quality. In addressing the activities posing significant environmental risks, the legislation mandates the provision of financial security (such as insurance or a bank guarantee) for potential harm to the environment, set to take effect on September 1, 2026. This requirement ensures that future financial resources are available to rectify significant damage resulting from these activities and restore the affected environment to its original state. Furthermore, the law imposes substantial sanctions for the violations of environmental liability legislation, reinforcing the enforcement of legal requirements in practice.
Additionally, to safeguard ambient air quality, legislative changes were introduced. Certain economic activities now carry the obligation of continuous determination (self-monitoring) of harmful substance emissions through instrumental methods. Stricter responsibilities for air pollution have been enforced, leading to the positive outcomes evident in the improvement of air quality.
Why is the development of sustainable financing important for the country and society? And what impact will it have on the development of the investment climate?
The advancement of sustainable financing mechanisms continues through diverse approaches and the implementation of various reforms and measures. A crucial aspect in this pursuit is to ensure the facilitation of financial resource mobilization for green and resilient economic growth.
In 2022, in collaboration with local and international experts as well as stakeholders, the National Bank developed the “Sustainable Finance Taxonomy for Georgia.” Aligned with the EU taxonomy and in harmony with international practices, this document also considers the specific characteristics of the Georgian economy. Serving as a classification system, it defines the activities that contribute to green, social, or sustainable development goals. The primary objective of the taxonomy is to foster the development of the sustainable finance market in Georgia, thereby supporting the country’s sustainable growth.
What should the country do to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and what is the role of the state and the private sector in this regard?
Georgia has initiated measures to transition towards a circular economy. In collaboration with the Government of Georgian, civil society organizations, the Academy of Sciences, and international partners, a strategy and roadmap for a circular economy are being developed, encompassing aspects such as production, consumption, waste management, utilization of secondary raw materials, innovations, and investments. Implementing the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is actively contributing to advancing the green and circular economy. This obligation directly promotes waste reuse, recycling, and recovery (including energy recovery).
The private sector is responsible for waste collection, transportation, and processing, with the Ministry actively supporting the capacity-building initiatives of the private entities.
How important is multisectoral cooperation between the government, financial institutions, development organizations, and the civil sector in promoting sustainable finance development in Georgia?
Based on the concept of sustainable finance (which involves mobilizing financial resources for the activities dedicated to sustainable development while considering environmental, social, and governance factors in financing the decisions to enhance financial stability), the development of this dimension is impossible without multisectoral cooperation. In tandem with the collaborative efforts of the government, financial institutions, development organizations, and the civil sector, fostering international cooperation is equally crucial, both within the relevant international forums and between countries. It is crucial to acknowledge that the positive outcomes of sustainable finance manifest in the long term. Therefore, to stimulate the growth of this trajectory, substantial efforts must be directed towards raising awareness about the benefits and advantages of sustainable financing. This awareness-building initiative should target various groups and the general public at large.
As for the Ministry’s future plans – what is planned in terms of green economy, green growth and sustainable development?
The Government of Georgia recognizes the importance of developing specific directions to enhance the country’s sustainable development and the well-being of its population. Key focus areas include the introduction of clean consumption and production practices, attracting green investments, reducing environmental degradation, and curbing the consumption of natural resources. The approach centers on promoting sustainable development, strategically emphasizing natural capital as a pivotal driver of economic growth. The Ministry, in collaboration with other relevant ministries, actively participates in the implementation of donor-funded projects and the formulation of future initiatives for the development of the green economy.
It’s noteworthy that the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia is planning to develop a green growth strategy for the sustainable and inclusive development of the country. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia and other government agencies will play an active role in this endeavor. Initiated at the end of 2022, with the technical support of the World Bank, the development of the national green growth strategy and corresponding action plan is underway. This strategy and action plan identifies Small and medium-sized enterprises as leading products for driving the country’s green and sustainable economic development.
In alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Georgia has nationalized all 17 goals, 93 targets (out of 169 targets), and 202 indicators (there are 231 unique indicators that are not repeated. In total there are 248 indicators, of which 17 indicators are repeated in different targets). Within its competence, the Ministry has nationalized 6 SDGs, 14 targets, 20 global indicators, and produced 1 national indicator. Coordination and support for this ongoing effort are provided by the Administration of the Government of Georgia. Continuous work is being conducted, with the agencies gradually nationalizing the remaining targets and producing indicators (at this stage the Ministry is handling the targets related to the topic of SDG 12 (“Responsible Consumption and Production”) related to the targets with regard to the waste management).