Georgia Nation

A SMALL COUNTRY with a population of under six million, the nation of Georgia is located at the juncture of Europe and Asia. In 1991, Georgia gained its independence from Russia. Despite inadequate sewage management that has left the Black Sea heavily polluted, experts view Georgia's environmental problems as less serious than those of more industrialized former-Soviet countries. National security and economic problems have demanded more immediate attention. Nevertheless, Georgia is party to a dozen international agreements on the environment, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Ozone Layer Protection, a United Nations agreement involving Countries with Economies in Transition (CEITs).

Ironically, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a substantial decline in Georgia's greenhouse gas emissions. The year before Georgia declared its independence, its CO2 emissions totaled 37 millions tons. Seven years later, in 1997, emissions had declined by nearly 10 million tons. The figure has begun to increase again in the 21st century. While industrial production is still below those of the Soviet-led era, traffic-related pollution is a substantial problem. Not only has the number of vehicles increased, but many vehicles are also old and poorly maintained. The quality of fuel they burn is often inferior, leading to concerns about lead pollution, as well as CO2 emissions.

Another concern relevant to global warming is deforestation. Illegal logging has remained a persistent problem in a country where energy became scarce and expensive in the 1990s, and the poverty rate soared. Trees were felled for fuel in greenbelts, in parks, and even in city streets. Little effort at reforestation ensued. However, Georgia has rich potential for developing clean and renewable energy sources. It is the most mountainous country in Europe, and the Black Sea forms its western boundary, making both wind and hydropower feasible. Legislative action in the late 1990s made it clear that Georgia understood the need to develop its renewable resources, but development has been slow, due to economic conditions. Exploiting coal reserves was a cheaper solution to immediate needs, even if doing so increased emissions. The 2006 Yale University study ranked Georgia 75th among 133 nations in its overall environmental health, a ranking largely due to its failures in sustainable resources.

The peaceful Rose Revolution saw a pro-Western government assume power in Georgia. Committed to democratic reforms, the government has also opened the country's economy and intensified efforts to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and to meet the criteria of the action plan inaugurated under the European Union's (EU) European Neighborhood Policy. One step in that plan calls for Georgia to implement its policies concerning sustainable resources. Georgia's expectation of joining NATO in the near future, and its long-range goal of EU membership, may increase concern about greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental issues.

SEE ALSo: Deforestation; Energy, Renewable; European Union.

BIBLIoGRAPHY. Central Intelligence Agency, "Georgia," (cited November 2007); Mary Dejevsky, "Georgia Gives Up Fight for Place in Europe," Independent (May 25, 2006); United Nations Environmental Program, "Caucasus Environmental Outlook," www.grid.unep. ch (cited November 2007); Yale University, "Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index," (cited November 2007).

Wylene Rholetter

Auburn University

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