The countries of the Mediterranean have a duty to tackle climate change immediately and effectively, or risk dire consequences that could even lead to the planet being inhospitable to humans.
This was the key message relayed by the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to leaders of other Mediterranean nations during a meeting in Athens last week.
Mitsotakis said Mediterranean countries must lead the way, because the cost of doing nothing was unimaginable.
“I no longer want to talk about climate change. I want to talk about the climate crisis. It’s already here,” Mitsotakis told Reuters in an interview. “And in order to address it, we need horizontal policies which essentially permeate every aspect of our economic and our social life.”
His comments came on the sidelines of a meeting with nine southern European nations hosted in Athens, and following a summer that saw devastating fires rage through Greece and neighboring countries such as Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Turkey.
Mitsotakis and his government faced strong criticism for their response to the fires, which forced thousands to flee their homes. It also led to a government reshuffle and the introduction of a new ministry to address the impact of climate change.
The new ministry will be fronted by former European Union commissioner Christos Stylianides.
Stylianides, 63, served as EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management between 2014 and 2019.
As minister of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, Stylianides will head firefighting, disaster relief and policies to adapt to rising temperatures resulting from climate change.
“I have accepted (the position) with the full awareness of the challenges and expectations that come with it. The consequences of climate change have overtaken us, and we must accelerate major change without delay,” Stylianides said. “Disaster prevention and preparedness is the most effective weapon we have.”
Featured image: Firefighting planes resuming operation at first light on Wednesday, August 4 to tackle a major forest fire on the northern outskirts of Athens. (Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press)
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