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13-10-2021 10:41

Speech by the President of the Republic, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, at the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East

It is an honour and a great pleasure to welcome you at the “2nd International Conference on Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East: Challenges and Solutions.”

The participation of so many government representatives, renowned policy makers and prominent international scientific experts from our region and beyond, is indicative not only of the gravity of the crisis we are facing, but also of our collective resolve to address its dire effects.

In May 2018 the Cyprus Institute organized the 1st International Conference on “Climate Change in the Mediterranean and the Middle East” and the scientific community conveyed a clear and alarming message:

Our region is classified as a global “climate change hot-spot”, being particularly vulnerable to its negative impact, with our countries already witnessing consequent serious challenges.

Challenges which are to a large extent common: Record high temperatures and protracted heat waves, devastating fires and deforestation, increased water scarcity, droughts, floods and extreme weather patterns.

All these phenomena attest the difficult situation we are facing and if we fail to act the impact on public health, ecosystems, agriculture, tourism and water resources will be unprecedented.

Even as we speak, the supply to our citizens of basic needs, such as food and water, is under threat.

Hence, if we do not mitigate the effects of Climate Change the pressure on our governments will increase dramatically, as our citizens will, rightfully, demand better health and living conditions, improved air quality and a clean environment.

What is also equally important to realise, is that the consequences will be disastrous not only for our region, with a population of approximately 500 million people, but will have global ramifications as well.

Based on the above-mentioned observations, it became clear to my Government that there is urgent need to immediately act and effectively address the negative consequences of climate change, based on sound scientific expertise and advice.

To this end, in 2019 we undertook the initiative for developing a Regional Action Plan for tackling climate change and its effects in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region, in various sectors.

To name a few: the Environment, Agriculture, Tourism, Health, Water and Cultural Heritage.

In order to achieve this objective, a detailed work program has been developed, consisting of two distinct components: a scientific and an intergovernmental one.

The Scientific Component provides the basis for the Regional Action Plan and was led by Professor Costas Papanicolas, President of the Cyprus Institute and my advisor and Special Envoy on Climate Change.

In this regard, during these past two years the Cyprus Institute has coordinated the work of 13 Regional Task Forces, in which, more than 240 scientists from our region and International Organisations participated on a voluntary basis for the preparation of the Thematic Reports.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank Professor Papanicolas for his leadership and to express my gratitude to all the scientists who have contributed to the preparation of the thematic reports.

Their findings, along with the policy recommendations they provide, will be invaluable tools for the work of the national contact points of each country during the development of the Regional Action Plan.

And referring to the intergovernmental component of our plan, I would like to once more urge all the governments of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region to commit to our initiative and collaborate with the Minister of the Environment Costas Kadis for its finalisation.

In this regard, a Ministerial Meeting and a Leaders’ Summit is expected to take place in the coming months so as to validate and launch the implementation of the Action Plan, via, amongst others, establishing appropriate coordination and monitoring mechanisms. 

Through the implementation of the regional plan, we expect that Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East countries will:

- Promote actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change impacts;

-  Establish the necessary mechanisms for more resilient and competitive economies by switching to renewable and cleaner energy;

- Improve access to climate change financial instruments and mechanisms; 

- Provide incentives to our businesses and industries so as to adapt and shift to sustainable and green technologies in order to increase their competitiveness in the global markets, and;

- Create new green employment opportunities.

We do hope that we will also receive the support of the EU and of regional and international organizations.

In this regard, please allow me to specifically welcome the participation at the opening panel of Professor Jeffrey Sachs – President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – and of Mr. Virginijus Sinkevicius – EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, as well as of course His Royal Highness, El Hassan bin Talal, and His Excellency Laurent Fabius.

Further to our efforts to promote collaboration on addressing climate change at a regional level, at the national level we are determined to take all necessary measures so as to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and the ambitious targets set by the EU.

Cyprus was among the countries of the EU that supported the transition of the EU to carbon neutrality by 2050 and we have already designed specific policies that will lead to implementing our obligations.

Indicatively, more than 500 million euro – that is 41% of the budget of our National Resilience and Recovery Plan for the years 2021 to 2026 - which aims at strengthening the country’s potential for economically, socially and environmentally sustainable long-term growth and welfare, is devoted to investments and reforms that contribute to climate neutrality and towards green transition.

We are compelled to take on urgent action to address climate change and I am certain that you will agree with me that the time to act is upon us.

Our vision is for our region to look to the future with optimism and to use the climate challenge as an opportunity to proudly demonstrate what our countries can achieve when they join forces by cooperating and acting together.

In concluding, I wish to once more thank all the participants at the Conference, particularly those who joined us from abroad, despite the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on international travelling.

I have no doubt that during the fruitful deliberations that will follow these couple of days, you will have the opportunity to be thoroughly informed by the members of the Task Forces of the proposed measures, submit suggestions and jointly elaborate on the benefits from the implementation of specific measures for each country and our region in general.