EU’s Mediterranean states urge global action to fight climate crisis

HOT Leaders of the EU’s bloc of nine southern European members said on Friday that urgent global action was needed to address a worsening climate crisis and build a sustainable future for the Mediterranean region.

They expressed their “strong conviction that urgent and ambitious global action [is needed] at national, regional and local levels,” according to a joint statement issued after the talks got underway.

Attending the talks were Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and leaders and senior representatives from Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia, Croatia and Portugal.

The Mediterranean was now suffering “unprecedented ecological damage and response capabilities are being stretched to the limit,” they said after their meeting, joined by EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.

“Such vulnerability is going to increase due to the accelerating impacts from climate change in the region leading to losses in welfare in terms of economic impacts due to climate change,” the statement said.

Participants reaffirmed their commitment to goals set out under the Paris accord, the worldwide global climate pact, called for closer integration of climate change policies across Europe and further cooperation within the EU’s trans-national disaster response mechanism.

EU scientists have said the Mediterranean has become a “wildfire hotspot” as human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe.

Greece and Turkey were hit by their most intense blazes on record amid an intense heatwave this summer, while in southern Italy fires ravaged swathes of land.

In Greece, hundreds of businesses and houses have been burnt to the ground, with the fires overwhelming national civil protection and firefighting responses and forcing Greece to ask assistance from other EU countries.

The Mediterranean countries also agreed to boost cooperation among themselves in planning and prevention and called on the EU to strengthen its civil protection mechanisms to help better protect citizens and the environment against “increasingly severe and complex disasters.”

The talks are also concentrated on the crisis in Afghanistan and migration, with Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta lying on the major routes smugglers use to get people into the European Union.

During the conference, Greece and Cyprus are also expected to bring up the issue of Turkey, a neighbor with whom they have a series of disputes, including over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greek authorities banned demonstrations and large public gatherings across the capital for the one-day gathering.

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