By Evie Andreou
Cypriot EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides stressed the need on Saturday for collective action to tackle the challenges of climate change.
Speaking on the second day of an international conference on climate change in the Mediterranean and the Middle East held in Nicosia, Stylianides said that climate change was not fake news and that those who deny it are contradicting science.
According to the Global Trends 2018 Report, he said, extreme weather phenomena will increase in Europe and worldwide, meaning more forest fires, floods, heat waves, droughts, landslides and heavy storms.
“All of the above have a grave impact on European citizens’ health, food, water, migration flows, tourism and businesses,” the commissioner said, as well as on the environment and biodiversity but also cultural heritage, as most cultural sites are exposed to unusual temperatures, humidity, precipitation and rising sea levels.
Cyprus, he said, is a country that has felt the effects of climate change and could experience even greater impact, referring to desertification.
“According to a recent study, cities like Nicosia, Athens, Rome, Lisbon, Madrid, Valetta will witness the greatest increase in droughts and heat waves. Our neighbourhood, the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, is particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon,” he said, adding however, that no region remains unaffected by climate change.
“In Europe and our immediate neighbourhood, climate change is making dry regions even drier. Wet regions even wetter,” Stylianides said.
The commissioner presented his initiative, rescEU, which, he said, is “a direct response to the climate change phenomena”. rescEU, is a reserve at European level of civil protection capabilities such as aerial forest fighting planes, special water pumps, urban search and rescue and field hospitals and emergency medical teams. These will complement national assets and will be managed by the European Commission in order to support countries hit by disasters such as floods, forest fires, earthquakes and epidemics.
He said that the proposal is now going through the legislative process and that it has been positively received by the European Parliament and member states.
Political leaders, he said, must understand that climate change is real and that no one is immune to this new reality. “We need unity in effort. We need to join forces: policy makers, the scientific community, civil society”.