The inaugural Green Agenda Cyprus Summit, held on Monday in Nicosia, highlighted the vision and actions necessary for the green transition of the Cypriot economy.

The event, supported by Hellenic Bank, focused on the risks posed by climate change and their impact on human life, the banking system, industry, real estate, and the insurance sector.

The aim was to support Cyprus’ efforts in becoming a model of ecological living and sustainable development.

In his speech, acting CEO of Hellenic Bank Antonis Rouvas stressed that the bank has set clear goals and indicators to reduce its environmental footprint.

He explained that the new ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) Strategy aims to benefit all stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors, and society at large.

“We are committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, which we will accomplish through our operations, the financing we offer, and our investments,” Rouvas stated.

“To drive change, we need to engage our customers on this journey, supporting them with suitable financing products and providing the necessary tools to achieve the green transition,” he added.

What is more, it was noted that Hellenic Bank offers specialised green products to its clients, aiming to combat climate change and improve energy efficiency for both businesses and households.

Rouvas also highlighted the bank’s Sustainable Bond Issuance Framework, which allows Hellenic Bank to issue green bonds.

“Investors can diversify their portfolios, achieve desired returns, and simultaneously meet their environmental and social goals,” he stated.

Furthermore, Hellenic Bank has revised its ESG Strategy from 2023, so that it is now integrated into the bank’s strategic plan, incorporating specific goals at all operational levels.

This strategy is built around four main pillars that are aligned with the UN’s sustainable development goals, the EU’s Green Deal, and the Paris Agreement.

These include achieving carbon neutrality, creating the workforce of the future, enhancing the resilience and efficiency of banking services and products, and supporting ecosystem sustainability.

Elsewhere during the summit, experts discussed the health impacts caused by the climate crisis, the financial mechanisms for achieving green transition goals, and the latest technological options to support this transition.

Cyprus’ Agriculture Minister introduced a pilot programme for green roofs, while the Energy Minister expressed caution regarding hydrogen usage.

European Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra addressed the conference through a recorded message, calling for consensus on EU climate goals without compromising business competitiveness and ensuring a fair transition for all citizens.

Highlighting Cyprus’ climate challenges, he noted that over 1,900 hectares of land were lost to wildfires in 2023, the highest in over a decade.

He also said that more than 50 per cent of Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Portugal, and Italy face persistent drought issues.

Hoekstra commended Cyprus’ progress in green transition since joining the EU, with projects like the Great Sea Interconnector enhancing energy security and sustainability.

He emphasised Cyprus’ potential in renewable energy, particularly solar power, and stressed the importance of investments in renewable energy, smart meter infrastructure, and sustainable transport to boost energy efficiency and resilience.

Mobilising financial resources is crucial for fully leveraging the green transition, Hoekstra noted, suggesting that revenues from green taxes be fairly redistributed to support the most vulnerable, especially in a high-interest rate environment.

Meanwhile, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides spoke on the health impacts of the climate crisis, citing that over 60,000 lives were lost in Europe to heatwaves in 2022.

She highlighted that one in eight Europeans lives in areas prone to river floods, and about 30 per cent of southern Europe faces constant water supply issues.

Kyriakides noted that heat exposure leads to various adverse health effects, including heat stress, dehydration, sleep disorders, hypertension, and mental stress, particularly among vulnerable groups.

The WHO anticipates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths annually worldwide, while air pollution results in 300,000 premature deaths annually in the EU alone.

Acknowledging Cyprus’ vulnerability to climate change, Kyriakides emphasised the need for greater disease prevention, reallocating resources to primary care, and expanding telemedicine use.

In addition, she highlighted the EU’s leadership in tackling climate-related health threats, referencing the establishment of the European Climate and Health Observatory in 2021 and the approval of a new law in October 2022 covering severe cross-border health threats.

Lastly, she mentioned the establishment of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) to address health emergencies.