EU leaders sign Athens Declaration on climate change and its impact on the Mediterranean natural environment

EU leaders who attended the EUMed9 Summit on climate change and the environment in the Mediterranean, expressed their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and to reducing the rise of global temperature by 1.5C in relation to pre-industrial levels, read the conclusions of the Athens Declaration that was signed at the conference on Friday.

Held at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC), the summit brought together the leaders of Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Spain and Portuguese Foreign Affairs Minister Augusto Santos Silva. The summit was also attended by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomed the two most recent partner countries to the summit, Slovenia and Croatia, and expressed his commitment to the target of Europe becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

The declaration reads that the leaders:

– Recognize the Mediterranean as being extremely vulnerable to the impact of climate change and prone to extreme weather events, and that it experiences more frequent, extensive and intense heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall, floods and forest fires. As a result, the area now suffers unprecedented ecological damage, while the response potential reaches its limits.

– Recognize the need for decisive adaptation to these phenomena and for resilience policies in line with the new EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, and for prevention measures in all areas expected to be significantly affected in the Mediterranean region, including environmental and socio-economic sectors, as climate change poses serious risks to the environment, to society and to economy.

– Agree to work closely together to build synergies promoting the necessary transition from fossil fuels to Renewable Energy Sources and low-carbon energy technologies.

– Agree to promote climate change adaptation solutions based on the function of nature itself, and to ensure adequate protection, in particular of ecosystems critical to disaster prevention, such as coastal zones, watersheds, wetlands, forests and also urban areas.

– Emphasize, anew, that the climate crisis is a global threat which requires coordinated international action, and therefore they call on all countries to act collectively and without further delay, as the UN Secretary-General said on August 9.

– Call on all international partners, in particular the G20 countries, to ratify the Paris Agreement and announce ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

– Recognize the commitment to the rapid development of technologies and policies that further accelerate Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).

– Call on all countries to participate in the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26, Glasgow, October 31-November 12, 2021) at the level of Heads of State & Government, and to commit to the goal of being climate-neutral by 2050.

The Athens Declaration also includes special references to the positive significance of biodiversity, forests, the marine environment, ‘blue economy’, civil protection, prevention and preparedness.

At the end of the declaration, the EU leaders “emphasize the urgent nature of the much-needed strengthening and deepening of cooperation among the Mediterranean partners, as the challenges related to natural disasters have a common profile, are often cross-border, and require initiatives to exchange expertise, useful conclusions, best practices and expertise.”

Concluding the declaration, the leaders say that “in the light of all the above, and in respect of existing regional agreements, we agree to further expand the work of the group of southern EU countries, by organizing sectoral meetings at all levels as appropriate, in a flexible and informal framework, in order to facilitate effective coordination and exchanges between the nine Partners.”