POLITICO – The Class of 2022: Εleni Myrivili, the trailblazer

Εleni Myrivili is offering Europe a taste of what’s to come. As Athens’ chief heat officer, Myrivili has been tasked with devising ways to save lives, as rising global temperatures produce longer, hotter, more frequent and deadlier heat waves. Her team in the Greek capital is developing new protocols for managing extreme weather — given local temperatures now regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius during the summer — while also educating locals and figuring out how to change the built environment to better reflect heat and cool the streets.

As the first — and so far only — European city official dedicated solely to the issue, her appointment in July marked the moment when adapting to climate change became politically institutionalized at the local level. With climate models predicting more frequent flooding in Northern Europe and devastating fires and heat in the South, officials and politicians will increasingly be called upon to help citizens cope with disaster. Even if global warming is capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius — which is unlikely given current climate commitments — hot weather will soon kill about 30,000 Europeans a year, according to a study for the EU.

Myrivili also represents how far Europe still has to go in terms of putting institutions in place to cope with the deleterious effects of climate change. Her job wasn’t just the brainchild of the Athens city government — it’s part of a project funded by the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Resilience Center of the Atlantic Council, a United States-based think tank, which is also behind the creation of a similar post in Miami, Florida. In this position, Myrivili doesn’t have any executive power; she’ll have to push through her policies with her powers of persuasion. In addition to that, she’s been tasked with not just drafting up policies for her own city but offering advice for municipalities across the Continent, where she’ll likely struggle to make herself heard — no matter how important her message may be.

Class of 2022

This edition of POLITICO 28 is an annual list of the most important and influential people inciting debate and driving decisions in Europe.

Merkel isn’t on the list, but as the politician often referred to as “the leader of the free world,” she looms large over this year’s edition. While running Germany comes with significant power built in, Merkel has become more than just the EU leader of the country with the largest GDP. Every time the bloc has faced a critical decision over the last decade, it was her position that determined the landing zone.

The composition of this year’s list reflects the challenges left unresolved during the four terms of Merkel in office: the currency union, rising threats like China and familiar ones like Russia, the climate crisis, migration, the ill effects of social media, the ongoing battle with the coronavirus.

Closer to earth, the list includes some of Europe’s most prominent heads of state and government, as well as an open-source data detective, a PR-savvy spouse of a prime minister, a city bureaucrat tackling climate change at the street level and a regional leader mining public discontent over lockdowns. Several opposition figures who could — if they succeed against the odds at the ballot box — reshape their countries’ positions in Europe have also made the ranking.

See here the Class of 2022