Heads of State across the Mediterranean have issued a stark warning about climate change and its threat to daily life in their countries.
“Extreme natural phenomena are destroying the ecosystem and threatening our daily life, our way of life,” said the statement, crafted and signed jointly by Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, and his peers in Croatia, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia.
“There is no more time to waste, no more time to compromise for political or economic reasons,” the presidents said in the statement, reported by Reuters. Their urgent message also highlights how vulnerable Mediterranean nations are to water shortages and desertification.
July 2023 reached 16.95°C (62.51°F) surface air temperature in its first three weeks – a period so hot it broke records for the warmest on record compared to previous averages over the first 23 days of July from 1940 to 2023. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called the development “terrifying”.
Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning. The era of global boiling has arrived.António Guterre, UN Secretary-General
The UN’s Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan describes the impact of global warming on the region, which it notes is home to 510 million people. According to its fact sheet, the Mediterranean is warming 20% faster than the global average. Coastal zones face flooding, erosion and salinization of water sources that sustain agriculture and ecosystems. By 2050, water demand is projected to double or even triple. Economies and societal structures in Mediterranean will face the brunt of these challenges.
Now, triggered by a phone call between Materella and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the group of six southern European Heads of State have come together to echo Guterres’s call to action. “All Mediterranean countries must coordinate and react, engage in a collective effort to halt and reverse the effects of the climate crisis,” their statement continued.
They stopped short however of enumerating just how to achieve the “halt and reverse” they advocate. As non-executive leaders, their remit is largely to promote unity and perform a symbolic civic role, avoiding being seen to take political sides. Policymaking is therefore out of their hands.
While representatives from Italy’s legislative are yet to comment, Vassilis Kikilias, the Greek Minister for Climate Change and Civil Protection recently acknowledged the scale of the problem. Commenting on July’s heatwave and rampant wildfires, he said, “The climate crisis that brought us this unprecedented heat wave is here. It’s not a theory. It is our actual experience.”
He added, “This is not something that will just occur this year. It will last and we have to face the consequences of what that means.”
Mediterranean countries like Greece are facing a painful balancing act between attracting the tourists that make up 25% of their gross national product and pursuing sustainable policies to protect against climate catastrophe.