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President: Τackling climate change is a government priority

The design and implementation of a horizontal strategy to tackle climate change and protect the environment is a top priority for the government, President Nikos Christodoulides said at a conference organised by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, titled "Is climate change a threat to tourism?".

He added that the adoption and implementation of the principles of sustainability must now define the country's development model.

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In his address at the opening of the conference, President Christodoulides said that climate change is an issue that concerns the entire planet and all of humanity, adding that it is a huge challenge for tourism, but also an opportunity for those countries that will manage to benefit both in the tourism sector and in many other areas.

We are late and we must admit it, especially the countries of the region, the President continued, adding that no country can face the threats of climate change alone, a message that he said Cyprus conveyed to neighbouring countries at a related regional meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, at the last COP meeting.

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"The latest developments in Israel might make it difficult for us to organise a regional meeting on this issue in particular, because there is also the political dimension. It is very difficult for the countries in the region to sit around a table to discuss security issues, defence issues, hard policy issues. But it is much easier to find issues like climate change, something that threatens us all, so that we can start working together, working with all the states and through this cooperation we can see the benefits that can be derived and that will lead us to cooperation on other issues," he added.

Climate change is a phenomenon that affects horizontally all the issues that concern a government, President Christodoulides then said, citing as one of the biggest problems that Cyprus is currently facing the migration issue. Αs he said, at the moment about 7% of the people living in the country are asylum seekers, adding that if the phenomenon of climate change is not addressed, especially in African countries, conditions will be created that will not allow people to live in their countries.

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"It is for this reason that in the discussions on migration, especially in Brussels, we insist that we cannot deal with it by giving benefits to all these people, but we have to address the root causes of the migration phenomenon. And one of the most basic problems that causes migration is also the phenomena resulting from not addressing the effects of climate change," he underlined in this regard.

In this context, the design and implementation of a horizontal strategy to tackle climate change and protect the environment, involving all ministries, is a top priority for all governments and, by extension, the adoption and implementation of the principles of sustainability must now define the country's development model, the President noted. He added that with this in mind, the Government is designing and implementing a multitude of actions to limit, as far as possible, the reasons for its cause, as well as the impact of climate change on the country’s society and economy.

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One of the first actions in this direction, he said, was to increase the production of energy from alternative sources, citing the decisions of the Council of Ministers to amend the "Plan for the Production of Electricity from Renewable Energy Sources for Consumption", measures which, together with the decisions to be announced after the meeting of the Council of Ministers on Thursday, will significantly help to reduce the electricity cost and to increase the share of Renewable Energy Sources in the electricity sector.

He added that at the same time the Government is working on measures to reduce air pollution produced by the large numbers of vehicles and traffic congestion, such as the use of public transport, following the recent decision to provide free transport to the centre of Nicosia by bus, a measure which, he said, despite initial doubts, is now being successfully continued and the allocation of more buses for this line is already being discussed, as well as the extension to Limassol and then to all the cities of Nicosia.

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An important pillar of the government's actions is the Recovery and Resilience Plan and specifically the second policy axis, which includes actions aimed at accelerating the transition to the green economy and environmental sustainability, President Christodoulides said, adding that this axis is the most important in terms of the Plan's overall contribution to climate goals, covering 42% of the total Recovery Plan budget and including overall actions worth over €500 million.

Regarding the tourism sector, he noted that the National Tourism Strategy will include specific actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change especially in the tourism sector, while in this context, the Government continues to cooperate at regional and international level, giving as an example the Action Plan prepared on the initiative of Cyprus by the scientific community to address climate change in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider Middle East region.

The Government also aims to raise awareness within the population on the issue of climate change, the President of the Republic continued, commending the excellent work being done by Environment Commissioner Maria Panagiotou in this area from the first day she took office, and adding that there are plans to extend these programmes to schools and military camps and wherever else possible, while these actions should aim to reach out to older people.

"Because of the importance of the tourism industry for the economy of our country, I believe that climate change is a threat that we must be concerned with to the maximum extent possible and we must be proactive both in planning and in practice, so as to mitigate the effects we are already facing," he concluded.

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