Intervention of Christina Nikolaou, Head of the Environmental Bureau of the C.C. of AKEL, to the regular bi-communal meeting
30th October 2019, Ledra Palace, Nicosia
“How urgent is the need to combat Climate Change”
Ambassador of Slovakia,
I would first like to thank you for hosting today’s meeting and express our genuine interest on the topic. I also wish to express our special thanks to the Cyprus Green party and to its president Mr. Yiorgos Perdikis for choosing climate change as the subject of today’s discussion. There is no better time to discuss this issue than now, as climate change is perhaps the timeliest and most burning issue of our era. It should be a priority for us all to put forth and elaborate specific proposals on how to solve these environmental problems of our common country, given that it is for sure certain that they must be addressed by both communities.
The environmental problems in Cyprus have been exacerbated as a result of the invasion and ongoing occupation, the unnatural separation of the Cypriot ecosystem, the ongoing uncontrolled development on both sides of the island and mainly due to the absence of a long-term comprehensive policy on addressing the environment.
How urgent is the need to combat climate change? We believe that the phenomena speak for themselves. Climate change is now affecting every country in every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, with severe costs for people, communities and countries today and even more so tomorrow. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, weather events are becoming more extreme and greenhouse gas emissions are now at their highest levels in history. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most.
Cyprus, due to its geographical location, is one of the first countries to experience the effects of climate change. It is a fact and scientifically proven that the Mediterranean region is a high risk area in terms of the impacts of climate change.
Environmental policy in our country must primarily take into account the particular circumstances of the people through the promotion of climate change protection and adaptation measures and above all to promote peaceful coexistence among all of its inhabitants.
This effort is supported through joint projects and programs which are co-financed by the EU within the framework of improving Turkish Cypriot’s quality of life and upgrading the environmental status of occupied areas. This can be done by developing more infrastructure and expanding our cooperation to more areas. AKEL always supports and will continue to support such efforts. In any manner environmental problems that Cyprus faces, do not recognize dividing lines. Desertification, environmental degradation, lack of environmental impact studies on development projects are just a few examples of the problems plaguing our country.
Between existing projects that have been carried out we must mention the Nicosia Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), which the Sewerage Board of Nicosia, the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have been promoting. The plant is facilitating access to wastewater services for both communities of Nicosia as a major contribution to the ongoing peace and confidence-building process.
The problem of solid waste management is one of the biggest environmental problems modern societies face and hence of our country too. This is another area of future and necessary cooperation towards reducing waste and even producing energy for both communities from wastes.
Furthermore, we cannot but mention the common problems we face daily due to the absence of a comprehensive environmental policy for the whole of Cyprus. Karpasia and Akamas the most environmentally important peninsulas of the island, both endowed with natural landscapes, habitats and biodiversity face threats. Akamas faces threats from the pressure for development outside the public forest and Karpaz from the uncontrolled development of tourism facilities. Our objective is that both areas must be designated as protected areas, reducing the likelihood of any development that would endanger these unique habitats.
According to the current scientific consensus, warming of the global climate system due to human activities is unambiguous. The Mediterranean basin is considered amongst the geographic areas that are most vulnerable to climate change and is expected to experience adverse climate change effects. Therefore, Cyprus is located in a hot spot and projected to face significant temperature increases, as well as a decline in rainfall levels.
The challenges of climate change demand a revision of older technologies, particularly with regards to energy production and storage, the use of renewable source of energy and cooperation on all sectors from both communities. The solution of the Cyprus problem aiming at the reunification of our common homeland is a prerequisite for unifying our country’s natural environment. AKEL is determined to exhaust all possibilities for a solution of the Cyprus problem, always on the basis of principles and the agreed framework of the solution.
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