Some 15 Mediterranean countries, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority, agreed Friday to work together to combat the effects of climate change that threaten the region.
The countries signed a declaration at a climate change conference near Athens in Greece which called for “contributing to the emergence of low carbon, resource efficient and climate resilient economies.”
“Climate change threatens our way of life as people of the Mediterranean,” said Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who initiated the conference attended by his counterparts from Turkey, Libya, Malta, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority and environment ministers from some 15 countries.
The Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative also aimed “at developing common Mediterranean positions on climate change demonstrating leadership and strong commitment to action in the international arena,” a text of the declaration in English said.
The Mediterranean initiative comes about a month before the United Nations conference on climate change which will be held in late November in Cancun, Mexico.
The agreement among the Mediterranean nations to address the problem of global warming, despite political conflicts between some of them, was hailed by some as a diplomatic breakthrough.
“It is a new way of doing diplomacy because all these countries have a lot of problems to deal with — economic crises, political instability and other issues — and the conflicts between them,” said a diplomat from one of the participating countries who requested anonymity.
“However, they sat around the same table realising that they all face the same threat to their culture and their way of life.”
Some of the problems the Mediterranean region faces from the effects of climate change centre on access to water, energy, and desertification.
“If we do not decide to manage the planet together… there will be conflicts over the problems” created by climate change, said Papandreou, who would like to create a Mediterranean fund to finance green projects.
The declaration noted that the Mediterranean region “has an unrivalled potential to become a major hub of renewable energy generation for domestic and neighbouring markets.”
While not among the world’s most polluting nations, the Mediterranean countries nonetheless face an increase of four degrees in average temperatures and a 70 percent drop in precipitation in the coming years, participants at the conference said.
Climate change also could reduce the harvests of the Mediterranean’s key crops such as olives and grapes, Rajendra Pachuauri, the head of the UN intergovernmental group of climate experts, told the conference in a video message.
It could also affect a key economic sector in the region, namely, tourism.
“Tourism is expected to decline globally, especially during the summer months,” Pachauri said.
A study released Tuesday by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said regions bordering the Mediterranean could see “almost unprecedented” drought conditions within the next 30 years unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut.