Fighting climate change crucial for Cyprus

Nicoleta Athanasiadou, Costas Melakopides and Christos Xenophontos
In the December 2009 European Council that preceded the climate conference in Copenhagen, President Christofias and the majority of Cypriot political classes welcomed the EU leaders’ decision to assist developing countries financially to meet their emission targets.[1] Cyprus’ contribution to the EU fund is about 600,000 Euros per year, a prospect that was overall welcomed by both political parties and civil society. However, they all insisted simultaneously on the issue’s global aspects, underlining that, besides the EU, other developed countries, and primarily the USA and Japan, should also contribute to the global efforts for protecting the environment.[2]
That is why the Copenhagen Accord reached between the USA, China, India, Brazil and South Africa was received with great disappointment among Cypriot decision makers.[3] In Nicosia, political party representatives expressed their frustration at the lack of decisiveness by the larger actors involved to achieve a legally binding agreement. In various statements, members of the Cypriot parliament told reporters that the UN-led Copenhagen climate summit was “a disaster” and a “great failure”: whereas the EU attended the summit in hopes of reaching an agreement for the reduction of CO2 levels within the next ten years, this and other targets were not included in the agreement that was merely “recognised” by the 193 nations attending the summit.[4] Cypriot political figures and ecologists also criticised the absence of any penalties from the deal for countries that fail to meet their promises.
Turning to the EU’s energy and climate policy, high praise was being uttered, especially regarding the Union’s targets and its initiatives towards assisting developing countries to meet their emission goals. Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment conveyed to us that Brussels’ role as a leader in the fight against climate change should be reaffirmed with stronger representations towards other developed countries and additional pressure for legally binding agreements which should be implemented worldwide.[5]
Officials accentuated the need for a global agreement, ideally initiated by the EU, which could assume a leading role internationally in action against climate change.[6] Unfortunately, they commented, one country or region cannot deal with environmental destruction by itself. Manifestly, collective measures and global initiatives are essential. The current global financial crisis causes further damage to the environment due to the intensive exploitation of resources. On the other hand, it is evident that energy security and investment in renewable energy sources will lead to lower economic and environmental costs and to a developmental boost for all nations. According to our KIMEDE colleagues, here is a glorious opportunity for the EU to further strengthen its global “normative” status and role.
As President Christofias remarked, any initiatives that address climate change “will take humanity out of intensive care”.[7] Cyprus, a country affected by climate change, is willing to contribute to the EU targets to the best of its abilities. Already, the Cypriot government looks into additional renewable energy sources, utilising wave, river and hydroelectric power from small water dams, as well as exploiting solar and wind energy. The director of energy services at the Ministry of Commerce, Solon Kassinis, proudly revealed that Cyprus will reach 8 percent of energy production from renewable energy sources in 2010, while the target set by the EU is 13 percent by 2020.[8]
In addition, as Cypriot Minister of Interior, Neoklis Silikiotis, pointed out, it is crucial that Cyprus invests in innovative, eco-friendly research that will lead to sustainable development.[9] A fine example is a sophisticated research method aimed at producing desalinated water and “co-generating” electricity using solar power, a project currently planned by the appropriate authorities. Scientists taking part in this EU co-funded project, which also involves the Cyprus Institute, the Cyprus Electricity Authority and American universities, will test the evidence of lab results with the goal of securing the 20-year viability of this new method. The experiment will take three years to complete and could prove salutary for the entire Mediterranean region. Described as one of the most innovative renewable energy projects in Europe, it will reportedly put Cyprus firmly on the international map of research and innovation.

[1] Press Reports, December 2009.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Interviews conducted by Nicoleta Athanasiadou, Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment, Nicosia, early June 2010.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Statements by President Demetris Christofias, Larnaca, 17/12/2009 (as reported by the Cyprus News Agency).

[8] Statements by Dr Solon Kassinis, Nicosia, as reported by CyBC TV main evening news, 7/03/2010.

[9] Statements by the Minister of Interior, Neoklis Silikiotis, Nicosia, 23/06/2010 (as reported by all Cypriot Media).