The climate crisis is here and the cost of doing nothing will be "unimaginable", Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Reuters in an interview published on Sunday and given on the margins of the EU Med 9 summit held in Athens on Friday.
"I no longer want to talk about climate change. I want to talk about the climate crisis, it's already here," Mitsotakis said, adding that horizontal policies permeating every aspect of economic and social life were needed in order to address it.
The article noted that the prime minister had made "climate action a focal point of his administration", starting with a ban on coal-fired power stations from 2028 soon after his election in 2019, and more recently by creating a civil protection ministry tasked with dealing with crises.
"Here in the Mediterranean, we have almost 6,000 years of civilisation behind us but it's the duty of our generation to make sure that the future generations will continue to live and thrive and prosper," Mitsotakis said to Reuters.
He said that Mediterranean countries must lead the effort against the climate crisis and warned that the cost of doing nothing could be "the destruction of human civilisation as we know it."
"We have to be very, very, very clear. This is exactly what is at stake. If the worst-case scenarios materialise, this planet is not going to be hospitable to the human species by the end of this century," he said.
The prime minister also spoke about the wildfires and record high temperatures in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Spain over the summer, with scientists warning the region had turned into a "wildfire hotspot" even as Germany, Turkey and China were pounded with devastating floods.
"When faced with fires of this intensity, it is very clear that we need to do things differently," he said. "So we need to learn from our mistakes."
Mitsotakis said that Greece had reduced its greenhouse gasses by 11 million tonnes since late 2019 by moving away from coal and that Greek authorities were also moving "at warp speed" to place flood barriers in forests destroyed by fires this summer.