The management of disasters brought on by climatic change and the role of civil protection and solidarity among nations are issues under discussion during the Nicosia Risk Forum 2022 #NRF2022 that is underway in Larnaca, organised by the CERIDES Centre-of-Excellence in Risk and Decision Sciences of the European University Cyprus.
The Forum is co-organized with the Cyprus Fire Service and the Civil Defense and is held in collaboration with the Office of the European Parliament in Cyprus and the Union for the Mediterranean.
Director of CERIDES, Dr. George Boustras, welcoming participants said the forum brings together people under a thematic about disasters, noting the main purpose is to make society safer, therefore it is advocating a very positive picture.
He said the Nicosia Risk Forum aims to become a bridge of collaboration between countries because civil protection is solidarity between countries.
In a televised speech, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic said that this summer, we had another “record-breaking wildfire season”, as well as floods, tornadoes, heatwaves which are becoming frequent. He referred to the devastating floods in Pakistan and Nigeria, the consequences of drought in the Horn of Africa, while in Somalia after four dry seasons, famine is a real threat.
“Crises of this scale require a unified response, not only in responding to disasters but also in preventing them and preparing for them”, he said noting that in his department, they are “working in all these three levels.”
Lenarcic said the EU plans to double the aerial fire fighting capacity. This he said, will ensure we respond when fires occur in the EU. “This is European solidarity in action”, he remarked.
At the same time, he pledged EU determination to tackle effects of climate change before disasters strike, noting the actions the EU is focusing on is on five key areas, risk assessment, awareness, early warning systems, emergency response, function of emergency response centres during and after disasters.
Lenarcic said while a lot has been done in climate change, more is still needed. International cooperation is crucial if we are to prevent, prepare and respond to future disasters..”
He also underlined the need for support from stakeholders, policy makers and academia and that is why exchange forums like today continue to play an important role.
Commissioner for the Environment Klelia Vasiliou referred to investing in education in all target groups to make messages known and be useful to people who need them.
Education is mostly for adults being vulnerable in areas that need tools to tackle climate crisis.
Climate crisis consequences are already devastating she said, and referred to the destructive mega fires which comprise “one of the biggest challenges of our times”, as she put it.
She said that the best strategies to tackle it is to prevent it, be proactive, or if not, to be thoroughly prepared in terms of personnel and resources, training and facilities
Deputy Minister of National Defense of the Hellenic Republic, Nikos Hardalias, who had served as Secretary General of Civil Protection from July 2019 to March 2020 and Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management from March 2020 to August 2021 underlined the need to safeguard civil protection, safety, health and properties.
In a televised message, he said that the climate facts are a reminder that the climate crisis is systematically causing natural disasters that can only be dealt with by a robust, specialized and well-organized mechanism, which will receive the full support of the state.
Hardalias said that when he took over the office of Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management, the department was understaffed and was haunted by the deadly natural disasters that affected Greece during that time. The department, he went on, underwent a complete change, was properly staffed while EU funds were drawn as well as legislative amendments made, in an effort to completely alter the way of thinking in the department.
The Greek Minister said that the venture was a success, adding however that there is no secret recipe for this but “hard work, continued vigilance and trusting the people who man the ministry.”
After undertaking the post of deputy Defence Minister, he said he realised that the armed forces are all the more involved in the management of the consequences of natural disasters and climate change, something which is turning into an international trend.
He said that in Greece, Civil Protection and Armed Forces closely work together to secure the safety of citizens, however, developments in recent years, in the field of international relations, require a different approach in the way we perceive the role of our military personnel in the field of civil protection. The state, he said, should use the Armed Forces more rationally, at least in mitigating the consequences of natural disasters.
He said that “the Armed Forces should no longer be used as an emergency solution to patch up long-standing pathologies of the state mechanism, including the management of natural disasters.” He underlined that they should be involved in such situations sparingly, adding that any other approach endangers national security.
In his speech, Tristan Simonart, Chef de secteur – Team Lead International Civil Protection Cooperation at the European Commission’s DG-ECHO, said the Mediterranean region is suffering a lot and is facing and will continue to face the most significant temperature rises with more disasters and major challenges for societies.
He said cooperation and solidarity are the key words, adding that solidarity matters in such rapidly evolving situations.
He also civil protection mechanism can provide alongside with the EU a blueprint model for stronger regional cooperation not only in response but also in future prevention and preparation.
Civil Defence Deputy Commander, Dr. Nicholas Paris, in his speech said “we live in a risk era. During last decades, regionally and globally, we have witnessed a vast increase in disasters, loss of lives, economic, social and environmental losses.”
There is consensus, he added, “that this increase is due to first the progressive climate change or the climatic crisis, the unprecedented pace of technological change, the increase of urbanisation and overdependence on digital system on basic supplies.”
The Republic of Cyprus’ Civil Defence, he said, aims to play an active role on a regional level capitalising on the excellent relations the Republic has with its neighbours.
He said the South-eastern Mediterranean is prone to natural disasters and already experiences the impact of climate change. The Civil Defence, he added, has “a strategic and operational role and it is called upon to improve its services and operate in the new challenging environment”.
Source: Cyprus News Agency