Climate and security in the Mediterranean

Ioannis Kotoulas
Tuesday 15 Nov 2022

Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus are at the forefront of combatting the negative effects of climate change in the Mediterranean and of taking regional action.

 

The UN COP27 Conference on Climate Change that is taking place in the Egyptian Red Sea city of Sharm El-Sheikh from 6 to 18 November is a major event for climate and security. It has been a major success for the hosting Egyptian government. The two-week meeting has also featured a variety of interesting positions and ideas that need closer examination.

The Mediterranean countries of Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus have not only participated in this major event, but have also hosted a special meeting of their own. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades took part in a high-level presentation, “Coordinating Climate Change Actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East,” at the COP27 on the initiative of Cyprus and Egypt.

The three countries are at the forefront of combatting the negative effects of climate disruption in the Mediterranean and are planning a regional action plan to address climate-related issues. Two major issues can be discerned as patterns of possible and fruitful cooperation between Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus.

First, the three countries have already reiterated their willingness to proceed with critical energy projects that will safeguard both the energy autonomy of the states concerned and promote clean energy networks. The connection of energy networks between Egypt and Greece and EU markets is already underway thanks to initiatives by the Egyptian and Greek governments. Cyprus has expressed its intention to export its gas production through Egyptian port facilities. Egypt has increasing capabilities in energy production and is a reliable partner for the EU in terms of natural gas and solar-produced electricity.

Second, the Mediterranean states need to establish modes of effective transnational cooperation in the field of civil protection, natural-disaster management, and the protection of critical infrastructure. All the countries of the region face catastrophic weather events from time to time, including wildfires, floods or droughts. It should be remembered that during the great wildfires of 2021 that affected Greece, Egypt was the first to step up its aid to Greece. Following an initiative by President Al-Sisi the Egyptian Armed Forces dispatched two Chinook helicopters to help the country.

Such assistance could receive official status in the near future with the establishment of a joint mechanism for Trilateral Civil Protection. Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus could create a platform that would provide aerial and ground support in case of emergencies and could also be connected to the European RescEU Mechanism. Aircraft and the fire brigades of each country could be dispatched to the territory of other states to assist in cases of emergencies. Sharing civil protection resources is essential in this regard.

Strong appeals and generous words by the leaders of the rich nations are all to the good, but what is needed most of all are tangible actions and certain commitments to viable plans for the future. Major plans begin with small steps. Regional cooperation could be the all-important first step towards combatting the challenges of climate and energy issues in the region, making Egypt and Greece pioneer countries in the field of regional climate security.

The Mediterranean is our joint geopolitical space. Energy cooperation and climate security are two essential foreign-policy goals and aspects of our global responsibility as well as being ways of advancing regional networks.

 

The writer is a lecturer in geopolitics at the University of Athens in Greece.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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