Monday, 15 April 2024
Athens
05
04
2024
Volunteers and firefighters race to pull them to safety through clouds of red smoke, as a drone buzzing overhead sends live video of the rescue to a national coordination center. Members of the baptism party are played by actors hired for the day by the Fire Service and the regional authority, and smoke flares are used to mimic fire conditions. The exercise held Thursday and multiple drills planned this month have taken on added urgency ahead of the fire season that officially starts May 1. Temperatures touched 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) in late March and large wildfires are already breaking out weeks earlier than expected. “Due to climate, conditions have changed. Everything in nature is dry now and it’s very easy to catch fire. So we have to be ready to deal with it,” said Loukia Kefalogianni, the deputy regional government of the capital’s North Attica region. To cope with the crisis, Greece is fast-tracking a 2.1 billion euro ($2.3 billion) program to upgrade its fleet of water tankers and create an artificial intelligence-driven sensor network to detect smoke in the early stages of a fire.
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Athens
02
04
2024
The Mediterranean country has been buffeted by floods and wildfires in recent years, raising concerns about its ability to defend against climate change-related weather events. In September, Storm Daniel dumped record rains, which burst rivers and flooded tens of thousands of acres in the central region of Thessaly, which accounts for 25% of Greece's agricultural produce and 5% of GDP. Dutch-based agricultural firm HVA, hired by the government to assess the damage, has drafted a plan that recommends moving dykes further away from rivers, deepening riverbeds and banning further construction on floodplains. Despite the rains, HVA said there was a danger of water shortages in Thessaly as farmers extract groundwater for irrigation. It recommended planting fruit and vegetables, which are less water-intensive than cotton and other crops. Thessaly region faces an annual water deficit of approximately 500 million cubic meters and this quantity will increase due to climate change, it said. "These remedies will hopefully help to not only avert future flash floods and solve Thessaly's water scarcity issue but catapult its agricultural sector to a more competitive level," HVA said. The cost of the plan, which was submitted for public consultation last week and seen by Reuters, was about 4.5 billion euros ($4.88 billion). The government will soon decide which actions it will implement, determining the final cost, a government official told Reuters. HVA also suggested tripling the size of Lake Karla, which was drained in the 1960s to allow for more cotton and maize production. Thousands of farmers, already angry about rising costs, work that land today. The public consultation on the proposals ends on March 29. ($1 = 0.9226 Euros)
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Athens
01
04
2024
From December to February, the average peak temperature was 11.3 degrees Celsius (52.3 Farenheit), 1.8 degrees above the average top winter temperatures from 1960-2024, soaring as much as 7-8 degrees higher in some parts of northern Greece, according to the National Observatory of Athens, which analyzed data by the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service. Indeed, it was the warmest winter since records began in 1936, and follows a trend: 6 of Greece's balmiest winters have been recorded in the last 10 years. "Temperatures were above normal on most days, with only small intervals of cold weather," Konstantinos Lagouvardos, research director at the national observatory, told Reuters. "This is a new reality and we must take it seriously. Climate change is undoubtedly here." The data is a concern for Greece, which is one of the most climate-impacted countries in Europe, where wildfires killed at least 20 people last summer. In the autumn, torrential record-breaking rains wiped out homes, cattlelands and crops, raising concerns about the continent's fragile climate defences. The country's ski resorts saw lower-than-usual snowfall this winter. The warm weather may be adverse news for farmers, too, whose crops, including Greece's famed olives, benefit from cold winters and a flowering season in spring. "The lack of a proper winter will create problems for sure," because the trees are flowering too soon, said Michalis Antonopoulos, head of the farmers' cooperative of Kalamata, the main producer of Greek olive oil. Globally too, last year was the planet's hottest on record and likely in the last 100,000 years, according to Copernicus. Scientists said the warm winter in Greece, together with low rainfall and low humidity, could mean more wildfires in the summer. Such blazes are frequent in Greece but have been made worse in recent years because of extreme heat that scientists link to climate change. "Of course this raises the risk," said Christos Zerefos, a leading climate expert and head of Greece's Research Center for Atmospheric Physics and Climatology. "From now on, every month that comes, every winter that comes, will be the warmest ever," Zerefos said.  
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Athens
26
03
2024
His small plot, near Lake Karla, is among tens of thousands of acres of cotton fields, almond trees and grazing lands that were wiped out by unprecedented flooding last year in one of Greece's key breadbaskets. 5 months on, much of the area - and a lot of expensive equipment - remain underwater. A pumping station meant to stop flooding is marooned in a shallow lake. Pelicans and herons, previously uninterested in the once dry plain, swoop overhead. "I could never have imagined I would have to board a boat to get to see my land," said Evangelinos as he drifted by his sodden trees. "Work of a lifetime ruined, gone in three, four days of rain." The situation has fuelled anger among farmers who, like many across Europe, have found their livelihoods under threat from rising costs and climate change, and created a headache for governments expected to pay the bill. Farmers from India to France and Poland have taken to the streets in recent days, bemoaning competition from abroad, a lack of government support and low prices. Thousands descended on central Athens on Tuesday calling for more aid. Greece has been buffeted by extreme weather too. Wildfires ripped through the north last year, then Storm Daniel dumped 18 months of rain in 4 days in September, raising questions about the Mediterranean country's ability to deal with an increasingly erratic climate. It also offers a warning of what other countries further north may face in future. Daniel and another storm, Elias, flooded about 35,000 acres near Lake Karla in Thessaly plain, which accounts for 25% of Greece's agricultural produce and 5% of GDP. Some 30,000 farmers were impacted across the province. Lake Karla had been drained in the 1960s to increase farmland and a small part of it was recovered in recent years, only for 450-500 million cubic metres of water to rush back in during the floods. The area near the Lake has a small man-made outlet, and HVA, a Dutch agricultural company hired by the government to assess the damage, said it could take up to two years for the water to subside. Evangelinos had just picked a one-tonne batch of almonds before the rain came and washed it away. He would normally expect 10 tonnes over the season, about 20,000 euros worth, but managed just 40% of that. Now he is not sure how he will pay for his two daughters' university expenses. "It's very sad. Because those trees you see now being 20 and 30 years old, you grow them out of a small branch." FARMERS' STRUGGLE Responding to farmers' protests over rising costs, Greece's government has offered discounts on power bills and extended a tax rebate for diesel. It's not clear if the government, cash-strapped after a decade-long financial crisis, will offer more. In Thessaly, farmers have so far received 150 million euros ($162 million) in compensation for the flooding. The government said another 110 million euros will come in July. Many say they want more. Farmers from near Lake Karla attended Wednesday's protests in Athens. One tractor parked in the central square bore a placard that read: "Karla. 180,000 stremmas underwater," referring to a land measurement used in Greece. "We want our fields back." Local authorities have proposed speeding up the recovery by using floating machines to pump out the water as early as April in one area, said Thessaly governor Dimitris Kouretas. "There are several thousands of families living here. Do we want them to go?" he said. Some already have. Vangelis Peristeropoulos, 35, a father of 2, lost nearly all his 640 pigs and sheep in Stefanovikeio, another town near the lake. He took a job as a truck driver at the port city of Volos in November to make ends meet. "When we saw the catastrophe and that there was nothing we could do, we looked for another job because expenses kept running." Evangelinos is staying put for now. He says once the soil dries out, experts will have to analyse it and make sure it is fit for cultivation. He hopes to uproot damaged trees and plant new ones. "What I want is to set foot on the muddy land and start cultivating all over again."
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Athens
22
03
2024
The new plans come after massive fires last year killed more than 20 people and decimated vast tracts of forest and farmland, including a blaze in northeastern Greece which raged out of control for about two weeks, growing into the largest wildfire recorded in a European Union country since the European Forest Fire Information System began keeping records in 2000. The government has pointed to a changing climate and extreme weather that has included drier winters and more frequent summer heatwaves as contributing to an increased risk of forest fires. The new plans were presented by the head of the fire department, Lt. Gen. Theodoros Vagias, to coincide with International Day of Forests on March 21st. “This is a big fight for us. It’s climate crisis, it’s a time of need,” Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said, speaking at the presentation. “We’re going to have a huge effort this summer to do the best of what we can do, to the best of our abilities, in order to be able to protect Greeks, protect tourists, protect their houses, and protect, of course, the wildlife and our forests.” The changes include having water-dropping aircraft take off in the initial stages of the outbreak of a wildfire instead of waiting for a request for air support from ground firefighting crews once the blaze has already spread, and having more fire trucks deploy in the initial stages of any wildfire. The number of specialized forest firefighting crews will increase from 6 to 16, including 10 that will be able to deploy rapidly by aircraft, while forestry units will be deployed on the ground with firefighters for better coordination during fires. Greece is also seeking to increase its water-dropping aircraft fleet with seven new Canadair planes over the next few years. The aircraft are the main means of aerial firefighting used in Greece and several other European countries, and Greek lawmakers were expected to approve a bill Thursday regarding the purchase. The procurement is for 5 new planes with a 6-ton water capacity, along with 2 additional aircraft to be obtained through the European Union’s civil protection RescEU program that assists member states in the handling of disasters, government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis said Thursday. Marinakis said the first 2 planes would be delivered to Greece in 2027, one more in 2028 and another in 2029, with the remaining three arriving in 2030. Hellenic Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is scheduled to travel to Canada on Sunday for meetings that are expected to include the signing of the Canadair deal.
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Athens
19
03
2024
The action comes 5 months after the worst rains in Greece flooded its fertile Thessaly plain, devastating crops and livestock and raising questions about the Mediterranean country's ability to deal with an increasingly erratic climate. Under EU rules, countries need to update once in six years their flood management plans, a set of measures aimed to help them mitigate the risks of floods on human lives, the environment and economic activities. Greece was formally notified by the Commission last year that it should finalise its management plans but the country has so far failed to review, adopt or report its flood risk management plans, the Commission said in a statement. "The Commission considers that efforts by the Greek authorities have, to date, been insufficient and is therefore referring Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union," it added. The Hellenic environment ministry said the European Commission has been notified that the country's plans will be reviewed by early summer. The Commission last month sued Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Ireland, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia for failing to comply with their respective reporting obligations.  
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15
03
2024
On Tuesday, the European Commission published its plan for managing risks exacerbated by climate change, such as floods and wildfires.  The strategy aims to strengthen the bloc’s ability to adapt to the climate crisis and build resilience against the increased risk of climate-related problems such as “ droughts, floods, forest fires, diseases, crop failures or heatwaves”, a Commission press release said. Rather than mitigating climate change, the plan “ is about the far-less talked about part of climate action, which is adaptation”, said EU climate commissioner Wopke Hoekstra. “ What we are talking about here is building climate-resilient societies and economies,” he said at a press conference in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Hoekstra pointed to recent disasters in the EU - wildfires in Greece, flooding in Slovenia and a storm in Scandinavia - to underline the urgency.  European Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Maroš Šefčovič, said that “ we will be very much focusing on how to use our climate, diplomacy and outreach to all the countries in need of... help and assistance and technology-sharing... but also to the biggest polluters who could do more”.  Brussels calls on Member States to strengthen governance and coordination, better analyse the interconnections between different risks, adapt infrastructure planning and improve public and private financing. In general, it calls on them to develop proactive management of adaptation to the climate crisis. The Commission’s plan came after the first ever climate risk assessment by the European Environment Agency (EEA), published on Monday, which said the EU is inadequately prepared. The report warned of “ catastrophic” consequences if Europe failed to take urgent action to adapt to risks posed by climate change. The EEA assessment called on EU member states to work together at a regional and local level to tackle climate change risks with precautionary measures. According to the EEA report, “ Europe is the fastest-warming continent in the world”. The south is on fire The dangers include fires, water shortages and their effects on agricultural production, while low-lying coastal regions face threats of flooding, erosion and saltwater intrusion. Areas in southern Europe are most at risk, the EEA report said. “ Some regions of Europe are hotspots for multiple climate risks. Southern Europe is particularly exposed to the risk of forest fires and the impacts of heat and water scarcity on agricultural production, outdoor work and human health,” it added. The report, which identifies 36 climate risks in the EU, states that “ heat-related risks have already reached critical levels in southern Europe”, given the “ more frequent and more intense” high temperatures in this region. This includes countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.  The high temperatures have already led to dangerous forest fires in Portugal. One of the most lethal events was the forest fire in Pedrógão Grande in central Portugal in June 2017, which caused 64 deaths and around 200 people to be displaced. The fires entered several cities, towns and villages and ended up destroying dozens of houses and industries.
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Athens
06
02
2024
This is the largest energy offset program with green energy in the country, the goal of which is for Renewable Energy Sources to have an even stronger, positive, social footprint. Through the installation of new RES stations and the implementation of virtual netting with synchronization, "Apollon" contributes to: to support energy-vulnerable households and specifically to the beneficiaries of Social Tariff A, i.e. households with an annual income of less than 5,400 euros, covering 90% of their energy consumption and in the reduction of energy costs for OTAs of the first and second grade, DEYA and GOEB/TOEB, covering 50% of their consumption. How will "Apollo" be implemented The development of RES stations is to be carried out through competitive tenders throughout the territory, which will be addressed to RES projects that have secured connection conditions to the System and their generated energy will be offset by virtual simultaneous offset with the required consumption of the beneficiaries. In absolute numbers, this means that more than 1 GW of RES projects are "unfrozen", and a new market outlet is given to producers, which will lead to further market stimulation and new jobs, which underlines the development orientation of program. For the purposes of the program, the Energy Communities model will be utilized and a Citizens' Energy Community will be established in each Region, in which the respective OTAs, GOEB-TOEB, DEYA will participate and vulnerable households will be gathered. All consumption benefits will be collected, which will be offset and the specific consumption profiles will be studied, in order to determine the energy needs that should be covered by the RES stations. Following this, competitive procedures will be carried out for each Region, in which the interested RES stations will participate and offer a financial offer (€/MWh) for the specific amount of energy that will be required to be covered. The stations participating in the tenders will be mature projects that have a definitive connection offer - ie reserved electrical space - and expect to receive a compensation price to implement. The RES stations that will be selected will be compensated for the energy they produce and offset against the consumption of the beneficiaries for a period of 20 years. The installation location of the RES stations that will participate in the program and possibly be selected is independent of the Region to which the Energy Community belongs and the consumptions will be offset.   Implementation schedule and stages The Program is designed in three implementation phases: The 1st phase, where the necessary legal entities per Region should be established, the energy needs of the beneficiaries and the specific consumption profiles should be studied and the required RES projects and the energy for netting and virtual synchronization, which will be requested, should be dimensioned. This specific process - because it is quite time-consuming, to gather all the members and all the benefits, and then to study them, to bring a tangible result - will be assigned to external consultants, who will support the OTAs and deliver for the 13 Regions - 13 Citizens' Energy Communities and 13 studies with specific needs for green energy. The 2nd phase, where based on the studies that will be delivered per Energy Community, the relevant tenders will be announced for the selection of contractors - that is, the RES projects, which will cover with their energy the energy needs of the Energy Communities. And the 3rd phase, where is the construction and electrification of the projects. Here, the contractors - apart from the construction of the RES projects - are required to be responsible for the management of the energy produced and the energy offsetting of the beneficiaries' consumption. The implementation of all three phases up to and including the operation of all projects to cover all Regions - as long as it is technically possible - is estimated in 36 months from today.    
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Athens
31
01
2024
Power produced by renewables and hydroelectric plants accounted for 57% of Greece's energy mix last year, an 8.5% annual rise from 2022, IPTO said in a statement. The rest came from gas, oil and coal. After shutting most of the coal-fired power plants it had relied on for decades as part of a plan to phase out coal by 2026, Greece has more than doubled its output from renewables since 2014. It needs to invest about 30 billion euros to boost green capacity, expand grids and install energy storage units to achieve its target for 44% of energy consumption to come from green energy by 2030 from 22% in 2021, according to a draft plan for climate and energy. As part of a 10-year project worth 5 billion euros, IPTO plans to expand the grid's capacity to 29 gigawatt by 2030 from 18 gigawatt today, its Chief Executive Officer Manos Manousakis said in a statement. Along with expanding interconnections with neighbouring countries, such as Bulgaria, Greece has been promoting the construction of an undersea power link to Egypt and another one to reach Germany via the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia and Austria.  
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Athens
18
12
2023
During the event, new climate models (up until 2100) were presented, along with the estimated impact of climate change on critical sectors, such as agriculture and transportation, and a first vulnerability assessment of climate change in Greece. By the end of 2024, the updated final report will be released, including, among other things, the expected changes in the climate for the next decades, the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable sectors of economic activity, a vulnerability assessment of climate change for the Greek economy and a cost assessment of climate change in Greece. The project “ LIFE-IP AdaptInGR - Boosting the implementation of adaptation policy across Greece”, in which the Bank of Greece participates, is the most important project for adapting Greece to climate change, coordinated by the Ministry of Environment and Energy and implemented with the participation of 18 strategic beneficiaries from the public sector, local government, the academic community and non-governmental organisations. The project is co-financed by the LIFE Programme of the European Union and the Green Fund and aims to catalyse the implementation of the Greek National Adaptation Strategy and the 13 Regional Adaptation Action Plans, preparing their revision after 2026, with appropriate actions at a national, regional and local level. The Governor of the Bank of Greece Yannis Stournaras, in his opening remarks, noted that: “ The Bank of Greece, continuing its work on climate and sustainability, announces today the preliminary results of the new studies of the Climate Change Impacts Study Committee (CCISC) on the developments in climate change, vulnerability and impacts. In 2011, the CCISC published estimates introducing a new approach to climate change in Greece. During these past years, humanity faced multiple challenges that affected geopolitical, financial and social stability, with climate change emerging as the most important challenge of our time. I hope the announcement of the preliminary results will contribute to the discussion on adaptation and, above all, strengthen climate action in Greece” . The General Secretary of Natural Environment and Water, Ministry of Environment and Energy Petros Varelidis noted that: “ Climate change is here and we have already had a taste of its consequences. Greece needs to increase the resilience of its critical infrastructures, and do even more, so as to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events. To this end, we will soon be modifying the specifications of a number of construction projects and buildings and integrate vulnerability into climate change and measures required to increase the resilience of the projects into the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment”. Participants also included: - Christos Zerefos, Secretary General of the Academy of Athens, Climate Envoy for Greece, - Andreas Karamanos, Full Member of the Academy of Athens, Professor Emeritus, Agricultural University of Athens, - George Giannopoulos, Professor Emeritus, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Corresponding Member of the Academy of Athens, - Anastasios Xepapadeas, Professor, University of Bologna, Professor Emeritus, Athens University of Economics and Business, - Theodora Antonakaki, Director, Climate Change and Sustainability Centre, Bank of Greece.
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Brussels
17
12
2023
Europe is experiencing severe health impacts as a result of the changing climate. Around 61,000 people are estimated to have died in sweltering European heatwaves last summer, suggesting countries’ heat preparedness efforts are falling well short. In a joint paper, 20 of the EU’s 27 member countries including Croatia, Germany, Greece, Malta and the Netherlands, have urged the EU to increase its surveillance of the threats to health and healthcare systems posed by extreme weather, to help countries prepare. The EU should also draft plans for infections of zoonotic and climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases, and strengthen its early warning and response system for if disease-spreading vectors are detected, the countries said. “Unless proactive measures are taken, it is a matter of time before certain preventable infectious diseases, which are currently more prevalent in other regions, become increasingly common occurrences within the EU,” the paper said. It was also backed by Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia. Climate change is increasing the risk that infectious diseases will spread into new areas – including in Europe, as summers become hotter and longer, and increased flooding creates favorable conditions for spreading infectious disease. An example of this is the tiger mosquito, which is now present in 337 regions in Europe – more than double the number a decade ago, said the paper, which was reported earlier on Monday by the Financial Times. EU countries’ health ministers will discuss the paper in a meeting next week. The EU is currently drafting its first climate risk assessment, due to be published next year as a basis for future policies to cope with climate hazards like heatwaves and wildfires.     
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Athens
03
12
2023
The highest temperature deviations were observed in the region of Thessaly, the islands of the northern Aegean and in Crete, where the median monthly rates were more 2.5C higher than the normal levels for the time of year. For Thessaly, the Peloponnese, the islands of the Aegean and Crete, it was the hottest November in the last 15 years, while for Central Greece it was the second hottest (+2.1C). It is worth noting that the European record for highest November temperature was recorded in Sisi on Crete, where the maximum temperature reached 35.1C on November 4th. For Athens, the average monthly deviation of maximum temperatures was +2.2C, with 27 of the 30 days of November being warmer than normal for the time of year.
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