George A. Papandreou (born June 16, 1952) is Former Prime Minister of Greece, current President of Socialist International, a Member of the Hellenic Parliament and former President of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). He served as the 11th Prime Minister of Greece from October 6, 2009 - November 11, 2011, after PASOK’s victory in the October 2009 national elections.

George A. Papandreou

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Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative

“Dear Prime Ministers, dear Tayyip, dear Ministers, dear Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you all in Athens and I am happy that, although the sun is playing hide and seek behind the clouds, the Mediterranean climate is on our side today because people have been travelling to the Mediterranean for centuries from faraway lands to enjoy our sunny, temperate climate, our tasty local products, our clean seas and of course our culture that is linked with this environment.

However, these blessings that nature offers us so generously are being threatened. They are threatened because climate change is a fact that is here with us and ahead of us. The number of people who become refugees because of the climate change has doubled worldwide.

Climate change causes extreme weather phenomena: floods, drought, fires – we have had this experience – heat waves with growing intensity and frequency.

This is why we have taken this initiative, I personally together with the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan because in the Mediterranean, as Jeffrey Sachs was saying, the worst case scenario is being confirmed, maybe more so than in any other place on earth.

The region of the Mediterranean, the SE Mediterranean, is particularly vulnerable to temperature rise and we are facing real dangers. For example, it is quite possible that warmer and drier climate conditions might decimate agricultural production, which has been for centuries our region’s main activity.

These changes are of historic importance for our future. It is not just our climate, but our culture, our lives that are being threatened. And the next generations – if they live here, if they live in the region – might very likely remember the Mediterranean as it is today, only as a recollection.

But this threat may also contain an opportunity, the good news being that it gives us the possibility of working together, on which we should build.

The possibility of strengthening our economic cooperation, of creating new green industries from very large renewable energy networks, as well as regional transport networks operated by natural, renewable resources, as well as opportunities for creating sustainable cities which, through economies of scale, will reduce the cost of shifting to new technologies.

This is why our initiative is especially important compared to many others because we combine combating climate change with green growth.

It gives us opportunities to promote joint actions and decisions that will give a stronger voice to the Mediterranean in international climate negotiations because the voice of the Mediterranean could not be heard until now in earlier negotiations.

Later today, we shall be signing a political declaration with leaders from the whole Mediterranean region, an official commitment of us all to intensify our cooperation in order to preserve the Mediterranean, a Mediterranean that withstands climate change while drawing on its rich resources productively.

Our objective is to ensure that all riparian states along the shores of the Mediterranean become active and equal partners in this initiative.

Today’s meeting, however, is not simply a declaration of good intent; it shows that over and above many possible regional problems and differences, there are also things that unite us.

This is why this meeting is much more than that: its aim is to set this ambitious vision in motion, to facilitate dialogue between governments, between scientists, academics, non governmental organizations, civil society, as well as between enterprises, on how the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative can make better use of the programs, the projects that are already under way in the region regarding this major issue.

I am pleased because today we do not only welcome delegations from our neighbours and partners, but also so many distinguished activists, environmental activists, as well as academics and scientists as we also rely on their experience. We want you to help us define our objectives and implement specific programs.

I also wish to welcome the representatives of the European Investment Bank, the European Commission, the World Bank and the Arab League. Closer cooperation within and among the other organizations is of decisive importance.

The globalization of the economy as we witness it today may have benefited certain groups but has certainly made conditions worse for many others. It has created new and often huge wealth inequalities. It has led to great instability as a result of climate change, energy problems and food shortages that are often associated with food crisis and high foodstuff prices, water management crisis but often also as a result of economic conflicts and economic recession.

Globalization should be humanized in our opinion. A different approach is needed and I believe that this is precisely the goal of our initiative. Because of the very rapid change it has made to economic, trade and diplomatic relations, international organizations should redefine their role against globalization, since they have lost their ability, I would say, to manage these threats with the necessary competence and efficiency.

Just one month before the world’s nations meet once again, this time in Mexico, in Cancun, in order to negotiate a global agreement on climate change, there is uncertainty and scepticism, the feeling that we are back-pedalling when it comes to dealing with climate change. This is why our efforts to coordinate our action, at international level, are much more important.

As the UN talks have shown, working together, cooperating with one another, although so essential, appears to be the most difficult thing to achieve in the context of this global governance effort. But this is the challenge we are facing, now that our planet has become a single area and if we are not able to manage it together, we shall simply find ourselves competing against one another and clashing around these problems.

Cooperation is the only road to success, to working together. This is why we are here, to show that we can take the lead of regional initiatives in the Mediterranean.

Our track record shows that until today we have been successful because there has been significant progress both in individual countries and at the level of existing regional initiatives here in the Mediterranean. But we have gathered here mainly to look at the next steps, working together as a Region so that each of us can come out stronger, as we face together and each country on its own the challenges that lie ahead.

We know quite well that our region is a beautiful region, but also politically, socially and economically quite varied. However, this threat, this major problem binds us together. The fact that Turkey is represented here, at the highest possible level, with my friend Tayyip Erdogan, proves that the two neighbouring countries can put their differences aside when facing common threats.

Having learned the value of cooperation under difficult conditions, Greece and Turkey stand united before one of the most critical issues, the issue of climate change.

Two core beliefs have led me and my dear friend Tayyip to launch a Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative.

The first is that we have much to gain by collaboration, whether in sharing our expertise, sharing the risks implicit in exploring new solutions, or developing a strong, united voice in the international arena.

The second is that we can no longer speak of economic prosperity and climate security as opposites, as polar opposites. I am convinced that adopting a new, low-carbon development model provides a unique opportunity to jointly address the financial and energy and climate crises.

Investments in climate-proof infrastructure, alternative energy, new technologies, new means and modes of transportation, retrofitting of buildings, sustainable tourism, sustainable agriculture will be key in rebuilding, if you like, our economies, in strengthening our economies, but also dealing with the issue of climate change.

And this, I think, is the uniqueness of this initiative, not only the regional aspect but also the core of our thinking, of combining these two issues in the discussions we will have coming up to Cancun.

Our task is to turn this low-carbon development model into an economic reality. Policymakers, technology providers and investors will have an opportunity to assess the relative merits of all the options before us in greater detail tomorrow, at the Mediterranean Climate Change Investors Forum, where we hope that there will be public-private partnerships vital to drive international investment in green development projects in the region.

The potential returns are enormous. Our region has unrivalled potential to become a major hub of renewable energy for domestic and for neighbouring markets. Realising this potential calls for increasing our shared technical capacity and creating innovative finance mechanisms. Above all, it calls for more intense cooperation with regard to energy markets and environmental policies.

Some might say that in the midst of the ongoing financial crisis protecting our natural resources and developing new green infrastructure is not our most pressing concern. The economic crisis continues to have severe consequences for our region.

But we also stand on the brink of a climate crisis that could be irreversible, a climate crisis that threatens our long-term prosperity, security, our very way of life, as people of the Mediterranean.

That is why we must press ahead with regional solutions, and do so now. Combining the solutions to both these crises is what we want to do.

We cannot afford to wait for the international community to act, and that is why we have taken this initiative at the regional level.

The Mediterranean region long ago supported intense interconnections in commerce, trade, culture, the first integrated regional community and foretaste of a globalising world.

The olive tree: the olive tree was the root of the agricultural revolution around the Mediterranean shores, thriving in a common climate that enabled knowledge and creativity to spread. The olive tree is also a symbol of peace, a symbol of friendship among nations.

And these principles will help us build forward-looking policies to promote investment, innovation and sustainable development.

To today I invite us all to listen and learn from each other, but most of all act. Act so that we can turn the political commitment we are all demonstrating by being here into tangible outcomes that will safeguard our precious and irreplaceable Mediterranean climate, Mediterranean culture, our precious and unique Mediterranean quality of life for all.

Thank you very much and again welcome.”

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