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Greece ‘at the forefront’ of tackling climate change, Mitsotakis tells CNN

Greece and Europe are at the forefront of the fight to tackle climate change and that the ambitious goals that have been set can be achieved, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told CNN on Sunday.

Mitsotakis expressed his belief that the catastrophic fires in the country in recent days are a sign of the climate crisis and a situation that we will often have to face from now on, both in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.

“We have experienced an unprecedented heatwave for about 10 days with temperatures approaching 45 degrees Celsius, something we have never seen before, at least in recent decades,” Mitsotakis said.

“We had to deal with almost 600 fires that broke out in one week. We managed to put out almost all of them, but unfortunately some of them expanded a lot and at some point we had to deal with four huge fires at the same time,” he said.

“We did the best we could. We evacuated tens of thousands of people and fortunately we managed to protect human life, we lost only one life. That is why Civil Protection did a great job for us.”

“Of course we have before us a great environmental catastrophe, a significant number of forests have been destroyed but I am afraid that this is going to be the reality that areas like the Mediterranean will face in the future. This was not just a Greek problem, there were fires in Sicily, Algeria, Turkey. It is a climate crisis that is affecting us here and now and we all need to look very seriously at what we need to do about it.”

“Europe is a pioneer in tackling climate change. We have set a very ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and our goal is to be climate neutral by 2050,” he said.

“The good thing is that we now have the financial tools to support such policies. Of course we also need the people by our side. Greece was at the forefront of (phasing out lignite as a fuel) even before this crisis hit us. In 2019, I announced that in a short time Greece will abolish all thermal power plants, and we have worked very hard with the local communities to ensure that we can achieve this transition, that it will be in their favor and will create more jobs than lose,” Mitsotakis said.

“However, we must also explain to people that this is a one-way street, that this is not a crisis that will be overcome with loud statements. We must apply what we say. I definitely intend Greece to remain at the forefront of this effort.”

“I am happy this issue is part of the agenda of Joe Biden’s new US administration. Things are much better now in the US. The current US government recognizes that the United States must take the lead in tackling climate change. Of course, since the United States is the largest economy in the world, it will also be the field for innovation, because we cannot tackle this issue without significant investment in research and development and innovation.”

“I am much more optimistic about the role to be payed by the US, but we need all the big players to join the effort, the US, China, India, they all have to contribute their share,” Mitsotakis told CNN.