Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the opening ceremony of the 9th Ministerial Conference of the United Nations Economic Commission on “Environment for Europe”.

A Conference which is considered to be of the outmost importance for sustainable environmental development, with its declarations constituting, over time, a point of reference for the formation of the relevant national policies of the participating countries.

In this framework, hosting the Conference in the Republic of Cyprus is a special honour, since it is being held for the first time in the Mediterranean region, one of the most vulnerable regions affected by climate change, and known to be the most sensitive and vulnerable in the world.

Distinguished friends,

Given that we are going through critical times, it becomes imperative to take effective decisions as well as adopt and implement substantial measures and policies, through which the sustainability of the planet is ensured.

In this framework, the discussion and analysis of the conclusions to be drawn during the plenary sessions of the Conference and taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of all the distinguished guests participating, are considered to be particularly important in finding sustainable solutions and best practices for the protection of the environment.

To this end, targeted Conference topics have been put forward for discussion with a view to take specific decisions. These topics relate to three pillars of outmost importance:

The first section is linked to the need for large infrastructure projects to be consistent with the objectives of sustainable development and respect for the environment, as defined in the objectives of the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The second section concerns the application of circular economy principles to tourism, aiming to reduce the environmental impact of this sector, through the reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a more efficient sewage and waste management.

The last, but equally important pillar, relates to the new Strategy Framework for Education for Sustainable Development, through the creation of educational organisations that will raise awareness among young people and support the effort to achieve the objectives of the Global Agenda 2030.

Most importantly, the three relevant policy documents and the Ministerial Declaration that are expected to be adopted upon the conclusion of the Conference, will set out the guidelines for the planning of additional policies and actions implemented at national, European and international levels, thus strengthening the joint effort for sustainable development.

An effort that is our responsibility and obligation, in order to respond to the justified demand of young people to live on a planet that will ensure their prosperity and the ability to coexist in balance and harmony with nature and every living organism.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In order to immediately address the challenges we face as a State, the Cyprus government has set out as a priority the shaping and adoption of a coherent and holistic environmental policy.

The main objectives of this policy are the protection of biodiversity, the reduction of the impact of pollution on public health and the ecosystems, the adoption of the principles of circular economy, the rational management of our natural resources and the effective contribution in tackling climate change.

At the same time, reflecting the concern and sensitivity of the State in addressing the effects of climate change, 41% of the total budget of the National Recovery and Resilience plan concerns reforms and actions worth more than 500 million euros for the transition to green economy and climate neutrality.

In addition, relevant Green Growth projects worth 350 million euros are also included in the EU Structural Funds for 2021-2027. Of course, I am referring to numbers, and I understand that there are many participants, who are coming from large countries. Therefore, you will take into account the amounts I mentioned in relation to the size of the country. Proportionality is of great importance.

At the same time, in addition to our planning and strategies at a national level, Cyprus actively participates and undertakes initiatives and actions at international and regional levels, for addressing the global environmental and energy issues.

As an indicative example, I note the assumption of the Presidency of the United Nations Committee for Education for Sustainable Development by the Republic of Cyprus, in recognition of Cyprus’ active role in relevant issues.

I also highlight the initiative of Cyprus in relation to the Mediterranean Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in 2016 by all the Mediterranean countries.

In this framework, I welcome the fact that on the occasion of the Conference, the high-level Ministerial Meeting of the Ministers of Education of the Mediterranean will also be held, with the aim to adopt the Mediterranean Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development 2030.

The most tangible, urgent and ambitious proof of the constructive role we want to play in protecting the environment, is our initiative to tackle the climate crisis in the wider Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region.

In coordination with the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East states, we will take relevant actions, primarily cross-border actions, to combat the climate crisis and alleviate its catastrophic consequences.

The initiative is in full progress and, following a joint invitation by me and the President of Egypt, it is expected to culminate at the meeting of the leaders of the participating countries on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Summit COP27, to take place next November in Sharm el-Sheikh.

It is an initiative based on the Regional Action Plan prepared by a large team of scientists and technocrats, led by the Cyprus Institute, which aims, inter alia, at:

Promoting actions to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions, moving towards renewable and cleaner forms of energy, providing incentives to businesses and industries for the transition to sustainable and green technology and creating new green employment opportunities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Ministers,

As already mentioned, the fact that Cyprus has been chosen to host the Ministerial Meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission, gives us not only pleasure but it is also an honour, as it constitutes a tangible acknowledgement of the will and determination of the Republic of Cyprus to actively contribute to the common effort to combat climate change.

Dear Ministers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Concluding, please allow me to warmly congratulate all those who worked for the impeccable organisation of the Conference, in particular the officials of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, as well as the relevant Ministries and Departments of the Republic of Cyprus and the parties involved.

Allow me to also express my thanks to all of you, the distinguished scientists. Your presence adds prestige to the Conference. At the same time, you will also contribute significantly to the policies that will be shaped.

Welcoming you once again to Cyprus, I wish you every success in the proceedings of the Conference.

Thank you.