The focus of this year’s World Environment Day, celebrated annually on June 5, is “Time for Nature” and in particular biodiversity, the ensemble of all living organisms on our planet. This richness is the result of billions of years of evolution that have allowed organisms to adapt to our ever changing environment so that they can survive. In the last decades we, humans, have changed the environment at an overwhelmingly fast pace, to which Nature has not and will not be able to adapt, triggering the loss of many different organisms. The destruction is alarming: scientific modelling scenarios show that at least one third of the species that currently inhabit our planet will be in danger of extinction or extinct within the next 20 years, if we do not take action.
If climate change continues to proceed unabated, the loss of biodiversity will bring us face to face with a new, unrecognizable world, with scarcity of food resulting in famine. It will result in the displacement of people due to the loss of their homes either as a result of rising water levels or due to inadequate access to fresh water.
It is the role of Governments to lead the way and draw the guidelines, and implement measures to protect our ecosystems. It is also the duty of each and every one of us, individuals or institutions to act and demand action on these matters before it is too late.
The current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that to confront such a serious crisis successfully, coordinated action at a national, regional and international scale is needed. The effects of climate change, unlike those of the pandemic, are manifesting themselves very slowly. As a consequence, we have failed to sense the urgency of introducing appropriate policies, changing our behaviour to address, and possibly reverse, these effects in a comprehensive way. We must act before it is too late. Reversing them, unlike the pandemic, will take centuries.
Climate change and loss of biodiversity are projected to manifest themselves in our region in particularly harsh ways. The Cyprus Government’s Climate Change Initiative for the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME), whose objective is to develop a Regional Action Plan on Climate Action Coordination, is an appropriate response, but further complementary actions are needed throughout the region. The Cyprus Institute is particularly proud of playing an important role in this Initiative, helping in the formulation of regional action plan based on the latest scientific and technological findings.
The Cyprus Institute has maintained various areas of research into the anthropogenic causes of environmental degradation, including research in energy, water, climate, air pollution, etc. We will continue to work and intensify our efforts so that we can contribute to improving the living conditions, extend the availability of our natural resources, as well as develop alternative energy sources so that we can prolong the viability of our planet for the generations to come. It is very much part of our mission and responsibility.