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Greek PM says country is fighting a ‘war’ on climate change after summer of fires and flooding

A view of flames as a forest burns, in the village of Dikela, near Alexandroupolis town, in the northeastern Evros region, Greece, Aug. 22, 2023.
A view of flames as a forest burns, in the village of Dikela, near Alexandroupolis town, in the northeastern Evros region, Greece, Aug. 22, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Charlotte Elton
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The Greek prime minister has pledged to fight a ‘climate war’ after floods and wildfires devastated the country.

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pledged to fight a “war” against climate change after fires and floods devastated the country this summer.

Greece has endured months of climate disaster.

In August, a wildfire in the north-eastern region of Evros - the largest single blaze ever recorded in the EU - killed 26 people.

Just weeks later, Storm Daniel pummelled the country’s central Thessaly plain, killing at least 17 people before striking Libya.

Mitsotakis has faced criticism over his handling of the crises. The opposition party claimed that flood prevention work did not take place, despite flooding in Thessaly last year. Meanwhile, climate activists have accused the embattled leader of not taking environmental policy seriously.

On Saturday, the embattled PM promised to take decisive action to tackle future disasters.

“Greece is facing a war in a time of peace,” Mitsotakis said in his Thessaloniki International Fair keynote speech.

“Over a two-week period, we experienced the worst wildfire and the worst floods in our history.

“The climate crisis is here and forces us to see everything differently”

How will the Greek government fight climate change?

Greek wildfires tore through 378,381 hectares of land, incinerating thousands of animals and destroying homes and businesses.

The floods drowned 110,000 farm animals and decimated a quarter of the country’s agricultural production.

AP Photo
Floodwaters cover an area in the town of Volos, central Greece, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.AP Photo

The conservative government - elected in a landslide victory three months ago - has faced intense criticism over its disaster response.

In a speech on Saturday 16 September, Prime Minister Mitsotakis attempted to address these allegations.

He said that Greece will double its budget for natural disasters linked to climate change, bringing the total fund to €600 million. This will be paid for by a tax on luxury hotels.

Mitsotakis announced a 10 per cent discount on the tax on property insurance and compulsory insurance for medium-sized and large businesses.

"It is time to start a public debate on the mandatory insurance of all homes and businesses," he said.

But not all the new policies have been favourably received. The Prime Minister announced plans to transfer control of the National Weather Service and the Observatory to the Ministry of Civil Protection.

The move comes after officials in his government criticised the data coming out of the previously independent organisation.

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Left wing opposition party Syriza accused the government of trying to silence scientists sounding the alarm on climate change.

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