ATHENS – Wildfires and floods have combined in recent years to cause extensive damage, leading to Greece having the highest level of climate-related economic costs in the European Union, at €91 ($96.95) per capita.
This figure was recorded for 2020, prior to the even more devastating fires that followed. The cost is three times the EU average and much higher than that of second-place France, which stands at €62 ($66.05), according to Clean Energy Wire.
The New Democracy government has established a separate ministry to address the impact of climate change, which has been largely blamed for both flooding and wildfires, although arson for development has been suspected in some cases. However, the implementation of adaptation plans is hindered by underfunded and ill-prepared regional administrations, according to the site. With an economy dominated by tourism and agriculture, Greece is among the EU countries likely to face climate-induced disasters and costs for decades, the report added.
The string of disasters includes the 2017 fires that killed 24 people on the western outskirts of Athens, 104 people in the summer of 2018, and the burning of 1.3 million acres in 2021 when conflagrations swept the country. The long-term consequences are also impacting tourist hotspots, with Greece boasting the longest coastline of any country in the Mediterranean, stretching over 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles) and comprising 227 inhabited islands.
Areas in Greece with agricultural lands and small-scale family farms employing over 500,000 people are particularly vulnerable to erosion caused by heatwaves, droughts, and even cyclones, according to a report. Greece has ignored warning signs for over a decade and has lagged behind in implementing adaptation policies. The Bank of Greece estimated in a 2011 report that the impact of climate change would cost the economy around 701 billion euros ($746.57 billion) by 2100 if no action was taken.
This figure is three times the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. The prediction remains on track as successive governments have failed to act. In response to the 2021 fires, the New Democracy administration established a new Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection dedicated to handling all aspects of crisis management related to climate change.
Three years prior, Greece was unsuccessful in the European Commission’s Adaptation Preparedness Scorecard, which evaluated EU member states’ adaptation policies and weaknesses, the report noted. Given the country’s varying climate and economic circumstances throughout its regions, the plan mandated that Greece’s 13 regional governments develop strategies tailored to their locality, which have yet to be approved.
The AdaptInGR initiative, which supervises the National Strategy of Adaptation to Climate Change, is supported by a budget of 14 million euros ($14.92 million) financed by the EU’s LIFE program and Greece’s Green Fund.