Greek PM Approves 500 Million Euro Budget For Wildfire Relief, Reforestation

Over the last few weeks, 586 wildfires have raged across Greece destroying the homes and crops of hundreds of Greeks and resulting in 63 organized evacuations. To assist in helping Greek citizens reclaim their lost property and livelihoods, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has pledged 500 million Euros to assist in compensating individuals affected by the fires. Mitsotakis stated in a televised address to the Greek people that “the extent of the destruction blackens our hearts, I apologise for the losses.”

The level of destruction from fires in Greece is unprecedented, as the wildfires have destroyed over 110,000 hectares of land. That land is about 10% of the forest in the country, as reported by cnet.com. The fires have taken with them hundreds of homes, killed three people, and destroyed the farms and crops of thousands. Many Greeks have criticized the immediate governmental response to the crisis. Makis Ladogiannakis, an elderly resident of Pefki, has been quoted in Reuters as saying “The government should resign as soon as possible. They did absolutely nothing, zero.” Another elderly man in northern Athens took matters into his own hands to save his home, ignoring an evacuation order to stay behind to fight the fire while firefighting personnel were nowhere to be seen. 

The Greek government was caught totally unprepared for a natural disaster on this scale as 1,000 firefighters from across Europe were sent into Greece to fight the fires, joining additional civilian volunteers as the Greek services were unable to quell the blazes on their own. The Greek people have bemoaned the government’s spending on military and police while leaving insufficient funds for firefighting personnel and equipment. 

In addition to the 500 million euros budget increase to assist affected individuals in restoring their property and livelihoods, the Greek government has also pledged to hire 5,000 more firefighters. The personnel increase seems to be sorely needed as this will surely not be the last of forest fires across Greece and neighboring nations.

As fires also rage across Italy and Turkey, Southern Europe has been highlighted as being particularly in danger amid the climate crisis due to drought and abnormally high temperatures contributing to the fires across the region. As the Greek peoples’ reaction to the government’s response to the fires show, governments must be prepared to deal with extreme weather events as they become more common.

In the midst of forest fires, droughts, and record-high temperatures across the globe, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has declared that humans are “unequivocally” to blame for the climate crisis and has called upon governmental leaders to take action immediately to stop the use of fossil fuels before the average global temperature reaches terminal levels of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres has labeled these findings a “code red for humanity,” adding that “this report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet,” as reported by Reuters.

This report has triggered world governments to meet in Glasgow, Scotland in a climate conference to create a much more drastic climate action plan. As this summer has shown us once again there is no more time to wait on ridding the world of fossil fuels and significantly cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. As flooding, fires, hurricanes, and ocean levels rise, the security risk climate change poses to the world is astronomical. Millions of people are at threat of being displaced as their homes are no longer habitable through food insecurity, drought, or rising sea levels. As the events in Greece show, world governments are hardly capable of dealing with a climate change disaster of this scale. Action must be taken now to avoid even more significant catastrophe than is already happening.

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