Greek PM: Destructive wildfires show need for climate action

Mitsotakis calls for fresh approach after flames scorched vast expanse of pine forest this summer

Fires that devastated large parts of Greece this month highlight the necessity for radical shifts in behaviour to combat climate change, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said.

The blazes were fuelled by an intense heatwave, he said, that struck much of southern Europe and was blamed on global warming.

“The prolonged heatwave turned all our forests into tinderboxes,” Mr Mitsotakis said.

More than 100,000 hectares of pine forest in Greece were burnt with wildfires near the capital Athens, the island of Evia and areas of the Peloponnese, including near the archaeological site of the ancient Olympic Games. The government has approved $587 million in humanitarian support.

Mr Mitsotakis told Parliament that tackling the climate crisis was "forcing us to change everything; the way we produce agricultural products, how we move around, how we generate energy and the way we build our homes”.

Critics in Greece accused the authorities of being unprepared and the prime minister conceded that mistakes had been made but defended the response of the fire brigade and civil protection services.

“It is wrong to say that wildfires are only put out from the air," he said. "We cannot have a helicopter above every home."

He pledged to increase aerial firefighting capacity and establish a force better equipped to tackle fire in woodland.

There are plans to set up a special unit “that will be able to operate more effectively in the forests”, Mr Mitsotakis said.

Updated: August 25th 2021, 2:13 PM