The effects of man-driven climate change are now indisputable. The global average temperature has increased by approximately 1.0°C above pre-industrial levels, because of human activities. Cyprus is already experiencing rising temperatures and reduced rainfall, and conditions are expected to worsen in the coming decades. The direct and indirect effects of climate change are central to the goals of BirdLife Cyprus for biodiversity and sustainable development.
What is the problem?
Scientists estimate that with a 2°C increase, 18% of insects, 16% of plants and 8% of vertebrates are expected to lose over half of the range that climate conditions allow them to occupy. When this is added to the fact that 75% of land surface of the globe has already been significantly altered, 66% of the ocean area is experiencing impacts and over 85% of wetlands have already been lost, predictions are grim for the survival of biodiversity on the planet.
When it comes to Cyprus, it is expected that by 2050 the temperature will increase by 1.3-1.9°C (compared to the 1961-1990 levels) while the number of days with temperatures over 35°C is expected to increase to more than 34 a year, inland. Dry periods of low rainfall are also expected to become more regular.
At the same time:
- Under a European regulation, Cyprus is committed to a 24% reduction (compared to 2005 levels) in greenhouse gases of the non-ETS Sector (the Emissions Trading System. ETS in Cyprus comprises three power stations and some factories. Cyprus has to be ambitious in its planning if this commitment is to be achieved in time.
- There is no evidence that Cyprus will apply the ecosystem approach for tackling climate change. To the contrary, natural and semi-natural places that could be employed as carbon sinks in the fight against climate change are experiencing continuous pressure for development. It is only indicative that European Commission called on Cyprus to correct its failure to protect Natura 2000 sites and that rate of land sealing due to urban development and construction has been consistently higher in Cyprus than any other EU country, by a long way.
- During the previous programming period (2010-2020) there was no strategic placement of renewable energy projects in the countryside. This led to 2/3 of Cyprus’ windfarms being placed in Natura 2000 sites and more than half of the Photovoltaic Parks ending up in valuable farmland. After years of lobbying by BirdLife Cyprus for a strategic assessment of the environmental impacts of renewable energy projects, an official decision made by the Environment Department in February 2022 ensures that protected areas are off-limits, putting a safety net at lease over the island’s most important natural elements.
What is the solution?
Adoption of stricter policies and measures to reduce emissions, considering that climate change is an extremely urgent issue that should be made a priority across all government policies. Policies to adapt to climate change should not clash with policies for the protection of biodiversity, but rather be synergistic with them. Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation should be central to government plans. Such nature-based solutions like restoration of wetlands, sustainable agricultural solutions and protection of forests provide multiple benefits for people, biodiversity and the climate.
What are we doing about it?
- We are lobbying for ecosystem-based approach to Cyprus’s climate change planning by providing detailed comments to relevant government strategies and plans and participating in public consultations.
- After years of lobbying for the need of Special Planning Framework for the siting of renewable energy projects, this was achieved in early 2022 Big solar and wind parks are now clearly banned from Natura 2000 sites, state forests and main bird migration corridors with the necessary buffers left. We are now focusing our efforts to the proper implementation of this Framework and trying to ensure that high nature value farmland is also protected.
- We have been lobbying for a more sustainable agricultural model by contributing with suggestions and proposals on how Cyprus designs its CAP subsidies to benefit birds, nature and small-scale farmers, and more recently through our involvement as partners in the LIFE IP Physis project.
- We have been part of two large-scale site restoration projects in two Important Bird Areas/Special Protection Areas during the last decade: the LIFE Oroklini Project (2012-2015) and the Akrotiri Marsh Project (2015-2017) for the restoration and management of these important wetlands. These project successes were the result of working closely with relevant departments and other stakeholders and stand testament to the work that has been done to help these sites, which function as carbon sinks, bounce back to life, giving birds and other wildlife a place to thrive in and people the opportunity to enjoy them. We are now part of a third project which aims to restore important habitats in Akrotiri and Cape Pyla (2021-2024).