Southern EU leaders on Friday pledged their adherence to the climate targets of the Paris 2015 agreement in an Athens summit that also tackled migration and regional security challenges.
"Now, more than ever, (it is) necessary to tackle the escalating climate and environmental crisis and create a safe, secure prosperous, fair and sustainable future for our societies," Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain said in a joint statement.
With the Mediterranean already feeling the effects of climate change in violent weather swings, wildfires and floods, the participants agreed to "intensify" cooperation by sharing best practices in prevention measures.
The group, typically known as the Med7 but adding Croatia and Slovenia this year, also reiterated their "firm commitment" to the implementation of the Paris 2015 Agreement, limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 Celsius (34.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and reaching climate neutrality by 2050.
And they pledged to work towards the protection of the Mediterranean’s cultural and natural heritage, while advancing a shift from fossil fuels to renewables and low carbon technologies.
- 'We cannot delay' -
"The nine countries of the European south are coordinating to protect our forests and seas, we claim a stronger civil protection mechanism, we exchange technology and means of prevention to address the attacks of nature," said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
"The destructive fires of this summer that in particular hit Greece, Italy, Cyprus, did not spare any Mediterranean country. At the same time, the European north was hit by deadly floods. It is the strongest proof that climate crisis concerns us all, and an alarm signal that it has already landed on our shores."
"As the danger is common, so should our defence be," he said.
The summer's fires are a "trigger to expedite our efforts so we can tackle climate change...We no longer have the luxury of time, we cannot delay," said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
"Deterrence means proper preparation. You have to shore up the land to avert natural disasters," said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
The one-day gathering, with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen attending a separate meeting on climate change and its effects on the Mediterranean, also focused on security challenges including migration and the Afghan crisis.
Greece was badly hit by wildfires this summer, losing over 100,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land in the process.
The last summit in 2020 issued a warning to Turkey over its confrontational behaviour in the Mediterranean.
This year, the EU is concerned that chaos in Afghanistan could spark an influx of refugees similar to 2015's migrant crisis.
Greece and other southern EU states, the countries that deal with the most migrants, have long complained over a lack of support from their northern peers.
The EU has now committed 276 million euros ($326 million) for new migrant camps on the Greek islands that receive most arrivals by sea from neighbouring Turkey.