Winning Combination in Cyprus

Photo: CorD Magazine

The sunniest country in this part of the world, with only a couple of dozen cloudy days throughout a year, is situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. Its beauty, rich history, charming beaches and number of resorts attract many tourists worldwide. If your guess was Cyprus, you got it right.

Still, this lovely island in the Mediterranean Sea has already been paying the price for its only until recently propitious geographical position. The citizens are facing severe effects of climate change, droughts and water shortages, and challenges in adopting the circular economy principles.

The ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to Serbia Demetrios Theophylactou was talking to our journalist, revealing if their Government was succeeding in finding the right mix of solutions for climate change adaptation.

EP In 2020, the annual temperature reached 20.6°C compared to 17.2°C from 1960-1970. How is Cyprus handling the rising temperature and its effect?

Demetrios Theophylactou Immediate adaptation measures to reduce the vulnerability of natural and socio-economic systems in response to climate change are in order. Likewise, longer-term strategies are being calibrated despite the complex nature of the implementation. Numerous studies have demonstrated that immediate action is imperative, as the cost of climate change will be even higher if no action is taken. Cyprus is already witnessing severe adverse effects of climate change; therefore it has set in place a National Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan. In this context, Cyprus is compelled to address climate change at the regional level. To this end, we have launched a specific initiative to pool together national action plans from Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East countries to strengthen regional coordination and cooperation.  Indeed, a detailed work programme has been developed, consisting of two distinct components: a scientific and an intergovernmental component.

EP The total of 340 days of sun a year in Cyprus certainly contributes to great tourism. However, the island is also drought-stricken, and water has always been a valuable commodity. How does your Government deals with water demands when there is huge pressure on water resources?

Demetrios Theophylactou Water scarcity has always been a major challenge for Cyprus, which is among the EU Member States with the least available water per capita. As an island with a semi-arid climate and limited water resources, which depend mainly on rainfall, Cyprus faces additional challenges compared to mainland countries and is more vulnerable to climate change. To address the problem and improve the reliability of water sources for domestic and irrigation uses, the optimum use of non-conventional water resources, such as desalination and water reuse are being promoted. Recycled water is a growing and stable resource. Effective water demand management is also one of Cyprus’ priorities as it is a fundamental condition for the exercise and application of a sustainable water policy. Various measures aimed at further improving the good practices for water consumption and reuse are being implemented. One of the measures applied is the water pricing policy. Incentive water pricing based on metering, volumetric pricing and rising block tariffs has been in place for many years.

EP Thanks to the discovery of Hydrocarbons in Cyprus’s waters and the massive discovery of the Zohr gas field in the Egyptian waters, which is very close to the Cypriot acreages, a lot of attention has been drawn internationally. The oil and gas sector continues to develop. Will that put at risk the climate agenda priorities?

Demetrios Theophylactou Indeed, the gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean region in the last decade have attracted a lot of attention to the Eastern Mediterranean region and hydrocarbons exploration activities have intensified. Even though the pandemic had a negative impact on the oil and gas industry worldwide, these discoveries are expected to be developed sooner or later. At first glance, they appear not to be in line with the priorities of the climate agenda. That is not the full picture. The objectives of the climate agenda for Energy Transition cannot be achieved overnight. Besides, significant investments and new technologies are needed. In brief, a transition period is necessary whereby a “bridge-fuel” is necessary; everyone agrees that this is natural gas. We do know that natural gas is used in hydrogen production, which is expected to have a leading role in Energy Transition. In certain sectors, such as transport, the energy transition will be more difficult and slower. Natural gas can play a vital role, as it is undoubtedly the most environmentally friendly conventional fuel.

Interview by: Tamara Zjačić

Read the whole interview in the new issue of the Energy portal Magazine CIRCULAR ECONOMY, march 2021 – may 2021.