ATHENS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Leaders of the EU's bloc of nine southern European members said on Friday that urgent global action was needed to address a worsening climate crisis and build a sustainable future for the Mediterranean region.
Leaders from Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Malta, Portugal and Spain met in Athens on Friday to discuss climate change after devastating summer wildfires highlighted the challenges the climate change poses for southern Europe.
The Mediterranean was now suffering "unprecedented ecological damage and response capabilities are being stretched to the limit", they said in a joint statement after their meeting, joined by EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.
"Such vulnerability is going to increase due to the accelerating impacts from climate change in the region leading to losses in welfare in terms of economic impacts due to climate change," the statement said.
EU scientists have said the Mediterranean has become a "wildfire hotspot" as human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe.
Greece and Turkey were hit by their most intense blazes on record amid an intense heatwave this summer, while in southern Italy fires ravaged swathes of land.
In Greece, hundreds of businesses and houses have been burnt to the ground, with the fires overwhelming national civil protection and fire fighting responses and forcing Greece to ask assistance from other EU countries.
The Mediterranean countries also agreed to boost cooperation among themselves in planning and prevention and called on the EU to strengthen its civil protection mechanisms to help better protect citizens and the environment against "increasingly severe and complex disasters". (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Alex Richardson)