DCM’s Remarks: “Building Disaster Resilience through Innovative U.S. Solutions” 

(© Charlie Riedel/AP Images)

Deputy Chief of Mission Burger’s Opening Remarks

Building Disaster Resilience through Innovative U.S. Solutions” Webinar

Wednesday, March 2, 2022,4:00 p.m.

As Prepared

Kalispera sas.  It is a pleasure to join you today for this important discussion on how the United States and Greece can work together to further strengthen our countries’ resilience against climate change. Let me also make apologies for Ambassador Pyatt, who was pulled into another meeting on short notice.

Minister Stylianides, thank you very much for your participation today and thank you for our great cooperation.

General Secretary Staveris, thank you very much also for joining this event.

Today, the U.S.-Greece alliance is stronger than ever before, as we are seeing in these dark days since Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.  Thank you to Greece and all of our partners in the EU and NATO for your steadfast support of the people of Ukraine.

Even as we cooperate to support Ukraine, the climate crisis remains a top priority.  We must retain our focus on this defining issue of our times.

Last summer, we all witnessed wildfires devastating both Greece and California.  These tragic fires were a painful lesson to us all about the impact of climate change.  They are also reminder that fires do not respect borders: we saw them all over this region last August.

There is no time for further delay.  We must act now.  Combatting climate change is a top priority for both President Biden and Prime Minister Mitsotakis.  The United States is mounting a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis.

I would like to commend Greece on its leadership in this effort.  Prime Minister Mitsotakis has personally stated his commitment to create a more sustainable future for Greece through clean energy initiatives, investments in innovative technology, and supporting high-tech synergies.

The United States and Greece have been solid partners in such efforts.  Last October in Washington, we launched a new pillar in the U.S.-Greek Strategic Dialogue focusing on Humanitarian Challenges and Disaster Preparedness.  The Greek government created the new Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection, underscoring the importance of tackling these issues.

As part of our joint efforts to effectively respond to climate change, the United States and Greece discussed the importance of professional training and agreed to begin working level consultations.

We have been working closely with the Greek Fire Brigade, Ministry of Environment, and the U.S. Forest Service to identify needs for technical assistance and training in areas such as reforestation and proactive defense of fires to help Greece recover and to strengthen our countries’ preparedness for the future.

Several U.S. companies have been supporting Greece in handling wildfires.  For instance, Erickson has been supporting firefighting efforts in Greece for more than 22 years, working with the Hellenic Fire Brigade.  Last year, Erickson provided a total of 9 aircrafts to the Fire Brigade.

Another U.S. company, Maxar, has been providing free high resolution satellite imagery to the Ministry of Defense and the former General Secretariat of the Ministry of Citizen’s Protection for the last two years.

Last summer, a U.S. Navy P-8 reconnaissance aircraft provided timely and detailed updates on the severity and nature of the fires, helping the Hellenic Fire Brigade save lives.

Responding to the aftermath of wildfires is an equally challenging process.  I was proud our government was able to send a team of technical experts from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and the U.S. Forest Service’s Burned Area Emergency Response program to visit Evia, Athens, and Ancient Olympia to examine the aftermath of the fires and share best practices for managing the process of recovery.

But U.S. support hasn’t only focused on sharing knowledge and equipment.  Several American companies have implemented extended corporate social responsibility programs to assist victims and support the rebuilding of devastated communities.  Other U.S. companies reached out offering sympathy, and a strong desire to be a part of future solutions.  As the requests came in, my team created a platform to encourage connections between Greek stakeholders and U.S. companies.  And this is how today’s event came to be.

American companies offer the best innovative solutions, tested through devastating wildfires in the United States.  We hope that all of our Greek partners will help raise awareness about these firms as we strongly believe in the power of new synergies and collaborations.

Because we are in this together, and the more we exchange ideas and share best practices, the more we will be able to protect lives and livelihoods, as well as the incredible natural and cultural treasures that Greece is home to.  This is our responsibility now and for future generations.

We must tirelessly work together to confront the climate crisis.  Our shared future depends on it.

Efcharisto poli.