Amidst a backdrop of geopolitical turmoil and escalating climate challenges, the Seventh Sustainability Summit for SE Europe and the Mediterranean unfolded at the scenic Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso in Athens on November 20th-21st. Organized by Economist Impact Events, the summit provided a platform for influential thought leaders, industry experts, and committed youth representatives to explore the theme: “How can sustainability foster global co-operation and peace?”
Day 1: Collaborative Solutions for Water Management and Global Cooperation
The inaugural day set the tone for the summit, with a distinguished panel of global leaders delving into the critical issues of water scarcity and fostering global cooperation. Moderated by Alasdair Ross, Countries Editor at The Economist, the panel included luminaries such as Petros Varelidis, Secretary-General, Natural Environment and Waters, Ministry of Environment and Energy, Greece; Harry Sachinis, Chief Executive Officer, EYDAP; Booky Oren Chairman and CEO, Booky Oren Global Water Technologies, Israel; Ruben Fernandes, Executive Board Member, Aguas e Energia do Porto; and Stavros Mourelatos, General Manager for Greece, Cyprus & Malta, The Coca-Cola Company.
Discussions ranged from the EU’s “Blue Deal” to the threats posed by water shortage, emphasizing the crucial role of public and private sectors in water management. Dr. Stella Apostolaki, Executive Director of the Center of Excellence in Sustainability at The American College of Greece, provided a compelling perspective on innovative water management systems. She emphasized the urgency for integrated water resource management during climate crises, advocating for innovative solutions like nature-based approaches. Dr. Apostolaki highlighted the benefits of such solutions, including CO2 sequestration, temperature regulation, rainwater harvesting, pollutant removal, and water reuse. Given the challenges faced by Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, she underscored the importance of nature-based solutions for managing water scarcity and flooding and urged increased investments in research and implementation to enhance adaptation to climate change and build resilience.
Day 2: Youth-Driven Sustainability Initiatives Take Center Stage
Shifting focus on the second day, the summit spotlighted the indispensable role of youth in achieving sustainability goals. Andreas Papandreou, Co-Chair of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network Greece, chaired a dynamic panel featuring luminaries such as: Erika Spagakou, Co-Founder, Ecogenia, and Yiannis Stamatonikolos, Business Development Associate, GenAI Summit at 100mentors.
Rania Assariotaki, Director of the Office of Sustainability at The American College of Greece, delivered a thought-provoking speech on the importance of values and skills in fostering positive change. The ensuing panel discussion, featuring insights from Rania Assariotaki and Konstantina Cheimara, President of the Social Issues Club and sustainability leader at The American College of Greece, explored the successes and failures of youth-driven sustainability initiatives. Discussions delved into the impact of AI on existing inequalities, challenges in education and employment, and the aspirations of the youth in navigating an unpredictable world.
Closing Reflections: A Unified Call for Global Action
As the summit concluded, a resounding call for global unity echoed through the discussions. Dr. Apostolaki, Mrs. Assariotaki, and Ms. Cheimara’s insights underscored the interconnectedness of environmental and social sustainability, urging governments, industries, and individuals to collaborate urgently. The summit not only illuminated the challenges but also showcased tangible solutions and youth-driven initiatives that hold the key to a more sustainable and peaceful future.
Catch the highlights of Dr. Apostolaki’s speech by clicking on the video below: