From Cairo to Copenhagen: Arab stance on climate change
Posted on November 25, 2009
When Arab leaders arrived last week in Beirut to discuss how to avert climate change, they did so – without exception – in elaborately large cars.
Attendees at the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) conference in Sin El Fil came with a swashbuckling desire to adapt to the proliferating damage being wrought by global warming. They came with high rhetoric and ambitious plans.
They also came with an hypocrisy which extended way beyond their deeply inappropriate transport.
Dr Rashed Bin Fahed, UAE environment and water minister, summed up the general mood of martyred victimhood which permeated every discussion at the entire conference.
“There is no doubt climate change today is a fact. It’s true that our region is not contributing to this. However, the threats of climate change to our region may be very dangerous,” he said.
What is true is that the MENA region contributes less than five percent of total global carbon emissions. Since we are on facts, however, it is also true that the Gulf alone exports more than 15 million barrels of oil every day to developed and developing countries alike.
To say that the Arab world is absolved from blame after providing carbon-guzzling countries with swaths of non-renewable energy - for stratospheric profits – is preposterous. In the same way as you are responsible if you feed a morbidly obese person until their liver finally collapses, so the Arab region cannot claim total innocence on climate change.
It’s true that our region is not contributing to this.
The Arab world is especially vulnerable to climate change; a mere one degree increase in global temperatures – an absolute certainty, by all measurements – will affect 41,500 square miles of MENA land. Up to 15 percent of Qatar could disappear and global warming, if undinted, will wipe more than 12 percent off Egypt’s GDP due to desecration of the Nile Delta.
Hearing AFED’s recommendations today – which are to be taken to Copenhagen as part of the Hariri-headed Lebanese delegation – was encouraging. They called on Arab countries to start shouldering responsibility, rather than sit back and claim that since climate change isn’t their fault, they shouldn’t have to do anything to avert it.
What Copenhagen may or may not achieve shouldn’t prevent Arab countries from implementing cuts in emissions or considering global warming as a key part of future development policy. MENA countries should still seek to alter their ways, starting with a switch to greener forms of transport as is currently being trialled in Jordan.
This would demonstrate genuine willingness to fight climate change, to say nothing of eliminating ironic entrances to future environmental forums.