Articles News & Interviews Books Editorials Home
      اللغة العربية    
Editor in Chief - Environment And Development
Secretary General - AFED
About Gallery Videos Contact
Selected Editorials

Climate Change: who pays for the dinner?

By Najib Saab, Issue 132, March 2009

"If no drastic measures are taken immediately, global warming will accelerate during the 21st century at a rate that causes severe environmental damage exceeding what was previously anticipated." This warning was issued by the US scientist Chris Field who is a prominent figure in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), only two days before the 25th session of UNEP's governing council that was held in Nairobi last month.

Field has indicated that compelling scientific evidence that was published after the IPCC's 4th report in 2007,  proved without doubt that the actual situation was much worse than what the report predicted. The report has projected the rise of temperature between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees by 2100. Field has indicated that the emissions increased between 2000-2007 at rates that exceeded all projections, especially due to the huge increase in energy production in developing countries, most notably India and China, which mainly depend on coal.

Studies published in the last few months have indicated the high probability of the rise of sea level by 1.0 meter at the end of the century, which is threefold as the IPCC projected two years ago. The most notable conclusions were reached by a study conducted by the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia (UK). The study has proved for the first time that temperature is rising in the Arctic at a high pace. The researchers have stated that if the current trends remain, a continuous rise in temperature will cause the burning of tropical forests and the melting of arctic ice, pushing the world into an environmental catastrophe with open ends.

With this new evidence as backdrop, ministers of environment from 140 countries have met last month in the 25th session of UNEP's Governing Council in Nairobi. Climate was not on the agenda of the meeting, but the Danish Minister of Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard asked for a closed ministerial meeting to discuss ideas and recommendations that will facilitate reaching a consensus during the COP 15 in Copenhagen next December.

In her pursuit for agreements that can enhance the success of Copenhagen conference, which is supposed to result in anew agreement that will identify global conditions and targets to combat climate change beyond the Kyoto timeframe, the Danish minister demanded discussing ambitious objectives for emission reduction to be committed by industrialized countries, while asking developing countries to present their own vision of reducing emissions and the level of their preparadness for participation in this international effort.

Amongst industrialized countries, only the German Minister reiterated his country's commitment to reduce emissions by 40% in 2020, which represents the maximum level identified by the IPCC in its 4th assessment report. It is worth mentioning that the figure most discussed at the EU level is a reduction of 30% by 2020. Other industrialized countries showed good intentions, but backed off from numerical commitments. Their representatives demanded developing nations, especially India and China, to commit to specific reduction levels and promised them financial and technological assistance to meet such commitments, but with no specific figures.

The Chinese Minister reiterated his country's unilateral commitment for a 10% reduction in 2010 and 15% in 2020, compared to emission levels of 1990, anticipating agreements on compensations and aid. The same voluntary commitments were shown from Brazil and South Africa.

The position of the developing nations was crystal clear in the statement of the representative of South Africa, who said that it is unfair for developing countries to pay the price for the deterioration caused by the developed nations in the last few centuries. He demanded technological and financial commitments from developed nations, based on which specific emission reduction programmes will be agreed upon by developing countries. Developing nations have again stated their demands from developed nations for the commitment to the maximum reduction level requested by the IPCC's 4th assessment report, which is 40% by 2020 and 90% by 2050.

The Algerian Minister reiterated the position of the G-77 and China, while Lebanon asked for the regulation of funding mechanisms under the umbrella of the UN to free it from political considerations that govern bilateral aid, and focused on the need to protect human rights in all climate change measures.

One of the participating ministers has drawn attention to the fact that the US representative was only a listener and did not participate in discussions. The reply was evident by the US president Barrack Obama on February 19th, one day past the Nairobi conference, after his meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister. Obama has highlighted the fact that the economic stimulus programme supports the transition to a green economy at the domestic front, and that the USA will play a leading role in global action to combat climate change. However he did not elaborate on figures, which was explained by observers as wait-and-see tactics, waiting to determine the actual level of meltdown of the US economy.

Nine months separate us from the Copenhagen Conference, and Arab countries are obliged to develop a unified position to be an integral part of the global endeavors for combating climate change. Although the Arab contribution to greenhouse gas emissions does not exceed 5%, the impact on the regions will be catastrophic. So, what are the projected impacts on the region and what have we done to face them?

If the sea level rises for one meter, which are the threatened areas of the populated Arab coastal zones that extend over 18,000 Km? What are the consequences of drought on the production of food, freshwater resources, health, biodiversity, urban areas, roads, infrastructure and tourism? All these are challenges that we can no longer delay or deal with by hiding our heads in the sand.

The compelling scientific evidence proves today that the climate is changing at a pace faster than what was previously projected. If the USA has maintained, until last year, the title of the "biggest polluter," it has been "beaten" now by China with its increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and the rest is to come especially that China is still moving into consumerism, and so is India.

The Ministerial meeting in Nairobi showed that there is a consensus on the diagnosis of the problem, and the need to find and implement effective solutions. Everyone should be a part of the solution by accepting global shared responsibility, with developed nations required to meet their responsibilities in supporting developing nations to transit to cleaner production and green economy. It is not accepted anymore that one part will use the alibi of other party's reluctance to avoid commitment to rapid and effective measures.

When the Ministerial meeting ended in Nairobi at 7:00 p.m, after four hours of discussions, one minister said that the situation is like agreeing to go to dinner and clashing on who will pay the invoice. Well, we have only one choice, and that is to share the bill, each according to own resources and the actual menu selected for dinner, taking into consideration all the previous meals that many took for free since the industrial revolution

Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
Environmental Agenda
Environment in Arab Media
News & Interviews Photo Gallery Videos