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Climate Change: from intentions to actions

By Najib Saab, issue 135, June 2009

The Arab ministerial declaration on Climate Change issued by the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) at the end of 2007, has placed for the first time the official Arab finger on the climate change wound, but did not evolve yet to an action plan with specific objectives and targets.

The declaration adopted the scientific consensus that was reached by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) documenting the increase of global temperatures due to human activities, especially from fossil fuel emissions. The declaration also stated that the Arab region, located within the geographical stretch of arid areas spread on thousands of Kilometers along coasts, will be one of the most vulnerable spots for potential impacts. Such impacts will include sea level rise, increase in the intensity and/or frequency of desertification and drought, scarcity of water resources and increased salinity of groundwater and spread of infectious diseases and epidemics.

Moreover, the declaration indicated the impacts of climate change on development, including the drop in agricultural production and loss of biodiversity and the threatening of vital economic investments and the reduction of touristic attractions such as loss of coral reefs, the drowning of coastal tourism sites and the deterioration of forests. This is all in addition to the social implications caused by the mass movement of millions of people from impacted areas to other locations and the associated pressure on environment and natural resources.

The ministers stated in the declaration their "determination to strive to achieve" several objectives including: adopting national and regional action plans dealing with climate change issues in order to assess possible impacts and develop mitigation and adaptation programmes, production and use of cleaner fuels, improving the efficiency of energy use in all sectors, diversifying energy sources in accordance with the prevailing economic and social conditions, expanding the use of cleaner production techniques and environmental friendly technologies, as well as expanding the use of economic incentives to encourage more efficient products.

 In the context of adaptation, the declaration focused on the need for the provision of the necessary infrastructure to reduce potential risks, including the efficiency of natural resource management and advanced monitoring, control and early warning systems including the establishment of climate research and study centers.

The Arab Economic Summit that was held in Kuwait earlier this year endorsed the ministerial declaration on climate change and called for cooperation between governments, research centers, universities, civil society institutions and the private sector.

We are dealing here with a clear declaration of intentions that forms the basis for an action plan that includes specific objectives within an identified timeframe. Delays are no longer acceptable in this issue especially that we are only few months away from the UNFCCC COP 15 in Copenhagen (December 2009) that will define the international position towards Climate Change for the post Kyoto era. The scientific consensus has proved in the last few years that what is required from nations is far beyond the requirements of Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012 after the failure to achieve the majority of its targets.

The Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) will contribute to the Arab efforts for serious dealing with climate change issues, through the landmark scientific report that will be presented to its annual assembly in November. The report, developed by a group of major Arab scholars, will cover mitigation and adaptation measures and reviews the impacts of climate change on the Arab region and the required actions in the sectors of sea level rise, food production, freshwater resources, health, ecosystems and biodiversity, transport, urbanization, and infrastructure and tourism. It will also propose an action plan for the post-Kyoto negotiations and identify priorities that Arab nations must take into account in the struggle against the challenges of climate change.

It is about time to turn intentions into actions.

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.
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