How Arab states are accelerating climate action in the run-up to COP26

How Arab states are accelerating climate action in the run-up to COP26
The UN says nations must do far more if the world is to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2C. (AFP)
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Updated 08 July 2021

How Arab states are accelerating climate action in the run-up to COP26

How Arab states are accelerating climate action in the run-up to COP26
  • Expectations are high ahead of the COP26 summit, with Arab states eager to do their bit to help cut emissions
  • Facing acute challenges associated with climate change, the Arab world has an integral part to play, say experts

DUBAI: As representatives of governments and other attendees prepare to gather in Glasgow from Oct. 31 for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), observers are hopeful that the summit can effect meaningful change.

The conference — under the theme “Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change” — will include contributions from more than 30,000 delegates from around the globe, including the Arab region.

Along with other GCC countries, Saudi Arabia is accelerating action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It has unveiled a National Renewable Energy Program — through which it aspires to meet 50 percent of its domestic energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 — and launched the Saudi Green Initiative, a project to plant 10 billion trees in the country to mitigate its CO2 emissions.




Renewables have become the world’s main and cheapest source of power generation. (AFP)


The Kingdom has also pioneered “circular carbon economy,” an integrated strategy for tackling emissions while enabling economic growth that was endorsed by G20 leaders at the summit, under Saudi presidency, last year.

The recent announcement of the Sakaka solar project was another sign of the Kingdom’s ambitions in renewable energy sources. Saudi Arabia is also leading the way in the use of hydrogen, which some energy visionaries see as the fuel of the future. Saudi Aramco shipped the first ever consignment of the fuel last summer.

For its part, the UAE now has more than 2.4 GW of installed renewable energy capacity, as it plans to diversify its energy mix and increase its share of renewables to 44 percent by the middle of the century as part of its National Energy Strategy Plan 2050.

“We all have an important role to play in addressing this global issue, as it affects not only the environment, ecology and biodiversity of our planet but also the natural resources available for future generations,” Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, permanent representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), told Arab News.

“Arab countries constitute an integral part of this collective action to further the achievement of COP26 goals of securing global net-zero by mid-century, keeping temperature goals within reach, protecting communities and natural habitats, mobilizing finance, and working together to rise to the challenge and deliver,” Al-Hosany added.

While significant progress has already been made, the UN says nations must do far more if the world is to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2C — and ideally 1.5C — by the end of the century.

“We hope to see world leaders capitalize on momentum around the Green Recovery to take real and meaningful action on climate change,” Mohamed Jameel Al-Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, a renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi, told Arab News. “The Arab world faces particularly acute challenges from climate change. Scientists warn that, without immediate climate action, we could witness regular life-threatening heat waves across the region.”
 




Establishing the policy, regulatory, technical and economic frameworks to enable states to scale up renewables will be indispensable to the world’s collective success. (AFP)

Yet climate change does not always get the attention it deserves in the Middle East, he noted. To address this, he believes the region’s young people — the Arab world’s largest and most important demographic — will have a vital role to play in spreading the message and taking action.

For Daniel Gribbin, corporate sustainability lead at WSP Middle East, recent activity against big oil players by investors and non-governmental organizations will likely have caught the attention of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) policymakers, as the global impetus towards integrating environmental, social and governance measures and transitioning to low-carbon economies gathers pace.

“We can expect to see these trends highlighted at future COP summits, as world leaders place a higher degree of focus on governments, companies and organizations that are not doing enough to drive adequate climate action,” Gribbin told Arab News.
 




Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, permanent representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency. (Supplied)

“Future COP summits will also place increased pressure on governments, companies and organizations whose strategies, levels of disclosure and transparency are currently lacking in regard to climate-related risks, opportunities and targets.”

This focus on big oil, and how the Middle East is facilitating the transition to low-carbon economies, is firmly on the agenda, particularly with the UAE launching a bid to bring COP28 to Abu Dhabi in 2023.

“There is an expectation that Middle Eastern nations will need to become more transparent about how they manage accelerated climate action in line with their ambitions to transition beyond economic models traditionally reliant on fossil fuels,” Gribbin added.
 

 

The Middle East, perhaps more than most, is feeling the effects of climate change, with record temperatures, declining biodiversity, and stress on water resources.

“Specific ecosystems in this region are already very vulnerable, like the hyper-saline Arabian Gulf,” Tatiana Antonelli Abella, founder of the UAE-based green social enterprise Goumbook, told Arab News.

Abella urges collective action to reduce carbon footprints, to work towards an energy transition driven by renewables, and to tackle social and economic disruptions in the region — worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic — through inclusive economic-recovery plans.
 




Climate change does not always get the attention it deserves in the Middle East. (AFP)

“We need to cut down on plastic pollution, preserve ecosystems, especially blue carbon, and foster circularity and sustainable economic-growth models,” she said. “Regional collaboration is also needed to address cross-border impacts.”

Climate change is already having a devastating impact on ecosystems, economies and communities around the world due to rising temperatures, desertification, droughts and flooding. To halt this trend, COP26 is urging all countries to set ambitious 2030 targets that align with reaching net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

“Many of these challenges can be opportunities to make this decade one of energy transformation and sustainable policies that will further increase investment and advance innovation in renewables to help mitigate climate change,” Al-Hosany told Arab News.

“Not only will this help sustainable socioeconomic development in this region, which has great potential for diversifying its energy mix, but it can also help tap into the 42 million renewable-energy jobs that will be available by 2050 per IRENA’s Renewable Energy and Jobs Report.

“If collective action to mitigate climate change is attained, then and only then will these challenges become part of the past.”

There has been noteworthy progress already. Today, more than 170 countries have renewables targets, which many have included in their Nationally Determined Contributions — non-binding national plans highlighting climate actions set under the Paris Agreement.
 




Mohamed Jameel Al-Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, a renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

Additionally, major economies accounting for 70 percent of global CO2 emissions now have targets for carbon neutrality by 2050, and markets are now pricing in energy transitions. More than 80 percent of all new power added in 2020 was renewable — a 50-percent increase on the previous year.

For Francesco La Camera, IRENA’s director-general, these are all positive signs. But the urgency required cannot be overstated. “2030 is really the crucial time by which we need to align our energy system with near-term development goals and longer-term climate goals,” he told Arab News.

“We need a fundamental transformation of our energy system, and we need it in every country, and fast.”

In La Camera’s view, expectations are high for all countries, including those in the Arab region. He stressed that this is a crucial COP meeting that must move the world from dialogue to action.

“Many countries in this region have already shown how serious they are about the renewable energy transition,” he said.

“The announcement of a $4 billion green hydrogen project in Egypt, the ambitious plan to build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia, and the inauguration of the region’s first industrial-scale green hydrogen facility in the UAE all point to a forward-looking region that is increasingly embracing the energy transition. But there is much work to be done.”
 




To address climate change, Mohamed Jameel Al-Ramahi believes the region’s young people will have a vital role to play in spreading the message and taking action. (AFP)

Renewables have become the world’s main and cheapest source of power generation, he said. “This is a fact, and it will drive the uptake of renewables significantly. Our latest data suggests most new renewables outcompete existing coal on costs — this is game changing, and it can be used to ramp up ambition.

“Now is the time to translate ambition into action through some of the steps that the IRENA has outlined in its World Energy Transitions Outlook road map to a 1.5-degree future.”

Establishing the policy, regulatory, technical and economic frameworks to enable states to scale up renewables will be indispensable to the world’s collective success.

“The real challenge today is not about technology, costs or investment flows. The main thing that holds us back from moving faster is vested interests and political will,” La Camera said. “Policy and investment decision-making must reflect the urgency of the task at hand.”

Twitter: @CalineMalek


Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east
Updated 6 sec ago

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east
  • 20 tons of ammonium nitrate seized after raid on fertilizer warehouse in eastern Bekaa Valley
  • Shipment of the chemical carelessly stocked at Beirut Port caused a massive blast, killing 214 people, last year
BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities have seized 20 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical behind a deadly explosion last year at Beirut’s port — in the eastern Bekaa Valley, state media reported on Saturday.
Ammonium nitrate is an odourless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
At least 214 people were killed and some 6,500 others wounded on August 4, 2020 when a shipment of the chemical carelessly stocked at the Beirut port for years ignited and caused a massive blast.
On Saturday, the National News Agency (NNA) said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria.
Authorities seized 20 tons of the dangerous chemical stored inside a truck parked at the warehouse, the NNA said, adding the material was transported to a “safe place.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, who visited the Bekaa Valley on Saturday, called on security forces to conduct a sweep of the area.
“We must do our best to move these materials to a safer place away from exposure to heat and sun” to avoid a “catastrophe,” the NNA quoted him as saying.
The company that owns the ammonium nitrate said that the fertilizer was intended for agricultural use.
“One of our employees informed the relevant authorities that we have ammonium nitrate, so they raided the warehouses on Friday,” one of the company heads told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The name of the firm that owns the fertilizer has not been made public pending investigations.
“We have been working in the feed and fertilizer industry for 40 years,” the company official added.
When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used in the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups for improvised explosives.
Lebanese authorities are still investigating the circumstances in which hundreds of tons of the chemical ended up in the Beirut port for years, before the monster explosion that levelled swathes of the city.

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell
Updated 50 min 59 sec ago

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell
  • The bell weighing 285kg was cast in Lebanon with donations from a French NGO

MOSUL: A bell was inaugurated at a church in Mosul on Saturday to the cheers of Iraqi Christians, seven years after the Daesh group overran the northern city.
Dozens of faithful stood by as Father Pios Affas rang the newly installed bell for the first time at the Syriac Christian church of Mar Tuma, an AFP correspondent reported.
It drew applause and ululations from the crowd, who took photos on mobile phones, before prayers were held.
“After seven years of silence, the bell of Mar Tuma rang for the first time on the right bank of Mosul,” Affas told them.
Daesh swept into Mosul and proclaimed it their “capital” in 2014, in an onslaught that forced hundreds of thousands of Christians in the northern Nineveh province to flee, some to Iraq’s nearby Kurdistan region.
The Iraqi army drove out the jihadists three years later after months of gruelling street fighting.
The return of the Mosul church bell “heralds days of hope, and opens the way, God willing, for the return of Christians to their city,” said Affas.
“This is a great day of joy, and I hope the joy will grow even more when not only all the churches and mosques in Mosul are rebuilt, but also the whole city, with its houses and historical sites,” he told AFP.
The bell weighing 285 kilogrammes (nearly 630 pounds) was cast in Lebanon with donations from Fraternity in Iraq, a French NGO that helps religious minorities, and transported from Beirut to Mosul by plane and truck.
The church of Mar Tuma, which dates back to the 19th century, was used by the jihadists as a prison or a court.
Restoration work is ongoing and its marble floor has been dismantled to be completely redone.
Nidaa Abdel Ahad, one of the faithful attending the inauguration, said she had returned to her home town from Irbil so that she could see the church being “brought back to life.”
“My joy is indescribable,” said the teacher in her forties. “It’s as if the heart of Christianity is beating again.”
Faraj-Benoit Camurat, founder and head of Fraternity in Iraq, said that “all the representations of the cross, all the Christian representations, were destroyed,” including marble altars.
“We hope this bell will be the symbol of a kind of rebirth in Mosul,” he told AFP by telephone.
Iraq’s Christian community, which numbered more than 1.5 million in 2003 before the US-led invasion, has shrunk to about 400,000, with many of them fleeing the recurrent violence that has ravaged the country.
Camurat said around 50 Christian families had resettled in Mosul, while others travel there to work for the day.
“The Christians could have left forever and abandoned Mosul,” but instead they being very active in the city, he said.


Tunisians protest over president's seizure of powers

Tunisians protest over president's seizure of powers
Updated 18 September 2021

Tunisians protest over president's seizure of powers

Tunisians protest over president's seizure of powers
  • The protesters gathered in the centre of the capital chanting "shut down the coup" and "we want a return to legitimacy"
  • The protest was the first since Saied declared on July 25 he was sacking the PM, assuming executive authority

TUNIS: Several hundred demonstrators gathered in Tunis on Saturday to protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied's seizure of governing powers in July, which triggered a constitutional crisis and prompted accusations of a coup.
The protesters gathered in the centre of the capital chanting "shut down the coup" and "we want a return to legitimacy", while a few dozen Saied supporters held a counter demonstration chanting "the people want to dissolve parliament".
The protest, accompanied by a heavy police presence, was the first since Saied declared on July 25 he was sacking the prime minister, suspending parliament and assuming executive authority.
Saturday's protests may provide an indication of how the security services, many of whose leadership are newly appointed by Saied, will handle public opposition to him.
Police appeared to be treating both sets of protesters equally, standing between the two camps outside the ornate belle epoque theatre on Habib Bourguiba avenue.
Saied's moves were broadly popular in a country chafing from years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, but they have raised fears for the new rights and the democratic system won in the 2011 revolution that sparked the "Arab spring".
Though the biggest party in parliament, the moderate Islamist Ennahda, initially decried his move as a coup, it quickly backed down and the period since Saied's intervention has been calm.
However eight weeks on, Saied is still to appoint a prime minister or declare his longer-term intentions.
A Saied adviser told Reuters this month the president was considering suspending the 2014 constitution and putting a new version to a referendum, a possibility that unleashed the broadest and most vocal opposition to him since July 25.
Meanwhile, with their immunity lifted, some parliamentarians have been arrested, while numerous Tunisians have been stopped from leaving the country.
Saied has rejected accusations of a coup and his supporters have presented his moves as an opportunity to reset the gains of Tunisia's revolution and purge a corrupt elite.
"They are only here to ... protect corrupt people and Islamists," said Mohamed Slim, standing with his son in the counter protest. (Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by David Holmes)


‘Egypt is one of the countries most affected by climate change,’ water minister says

‘Egypt is one of the countries most affected by climate change,’ water minister says
Updated 18 September 2021

‘Egypt is one of the countries most affected by climate change,’ water minister says

‘Egypt is one of the countries most affected by climate change,’ water minister says
  • Mohamed Abdel-Aty said that climate change negatively impacts water resources, with resulting threats to sustainable development and the human right to water
  • The minister said that more than 1,500 structures had been implemented to guard against the dangers of torrential rain – protecting individuals and facilities

Mohamed Abdel-Aty, Egypt’s minister of water resources and irrigation, has said that his country is one of those most affected by climate change.

This is due to rising sea levels and the impact of climate change on the sources of the Nile River, and extreme weather phenomena such as heatwaves, cold waves and torrential rains impacting water resources, agriculture and the food, energy and health sectors, as well as coastal regions and northern lakes.

This is in addition to the risks affecting 12-15 percent of the most fertile lands of the delta as a result of the expected rise in sea level, and the intrusion of saline water, which affects the quality of groundwater.

Abdel-Aty said that climate change negatively impacts water resources, with resulting threats to sustainable development and the human right to water.

He was speaking during a meeting with Ayat Soliman, regional director of the Sustainable Development Department for the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank Group, and her accompanying delegation. The meeting was to review a climate and development report on Egypt, which is being prepared by experts from the World Bank in cooperation with the Ministry of International Cooperation.

The minister said that more than 1,500 structures had been implemented to guard against the dangers of torrential rain and to protect individuals, facilities and key facilities from its destructive effects, in addition to harvesting rainwater for the use of Bedouin communities in the surrounding areas.

During the meeting, Abdel-Aty reviewed the efforts of the ministry in adapting to climate change through the implementation of several projects to guard against torrential rains, to protect Egyptian beaches, and expand the reuse of agricultural drainage water as one of the non-traditional water resources to meet increasing demand.

Egypt is implementing a number of major projects aimed at protecting its coast (covering about 3,000 km), securing individuals, facilities, public and private properties, roads and investments in coastal areas, working to stop the decline of the beach line and recovering beaches that have been lost due to erosion, and protecting agricultural lands and villages.

The country is also working on contributing to the development of fisheries in the northern lakes. The “Promoting Adaptation to Climate Changes in the North Coast and the Nile Delta” project has been launched with the aim of establishing protection systems, over a distance of 69 km, in five locations on the coast of the Nile River Delta, and the establishment of early warning stations at different depths within the Mediterranean to obtain data related to storm waves and sudden natural phenomena.


Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning
Updated 18 September 2021

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning
  • Bouteflika, who had been ailing since a stroke in 2013, died Friday at 84
  • Bouteflika's 20-year-long rule, riddled with corruption, ended in disgrace as he was pushed from power amid huge street protests

ALGIERS: Algeria’s leader declared a three-day period of mourning starting Saturday for former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose 20-year-long rule, riddled with corruption, ended in disgrace as he was pushed from power amid huge street protests when he decided to seek a new term.
Bouteflika, who had been ailing since a stroke in 2013, died Friday at 84. His public appearances had been rare in the final years of his presidency, and he had not been seen since President Abdelmadjid Tebboune took office in late 2019.
Flags are to fly at half-staff during the mourning period, the president’s office said. The honors reflect Bouteflika’s role in Algeria’s brutal seven-year war for independence from France that ended in 1962. Those who fought are considered martyrs today.
The former president’s lawyer, Salim Salim Hadjouti, said Bouteflika was being laid to rest in an official ceremony at El Alia cemetery, in the section where martyrs of the revolution for independence are buried, a special honor.
Since Bouteflika’s death, public television has not shown images of him, a clear sign that authorities prefer not to go overboard with a farewell as the North African nation has turned past the Bouteflika era. Early on in his mandate, Tebboune announced his policy of a “new Algeria.”
Tebboune has led a fight against the corruption, including in the Bouteflika clan as it emerged that a close circle of officials around the president were enriching themselves and allegedly making decisions in the place of the ailing president. Bouteflika’s brother and special counsellor Said was acquitted in January by a military appeals court of allegedly plotting against the army and the state, but faces corruption charges.