Mitigation and adaptation to top UN Climate Change Conference agenda in Egypt

Special Mitigation and adaptation to top UN Climate Change Conference agenda in Egypt
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Special Mitigation and adaptation to top UN Climate Change Conference agenda in Egypt
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A general view shows pollution hovering over Egypt's Nile river and the University bridge in Cairo. (AFP file photo)
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Women from Kenya's Masai community take part in a Global Climate Strike on March 25, 2022 to demand climate reparations and action from world leaders and take genuine climate action. (AFP)
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People commute along a street amid smoggy conditions in New Delhi, India, on Dec. 23, 2021. (AFP)
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People wearing face masks walk on an overpass on a foggy and polluted day in Beijing, China, on Nov. 6, 2021. (AFP)
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A photo taken on August 14, 2022 shows shells at the dried-up bed of Lake Vekeri near Debrecen, eastern Hungary, amid a global climate change. (AFP)
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Updated 26 August 2022

Mitigation and adaptation to top UN Climate Change Conference agenda in Egypt

Mitigation and adaptation to top UN Climate Change Conference agenda in Egypt
  • Egypt prepares to host COP27 in November as extreme weather events and multiple crises buffet the planet 
  • Sharm El-Sheikh summit to focus on Paris Agreement implementation, the presidency team tells Arab News

DUBAI: Summer of 2022 has seen a rash of wildfires, flash flooding, dust storms, and record high temperatures across the planet, which scientists believe are only the latest expressions of man-made climate change.

Experts warn that such extreme weather events will grow in frequency and severity unless the world acts decisively to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ensures that temperatures do not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

With the transition to renewable energy sources appearing to stall in recent months, the hope is that the 27th UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in Egypt in November, will, somehow or other, get the climate agenda back on track.

There is an expectation ahead of each COP summit that the host country will emphasize the needs, priorities, and circumstances of its own geographic and cultural space. This year it is the turn of Africa and the Middle East.

“This is a great opportunity for Africa and the MENA region to raise awareness of their challenges and the solutions needed to tackle climate change,” Zitouni Ould-Dada, deputy director in the Climate and Environment Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, told Arab News.

 

 

“The Egyptian presidency has a great opportunity to convene and facilitate to help countries and other actors raise their ambition and take collective action for mitigation, adaptation and building resilience.”

Preparations for COP27 have given Egypt the added impetus to address its own climate challenges. According to the World Bank, mean annual temperatures in the North African state could rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius by 2050.

Cairo is considered one of the world’s most polluted cities, where industry, traffic congestion, and substandard waste management have led to poor air quality and associated health problems.




A camel-mounted tourism policeman in the Giza Plateau silhouettes against the pollution smog covering the city of Cairo. (AFP file)

Egypt’s Ministry of Health says around 2 million people per year on average seek medical treatment for respiratory problems related to poor air quality.

In honor of COP27, Egypt has transformed its Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, which will host the summit, into a sustainable green city, in part with the help of a $7 million grant from the Global Environment Facility.

Dubbed the Sharm Green City Project, the site has utilized low-carbon technologies, implemented environmental protection policies, and introduced improved waste management practices.




An aerial view of residential lots and luxury hotels in the Hadaba district of Sharm el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. (AFP file)

As part of its wider greening agenda, Egypt also recently announced a new partnership with the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company for the production of green hydrogen.

“Entering the Green Hydrogen Alliance is a good opportunity for Egypt to invest in its clean energy,” Mahmoud Mohieldin, a World Bank Group senior vice president and the UN climate change high-level champion for Egypt, told an event at the American University of Cairo in June.

Egypt has lofty ambitions to build on the many carbon-cutting pledges made by participating nations at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, last year. Delegates will be presented with the latest findings on climate change and the measures needed to prevent it.




Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi presents his national statement during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on Nov.1, 2021. (AFP) 

“COP27 witnesses the release of at least two very important chapters in the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that provides the international community with the most recent data-based available science on climate change in terms of impact as well as what needs to be done in terms of solutions,” a spokesperson from the COP27 presidency team told Arab News from Cairo.

“We had two reports that were issued, one in February and the second one in April, portraying a very bleak picture about where we are now, about the fact that we are so off track on what needs to be done, and also explaining in detail the adverse impact of climate change on almost every sector and every region in the world.

“It is a sobering moment where we are all converging around scientifically established facts that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing, and there is still so much that needs to be done at scale and on a very timely basis.”

FASTFACTS

COP27 will be held in Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, Nov. 7-18.

Organizers say this year’s summit will focus on mitigation, adaptation, and finance.

A lot has changed since COP26. The war in Ukraine led to a Western embargo on Russian oil and gas, causing a spike in global energy prices. In many countries, still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, this has prompted a cost-of-living crisis.

In response to price rises, energy-hungry governments have called on oil and gas producers to boost their output, while others have switched back to the cheaper but far dirtier alternative of coal, setting back the transition to green renewables.

“For this reason, it is crucial that at COP27 we keep reiterating the message that we need continued strength and commitment to the climate agenda,” the COP27 presidency spokesperson said. “The climate response cannot be deprioritized, rescheduled, or put on pause until we do the rest of the firefighting.”

 

 

Indeed, organizers say this is the year when governments must move their climate mitigation, adaptation, and financing plans from the negotiating table to real-world application.

“Following progress at COP26 in Glasgow, international efforts enter a critical new phase as we look to COP27 in Egypt: Implementation of the Paris Agreement at the national level,” the spokesperson said.

“It is the implementation COP, the first COP where nations must show how they will, through legislation, policies, and programs, and throughout all jurisdictions and sectors, begin putting the Paris Agreement to work in their home countries.

“COP27 is about supporting all segments of society, including non-party observers, under the banner of ‘inclusive multilateralism’ to drive significantly more climate action. We have spent almost six years negotiating the operational rule book of the Paris Agreement from 2015 and have concluded most of the details.




Eleven days of UN talks in Paris in 2015 have failed to achieve agreement on a climate pact aimed at sparing future generations from worsening drought, flood, storms and rising seas. (AFP file)

“Now is the time when we translate what is being agreed at negotiation tables and conference venues into concrete deliverables on the ground that have preferably a quick impact on the livelihoods of people and that can mitigate the impact and make the ambitions of these deliverables a reality.”

That said, the pressure is on for Egypt and COP27 organizers following a “disappointing” fortnight of talks at the 56th session of the Bonn Climate Change Conference in June.

Delegates representing the world’s developing countries said they were the ones paying the price for climate change brought about by hundreds of years of emissions released by industrialized nations.




Signing of the COP 27 Host Country Agreement by Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa on June 8, 2022 during the Bonn Climate Change Conference. (UN Climate Change photo)

They said their call for a funding facility bankrolled by wealthy nations, to help them cope with the damage caused by extreme weather events and rising sea levels, was blocked by the EU.

“Africa has played almost no role in global warming, yet climate change is having a disproportionate impact, with droughts, flooding, and natural disasters driving famine, instability, and conflict,” Ghada Fathi Waly, director-general of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, told delegates at the Aswan Forum in Cairo in June.




Women from Kenya's Masai community take part in a Global Climate Strike on March 25, 2022 to demand climate reparations and action from world leaders and take genuine climate action. (AFP)

It is hoped that this imbalance can be addressed at COP27. If recent climate research has taught world leaders anything, it is that all nations — whether rich or poor — will pay a far greater price if they fail to collectively take action now.

“The IPCC has warned about the urgency of climate change and the need to take climate action,” Ould-Dada told Arab News. “The costs of inaction would be higher than the costs of action.”

 

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UN sounds alarm over leukaemia in Iraq linked to oil fields

UN sounds alarm over leukaemia in Iraq linked to oil fields
Updated 16 sec ago

UN sounds alarm over leukaemia in Iraq linked to oil fields

UN sounds alarm over leukaemia in Iraq linked to oil fields
  • ‘The people living near oil fields are victims of state-business collusion’: Special rapporteur
  • Leaked Health Ministry report blames air pollution for 20 percent rise in cancer in Basra

LONDON: The UN has warned that people living near oil fields, where gas is openly burned, face heightened risks of leukaemia, and that it has classified such areas as “modern sacrifice zones.”
Singling out sites in Iraq for gas flaring — a process of burning gas released by oil drilling that produces cancer-linked pollutants including CO2, methane and black soot — the UN said profits have been prioritized over human rights, noting Britain’s BP and Italy’s Eni as working these sites.
David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, told BBC Arabic: “The people living near oil fields are victims of state-business collusion.”
Despite Iraqi law prohibiting flaring within 6 miles of homes, a BBC investigation found areas, including on the outskirts of Basra, where gas was being burned less than 2 miles from people’s front doors, with authorities aware that this was the case.
A leaked Iraqi Health Ministry report seen by BBC Arabic blames air pollution for a 20 percent rise in cancer in Basra between 2015 and 2018.
As part of its investigation, the BBC undertook the first pollution-monitoring testing among the exposed communities, with results indicating high exposure to cancer-causing chemicals and the finding that Basra’s Rumaila oil fields flare more gas than any other site in the world.
The government-owned site, with BP as lead contractor, is near the town of North Rumaila, known by locals as the “cemetery” because of its high leukaemia levels.
Local environmental scientist Shukri Al-Hassan described cancer there as so rife it is “like the flu.”
Iraq’s prime minister issued a confidential order banning employees working at sites from speaking about the health damage resulting from pollution.
Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismail told the BBC that he had instructed all contracted companies operating in the oil fields to “uphold international standards.”
Responding to BBC requests for comment, Eni said it strongly rejects any accusations that its activities are endangering the health of Iraqis, while BP said it is “extremely concerned” and will conduct an “immediate review.”


Iran cleric calls for crackdown on protesters

Iran cleric calls for crackdown on protesters
Updated 30 min 1 sec ago

Iran cleric calls for crackdown on protesters

Iran cleric calls for crackdown on protesters
  • Cleric Mohammad Javad Hajj Ali Akbari: The Iranian people demand the harshest punishment for these barbaric rioters

DUBAI: An influential Iranian cleric called for tough action on Friday against protesters enraged by the death of a young woman in police custody who have called for the downfall of the country’s leaders.
“Our security is our distinctive privilege. The Iranian people demand the harshest punishment for these barbaric rioters,” said Mohammad Javad Hajj Ali Akbari, a leader of prayers that are held on Fridays in Tehran before a large gathering.
“The people want the death of Mahsa Amini to be cleared up... so that enemies cannot take advantage of this incident.”
Amini, a 22-year-old from the Iranian Kurdish town of Saqez, was arrested this month in Tehran for “unsuitable attire” by the morality police who enforce the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.
Her death has caused the first big show of opposition on Iran’s streets since authorities crushed protests against a rise in gasoline prices in 2019. The demonstrations have quickly evolved into a popular revolt against the clerical establishment.
Amnesty International said on Friday the government crackdown on demonstrations has so far led to the death of at least 52 people, with hundreds injured.
Amnesty said in a statement it had obtained a copy of an official document that records that the General Headquarters of Armed Forces issued an order to commanders in all provinces to “severely confront” protesters described as “troublemakers and anti-revolutionaries”.
Despite the growing death toll and crackdown by authorities, videos posted on Twitter showed demonstrators calling for the fall of the clerical establishment.
Activist Twitter account 1500tasvir, which has more than 150,000 followers, posted videos which it said showed protests in cities including Ahvaz in the southwest, Mashhad in the northeast and Zahedan in the southeast, where people were said to be attacking a police station.
Reuters could not verify the footage.
Meanwhile, Iran rejected criticism of its missile and drone attack on Wednesday on the Iraqi Kurdistan region where Iranian armed dissident Kurdish groups are based. The United States called it “an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Iran has repeatedly asked the Iraqi central government officials and regional authorities to prevent the activities of separatist and terrorist groups that are active against the Islamic Republic,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani told state media.


Think hard before working in Qatar: British engineer

Think hard before working in Qatar: British engineer
Updated 30 September 2022

Think hard before working in Qatar: British engineer

Think hard before working in Qatar: British engineer
  • Ranald Crook, 76, was trapped in the country for 8 years over a commercial dispute
  • His warning follows claims that another Briton was tortured, killed by secret police

LONDON: A British engineer trapped in Qatar for almost eight years over a commercial dispute has urged people to think hard before accepting large salaries to work there, after his own exhausting battle to leave followed the alleged torture and death of another Briton in 2019.

Ranald Crook, 76, was unable to fly home from Qatar because of a series of travel bans imposed on him at the request of former business associates, which left him tangled in legal actions in which every victory of his resulted in the initiating of a new case against him. 

Crook spoke to The Times after reading on Thursday about a former senior vice president of Qatar Airways who was found dead in a Doha hotel room on Christmas Day in 2019 following his arrest and alleged torture by secret police.

Marc Bennett was accused of keeping confidential information belonging to the airline after his resignation in October that year, and was held for three weeks in a state security detention center before being released without charge but banned from leaving the country.

Qatari authorities claimed his death was suicide, but a British coroner found “no evidence of suicidal intent.” The UK Foreign Office urged Qatar on Wednesday to look into the allegations thoroughly.

Not only did Bennett not leave a suicide note or email or text his family and wide circle of friends, but the night before his death he had a video call with his wife and children during which, The Times reported, he was “laughing and joking.”  

Bennett’s widow Nancy said: “There are so many questions. He left here with the whole world ahead of him.”

Crook, who finally returned to the UK at the end of 2021, said he was drained by his ordeal. He warned Britons to think hard before accepting large salaries to work in Qatar, noting that while still in the country, his wife would wake because he had been crying in his sleep.

He added: “If you go to work there, be very careful. Look very carefully at those you’ll be working with and their reputations.

“The accusations are made in five minutes, but it takes years to clear your name. I thought I had been cleared in November 2016, but another case began and another travel ban was slapped on.

“I wasn’t served with any court papers, I found out about the second action by chance in April 2017. There shouldn’t even have been a travel ban but this was Qatar, and these things happen.”

Both the detention of Crook and the circumstances surrounding Bennett’s death have raised further concerns in the build-up to the World Cup in November, and the decision to allow Qatar to host it.


HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity
Updated 30 September 2022

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity

HRW urges EU to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity
  • EU-Israel Association Council meeting taking place next week after 10-year hiatus
  • Human Rights Watch: European officials should stop ‘reciting empty platitudes’

LONDON: Human Rights Watch has urged the EU and its member states to use next week’s EU-Israel Association Council meeting to condemn Israeli crimes against humanity.

The meeting comes just weeks after Israeli authorities raided and ordered the closing of the offices of seven prominent Palestinian civil society organizations — some of which receive EU funding — despite objections from the bloc and its member states.

“Europeans should know they’ll be shaking hands with representatives of a government committing crimes against humanity and outlawed prominent civil society groups challenging these abuses,” said Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine director.

“Pretending it’s business as usual with Israel amid escalating repression sends the message that EU condemnation is worth little more than the paper it’s written on.”

Criticized by Palestinian, European and international NGOs, as well as 47 members of the European Parliament, next week’s meeting will mark the first in a decade after they were paused following Israel’s objections to the EU’s position on West Bank settlements.

HRW, however, has said the bloc’s position represents “empty platitudes” that fail to consider the human rights identified as essential within the Association Council.

Alon Liel, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told the press earlier this year that as long as the Europeans did not take concrete action, “Israel doesn’t give a damn. It feels very confident this anti-human rights behavior will have no cost in the international arena.”

In May 2021, EU member states abstained or voted against the UN Human Rights Council’s establishment of an inquiry to investigate abuses and identify the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite consistent voting to support accountability mechanisms in other contexts.

“The decades-long European failure to take action in the face of grave human rights abuses has emboldened Israeli authorities to brazenly escalate their repression of Palestinians,” said Claudio Francavilla, EU advocate at HRW.

“Instead of reciting empty platitudes, European officials should use the Association Council to finally condemn Israel’s apartheid and persecution and make clear there will be meaningful consequences should the Israeli government not reverse course.” 


Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move
Updated 30 September 2022

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move

Arab envoys urge UK PM to rethink Jerusalem embassy move
  • Letter signed by all Arab states, including those that signed Abraham Accords with Israel
  • Liz Truss warned that embassy move could jeopardize free-trade agreement with GCC

LONDON: Arab ambassadors have urged Prime Minister Liz Truss to backtrack on “an illegal and ill-judged” plan to move the UK Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that it could jeopardize a free-trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, The Guardian reported on Friday.

The comments were made in a private letter sent before her trip to the UN last week. It was signed by all Arab states, including those that signed the 2020 Abraham Accords with Israel.

Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot said: “Any embassy move would be a blatant violation of international law and the UK’s historic responsibilities.

“It undermines the two-state solution and inflames an already volatile situation in Jerusalem, the rest of the occupied territories, and among communities in the UK and worldwide. It would be disastrous.”

It is the understanding that some of the states most inclined to the accords are those particularly concerned, believing that the accords could be thrown into disrepute by the claim that they paved the way for the embassy move.

Given that the pending UK-GCC FTA is seen as central to Truss’s foreign policy for the region, any worries that this may be thrown into doubt could cause a backtrack.

Allies in Europe have also questioned the move, letting the UK know that they consider it unwise, while others have privately speculated that Truss’s decision is based as much on her desire to be perceived as a “disruptor” as it is anything to do with her close ties with Israel.

A former British diplomat told The Guardian: “She seems to think she should ape (former President) Donald Trump (who moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018). The difference is that the US is big enough to get its way in the Middle East. The UK is not.”

The former diplomat added: “If the UK shifted its embassy it would … damage British interests in the Arab world.”

Truss pledged to the Conservative Friends of Israel during her leadership campaign that she would open a review into the location of the UK Embassy, instituting the review last week during a meeting at the UN with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Details of how the review is being conducted inside the Foreign Office have yet to be made public.