CAIRO: The first edition of the Arab Climate Forum has opened in Egypt with the focus fixed firmly on sustainability issues.
Taking place in Cairo under the patronage and in the presence of Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal Al-Saud, president of both the Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND) and the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, and Egyptian Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad, the conference is titled, “Together to Strengthen the Contribution of Civil Society to Climate Action and Sustainability.”
Prince Abdulaziz said: “Standing up bravely in the face of climate challenges and developing plans and solutions before the situation worsens is not a luxury or an option, but rather a historical responsibility that requires an alliance.
“One of the most important international efforts is to allocate the four branches of the Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development for the year 2021 to the theme of climate change, as the four winners are to be honored during COP27 (the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference),” he added.
The prince cited the sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which monitors the effects of climate change on people and ecosystems.
He highlighted alarming indicators, including that more than 40 percent of the world’s population lived in places and conditions that were, “highly vulnerable to climate change.”
Other key points, he noted, were that one-in-three people were exposed to potentially fatal heat stress, nearly half of the world’s population suffered from severe water scarcity at different times of the year, and climate change had reduced the growth of agricultural productivity in many countries.
Prince Abdulaziz said he was concerned that Arab countries were among the most vulnerable and affected regions in the world as a result of climate change, adding that taking effective action on the issue had become a moral commitment shared by everyone.
During her speech at the opening session, Fouad pointed out the need to pay attention to environmental and climate issues because of their impact on the Arab world and its youth in the first place.
She said that the contribution of Arab countries to greenhouse gas emissions did not exceed 5 percent of all global emissions.
The minister noted the importance of the forum in supporting the efforts of Arab nations to address the negative effects of climate change, in light of the unprecedented pace at which these countries suffered from its negative effects on all aspects of development.
Addressing the forum via Zoom, Najat M’jid, special representative of the UN secretary-general on violence against children, said: “There is a need for cooperation between north and south countries to address climate change and its impact on children, as well as to engage civil society in this regard.”
Haifa Abu-Ghazaleh, assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, said: “The issue of climate change is a high priority for the Arab League, and we pay all attention to discussing the repercussions of climate change on Arab societies.”
The first session of the forum was titled, “Climate Change in a Changing World.”
Forum activities — organized by the Arab League and the Arab Network for NGOs — in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Environment, AGFUND, and the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, will continue until Monday with the aim of contributing to supporting international and regional actions to combat climate change.
The event is part of preparations being made by Egypt to host COP27, which will be held in November in Sharm El-Sheikh.
It comes at a time when the risks posed by climate change from heatwaves, droughts, floods, and other extreme climate events are on the rise, causing cascading effects that are increasingly difficult to manage and exposing millions of people to acute food and water insecurity in many regions of the world.
The forum has been set up to develop a road map for civil society, in partnership with governments and the private sector, to move effectively along the path of adaptation to climate change and mobilize citizens in local communities to contribute effectively to reducing environmental degradation.
It also seeks to address inequalities associated with climate change and assess the negative effects of climate change in the light of international scientific reports and their impact on the implementation of UN sustainable development goals for 2030.
The agenda of the climate forum has been centered around the six topics of climate change and sustainability, climate change and its impact on the most vulnerable groups, encouraging innovation for the benefit of adaptation and mitigation, climate change and fragile economic activities, the integration of citizens and local communities in climate action, and the role of systemic change in green shift.