UN chief issues stark warning, Arab leaders pledge commitment to climate goals on opening day of COP27 

Special Addressing world leaders gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh for COP27, Antonio Guterres insisted humanity must either cooperate in the fight against global warming, or perish. (Screenshot)
Addressing world leaders gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh for COP27, Antonio Guterres insisted humanity must either cooperate in the fight against global warming, or perish. (Screenshot)
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Updated 08 November 2022

UN chief issues stark warning, Arab leaders pledge commitment to climate goals on opening day of COP27 

UN chief issues stark warning, Arab leaders pledge commitment to climate goals on opening day of COP27 
  • Antonio Guterres called for a new pact between rich and poor countries to cut emissions and phase out coal
  • Egypt’s Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed urged global cooperation to meet climate challenge 

SHARM EL-SHEIKH: The world is on the “highway to climate hell,” the UN secretary-general warned as he delivered an impassioned speech on the opening day of the Climate Change Conference in Egypt.

Addressing world leaders gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh for COP27, Antonio Guterres insisted humanity must either cooperate in the fight against global warming, or perish.

Guterres was unafraid to call out the world’s two largest economies — the US and China — for not working together closely enough to tackle environmental issues.

He added his voice to the calls for a new pact between rich and poor countries to make deeper cuts in emissions with financial help and the phasing out of coal in wealthy nations by 2030 and elsewhere by 2040.

“At the beginning of COP27, I am calling for a historic pact between developed and emerging economies, a climate solidarity pact. A pact in which all countries make an extra effort to reduce emissions this decade in line with the 1.5-degree goal,” said Guterres.

Guterres said: “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a climate solidarity pact — or a collective suicide pact.”

He said such a pact would allow countries and international financial institutions to work together to provide financial and technical assistance to help emerging economies speed up their transition to renewable energy.

He said it would also end dependence on fossil fuels and provide universal, affordable, and sustainable energy for all.

A UN climate change report released in advance of COP27 said that although countries were bending the global emissions curve downward, efforts are still insufficient to stop the global temperature rising to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

COP27, which will run until Nov. 18, is the largest annual gathering on climate action involving heads of state, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists.

Wael Aboulmagd, special representative to the COP27 president, told Reuters that the event will focus on securing separate “loss and damage” funds, or compensation payments to vulnerable countries already suffering from climate-related weather extremes. 

Last May, Egypt announced its intention to position itself as an impartial arbiter while hosting this year’s summit. “It is in the interest of the process that a perception of impartiality and equal distance from everyone is maintained,” said Aboulmagd.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi used his opening address to urge countries to do more to build trust that environmental concerns are being taken seriously.




Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, president of host nation Egypt, at the opening address at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh on Monday. (Shady Francis)

“Trust will be the best guarantee of our success and progress and achieving our goals,” said El-Sisi.

He also called for action that would have tangible effects on global warming. “From this rostrum, I urge you to become the model that the world hopes,” he added.

El-Sisi said that humanity’s future is a shared one and that it had “one goal and one hope, that same hope we cherish also here.”

“Climate change will never stop without our intervention … Our time here is limited and we must use every second that we have,” El-Sisi added.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, president of the UAE, said in his address that climate change will magnify already intricate and complex challenges such as global stability and security.




President Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE on the opening day of COP27. (Shady Francis)

He said all must cooperate to tackle climate change and use it as an opportunity for innovation and building new economies.

“Since we only have one planet, it is essential that we bring together our efforts to address this challenge,” he said.

He said the UAE would continue to be a reliable producer of energy as long as it was needed. “The UAE is known as a responsible supplier of energy and will continue to play this role for as long as the world needs oil and gas.

“We will focus on lowering carbon emissions emanating from this sector.”

The UAE has announced a strategic initiative for carbon neutrality by 2050.

Sheikh Mohammed lauded his country’s recent agreement with the US to invest $100 billion in clean energy and produce 100 gigawatts of clean energy in various parts of the world.

The UAE will focus on supporting the implementation of the outcomes of the previous COPs as they prepare for COP28 in Dubai in 2023, he said.  

Guterres said that around 3.5 billion people currently live in countries that are vulnerable to climate change.

“We desperately need progress on adaptation. In Glasgow (COP26 last year), developed countries promised to double adaptation support to $40 billion a year by 2025. And we must recognize that this is only a first step. Adaptation needs are set to grow to more than $300 billion a year by 2030,” he said.

He urged financial institutions and banks to aid the world’s transition away from fossil fuels, and invest in new technology.

Guterres added that the war in Ukraine exposed the profound risks of fossil fuel addiction.

“Human activity is the cause of the climate problem. Human action must be the solution. Action to re-establish ambition. And the action to rebuild trust between the north and the south,” he said.

He added that humans now have the financial and technological tools to achieve climate goals, and nations should come together and implement these targets.

“It is time for international solidarity across the board,” he said. “A solidarity that respects all human rights and guarantees a safe space for environmental defenders and all actors in society to contribute to our climate response.”


GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Updated 10 sec ago

GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

GCC chief meets with UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council’s new Secretary General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi met with the British ambassador to Riyadh Neil Crompton on Wednesday.

During the meeting, the two officials discussed the latest regional and international issues, and Albudaiwi highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between the GCC and the UK.

The head of the Gulf bloc also pointed out that he was looking forward to the success of the third round of Free Trade Agreement negotiations which will be held in Riyadh in March.

Crompton said the UK is keen to cement its partnership with the GCC which is Britain’s fourth largest trading partner.


UAE launches first dedicated marine research, rescue center in the region

UAE launches first dedicated marine research, rescue center in the region
Updated 24 min 9 sec ago

UAE launches first dedicated marine research, rescue center in the region

UAE launches first dedicated marine research, rescue center in the region
  • Establishment to be key contributor to conservation in Gulf
  • Research team to conduct fundamental and applied studies

ABU DHABI: The UAE announced on Wednesday the opening of the region’s first dedicated marine research, rescue and rehabilitation center, Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue, in Abu Dhabi.
Emirates News Agency reported that the announcement was made by Miral, and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
Located on Yas Island, the 8,602 sq. meters center will be a key contributor to marine-life conservation in both the UAE and the wider region, conducting integrated research, rescue, rehabilitation, and education programs.
The center’s efforts will aim to improve the public’s knowledge and commitment to the conservation of the region’s marine wildlife, habitats, and ecosystems.
The Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, attended the opening, along with Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, Miral’s chairman.
He said: “We are very proud to begin 2023, the UAE’s Year of Sustainability, by opening the first dedicated marine research and rescue center in the region, Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue.
“This is a cornerstone in the emirate’s journey of education and conservation, inspiring the next generation of marine scientists to learn more about Abu Dhabi’s impactful long-term vision of protecting our marine wildlife and their habitats.
“Together with SeaWorld, we will be pushing the limits of science and conservation to become the foremost knowledge hub for marine scientists, not only in the UAE but also in the wider region.”
Led by a team of dedicated marine scientists, zoologists and experts in research, rescue and animal care, the center will play an important role in research and conservation efforts.
The research team will conduct fundamental and applied studies which focus on the marine ecology of the Arabian Gulf, covering topics such as marine biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, sensitive wildlife conservation, critical habitats restoration, fisheries, pollution and wildlife health.
Scott Ross, chairman of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, said that the company had committed itself to protecting marine wildlife and ecosystems for nearly 60 years.
He added: “Extending this legacy here in the UAE is important for global conservation and is consistent with the UAE and wider region’s tradition of honoring the importance of the sea.”
The center will boast more than 25 rescue pools, from large areas for marine mammals to smaller ones for fish, invertebrates and marine reptiles.


How Israel’s new right-wing government impacts Palestinians

The Israeli government is taking measures to suppress the Palestinian collective national identity
The Israeli government is taking measures to suppress the Palestinian collective national identity
Updated 53 min 4 sec ago

How Israel’s new right-wing government impacts Palestinians

The Israeli government is taking measures to suppress the Palestinian collective national identity
  • Policies do not receive the attention of the international community, experts say
  • Palestinians make up 20 percent of population within Israel

LONDON: The Israeli government is taking measures to suppress the Palestinian collective national identity and to prohibit their lawful political expression, experts claimed this week.

One expert, Israeli Arab politician Sami Abu Shehadeh, a former Knesset member, also said the recently elected right-wing government in Israel will have a particular impact on Palestinian citizens, who make up 20 percent of the population within Israel.

He was speaking during a Galilee Foundation panel on Wednesday, which discussed the ramifications the government in Israel would have for Palestinians and their struggle for equality.

Abu Shehadeh said that one of the most dangerous signs of what is to come is the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir’s judicial reforms, which include the ordering of Israeli police to remove any Palestinian flags both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories.

He added: “The state of Israel doesn’t see our national component as a part of our identity.

“They continue reinventing us as a minority, which doesn’t have a national or religious identity, and that is affecting government policies.”

The landslide victory of Israel’s extremist right-wing parties in December sounded alarm bells throughout Israel and for its historic Western allies, he said.

Abu Shehadeh also said Palestinians can expect discrimination in the education sector as a result of the new government’s stance.

He added: “Most of the world is unaware that the Israeli education system, like the rest of its society, is built on racial separation.”

There are three different official education systems in the country: for Palestinians, for Jewish secular groups, and one for Jewish religious groups.

While all school systems include lessons in modern Zionist history, Palestinians are prohibited from studying their own history, with Israeli Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Biton once describing it as “dangerous incitement” against the Israeli government and army.

The experts speaking on the panel argued that the fundamental policies of the new coalition government were intended to target Palestinians, and they were not receiving the attention of the international community nor attracting public debate in the country.

They argued the focus had instead shifted toward the new government’s plans for judicial reform, which they said threatened Israeli democracy.

“While the legal reforms are important, the extreme Israeli audience is not waiting for these laws to pass,” Abu Shehadeh said.

Dr. Areen Hawari, director of the gender studies program at the Mada Al-Carmel Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa, shared her thoughts on the matter.

She said: “Israel is a settler colonial state, the homeland of other people, just like South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.

“Such colonial states, but particularly Israel, which was established in 1948 after World War II, need strongly as part of their existence to belong to the West.

“In order to be part of the West, you need to introduce that at least you are procedurally democratic.

“That is why the left wing in Israel is ready to fight against these new reforms because if you lose the support of the West, you lose your existence.”

However, Hawari said that, for the first time, the new government “simply doesn't care” about what the West thinks of them.

She claimed this was due to the success of its ongoing occupation, the recent normalization agreements with several Arab countries, the country’s gains during the Trump administration, and the continued silence of the EU.

Dr. Hassan Jabareen, a Palestinian human rights lawyer, acknowledged that among the thousands of Israelis protesting in Tel Aviv against the new judicial reforms, several have criticized the country’s treatment of Palestinians.

Dr. Hassan Jabareen. (Supplied/Galilee Foundation)

Equally, he said: “We cannot find ourselves protesting in Tel Aviv in saving Israeli democracy when we do not see Israel as a democratic state. We see ourselves as victims of that very legal system.

“So while it's very difficult for Palestinians to participate in the protest, we agree with some protester leaders that we are in fact the main victims of Israel’s new government.”

As the growing threat of Israel’s extremism looms, Abu Shehadeh told Arab News that Palestinians, especially those settled around the world, need to rethink the way they strategize for their liberation.

He said: “One of our challenges is that we, as Palestinians, are talking to ourselves and people who are similar to us.

“For us activists, everything that is going on [in Palestine] is taken for granted, but a lot of the world doesn’t know the basics.”

He claims activists must continue to educate others who do not know about the Palestinian cause, question, and narrative.

“It is important for the world to see that we are struggling against not a democracy according to its false image. To call it apartheid is not enough… I think this is the most racist society, “ he said.

“People should see this truth in order to support our struggle. We are struggling for peace, justice, and equality for all, both Palestinians and Jews.”


EU to host donor conference on Syria, Turkiye quake aid

EU to host donor conference on Syria, Turkiye quake aid
Updated 08 February 2023

EU to host donor conference on Syria, Turkiye quake aid

EU to host donor conference on Syria, Turkiye quake aid
  • "Turkiye and Syria can count on the EU," von der Leyen wrote on Twitter
  • The European Union said the conference would be held early next month in Brussels

BRUSSELS: The EU plans to host a donors conference in March to mobilize international aid for Syria and Turkiye following this week’s devastating earthquake, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.
“We are now racing against the clock to save lives together. Soon we will provide relief aid, together. Turkiye and Syria can count on the EU,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter.
The European Union said the conference would be held early next month in Brussels in coordination with Turkish authorities “to mobilize funds from the international community in support for the people” of both countries.
“No one should be left alone when a tragedy like this hits a people,” von der Leyen said in a statement.
The event is aimed at coordinating the international response to the disaster and “will be open to EU Member States, neighboring countries, UN members” and international lenders, the bloc said.
Sweden, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, will co-chair the conference, at a moment when it is facing a block from Turkiye on its push to join NATO.
“Sweden wants to ensure that the EU’s assistance is adequate to meet the need of the Turkish and Syrian people in this terrible time,” Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson said.
The European Union was swift to dispatch rescue teams to Turkiye after the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country on Monday close to the border with Syria.
But it initially offered only minimal assistance to Syria through existing humanitarian programs because of EU sanctions imposed since 2011 on the government of President Bashar Assad in response to his brutal crackdown on protesters, which spiralled into a civil war.
On Wednesday, Damascus made an official plea to the EU for help, the bloc’s commissioner for crisis management said.
Now that Damascus has made the move, through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism that coordinates aid, Janez Lenarcic said the commission was asking European countries “to respond favorably to this request.”
The participants in the EU mechanism comprise the 27 EU countries plus eight neighboring non-EU nations that include Norway and Turkiye.


Lebanese victim pulled from rubble 2 days after Turkiye quake; several remain trapped

Lebanese victim pulled from rubble 2 days after Turkiye quake; several remain trapped
Updated 08 February 2023

Lebanese victim pulled from rubble 2 days after Turkiye quake; several remain trapped

Lebanese victim pulled from rubble 2 days after Turkiye quake; several remain trapped
  • Ambassador Ghassan Al-Muallem said about 10 to 15 Lebanese were known to have been in the area and most are safe, ‘however 4 or 5 people are still under rubble’
  • Caretaker PM Najib Mikati sent a ministerial delegation to Damascus on Wednesday to discuss rescue and aid efforts with Turkish officials, including President Bashar Assad

BEIRUT: Rescuers in Turkiye pulled Lebanese citizen Basel Habqouq alive from the rubble on Wednesday, 48 hours after the massive earthquake that caused devastating damage and loss of life in the southeast of the country and neighboring Syria.
Meanwhile, teams continue their efforts to free Lebanese youths Elias Haddad and Mohammed Al-Mohammed who are trapped in the debris of the hotel in which they were staying. The efforts to track down other victims from Lebanon continue.
Ghassan Al-Muallem, the Lebanese ambassador to Turkiye, said: “The embassy is working with the Turkish authorities … to ascertain the fate of the missing Lebanese citizens.
“We have been informed that there were 10 to 15 Lebanese in the area that was hit by the earthquake. Most of them are in good condition and we succeeded in communicating with them. However, there are four to five people still under rubble.”
It is difficult to accurately calculate the total number of Lebanese nationals who were in the area at the time of the earthquake because some were not registered as residents and others were visiting as tourists or on business trips.
It is known that Lebanese doctor Wissam Mohammed Khair Al-Asaad died, along with his daughter, though his wife survived.
The Roman Catholic patriarchate in Syria said that Father Imad Daher, a Lebanese priest at the Church of the Virgin Mary in Aleppo, Syria, had died. His body was found under the rubble of the building in which he lived in Al-Azizia district, Hama.
There are also reports that Lebanese novelist Dalal Zain Al-Din is trapped under rubble in Antakya. Meanwhile, Mohammed Shamma and his son, Sarhan, survived but Shamma’s wife Susan is missing.
Relatives and friends of Lebanese who are missing have posted messages on social media seeking help to find loved ones they have been unable to contact. Among those whose fate remains unknown is Abdel Nour Ajaj, who lives with his family and his brothers in Turkiye, and Fatima Ramiz Zakaria from Tabbaneh, Tripoli.
The Lebanese army said two units of its engineering regiment sent to help the rescue efforts in Turkiye and Syria “continue search and rescue work in cooperation with the Lebanese Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense.” Members of the first unit arrived in the Turkish city of Adana and then traveled to the city of Al-Bustan, while the second unit went to the Syrian city of Jableh.
“Immediately upon their arrival, the two units began working to remove the rubble and search for survivors in difficult weather conditions, low temperatures and an unsafe working environment as a result of the continued aftershocks that could cause additional collapses in the damaged buildings,” officials said.
Beirut Municipality said a rescue team it supplied, consisting of members of Beirut Fire Brigade and the city’s ambulance service, “saved a pregnant Turkish woman and her child who were pulled from the rubble of a completely destroyed building. They also saved a family and many children who were stuck inside a building, part of which had collapsed.”
Ambassador Al-Muallem described the situation rescuers are faced with as “very difficult” and added: “The scenes are more devastating than what we see on television. Some roads are cut off and cannot be accessed as a result of the massive destruction.
“Turkish rescue teams are working to respond to the calls and we are waiting to know the fate of the missing Lebanese.”
In Syria, Talal Daher, charge d’affaires at the Lebanese Embassy in Damascus, said that a family of four from Lebanon had survived in Aleppom but that two Lebanese citizens died in the coastal city of Jableh in Latakia Governorate.
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati sent a ministerial delegation to Damascus on Wednesday to discuss rescue and aid efforts, the repercussions of the earthquake, and Lebanese relief capabilities.
The delegates spent 45 minutes with Syrian President Bashar Assad and also met Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. During the meetings, officials said, they passed on “Lebanon’s solidarity with the Syrian people in this ordeal” and pledged to deploy “available capabilities to help in the areas of relief.”