Finding tailored solutions to climate change, conflict in Mideast are urgent challenges for COP28

Special Finding tailored solutions to climate change, conflict in Mideast are urgent challenges for COP28
The COP28 UAE logo on display during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Jan. 17, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 May 2023

Finding tailored solutions to climate change, conflict in Mideast are urgent challenges for COP28

Finding tailored solutions to climate change, conflict in Mideast are urgent challenges for COP28
  • Global action for region’s socio-political, economic precarity needed, say experts
  • Limited access to climate financing is biggest obstacle to development

DUBAI: With Earth on the precipice as the devastating impacts of climate change loom ominously, it has become an urgent imperative to respond to this rapidly transforming world. As the international community prepares for the 28th Conference of the Parties, or COP28, hosted by the UAE, it is crucial to underscore the significance of this global gathering in addressing the complex interplay between climate resilience and conflict-affected regions.

A recent policy report released jointly by the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, and the Norwegian Red Cross, sheds light on the alarming exacerbation of humanitarian needs in the region. This report, titled “Making Adaptation Work: Addressing the compounding impacts of climate change, environmental degradation, and conflict in the Near and Middle East,” sheds light on the dire situation faced by communities in the region.

The ICRC report emphasizes that climate change is not solely an environmental issue but a significant threat to human security, further exacerbating existing vulnerabilities. The report highlights the intricate connections between marginalized communities, armed conflicts, and humanitarian crises, emphasizing the urgent need to address these interconnected challenges.

To delve into the intricate interdependencies between climate resilience, conflict-affected regions, and the imperative need for climate financing, a panel of experts convened in Dubai recently to explore this multidimensional crisis. The participants of the forum included Clare Dalton, the ICRC’s head of delegation in the UAE, Trond H.G. Rudi, charge d’affaires of the Norwegian Embassy in the UAE, and Helena de Jong, senior advisor of the UAE COP28 team.

Climate financing for conflict-affected regions

In conflict-affected countries, the challenge lies not only in combating climate change but also in navigating complex socio-political dynamics. Dalton emphasized that climate financing must be effectively channeled to countries grappling with conflict. The outcome she hopes to see from COP28 in the UAE is that “climate financing is better directed to countries experiencing conflict in ways that they can practically apply and use.” However, the current state of affairs presents obstacles, such as unreliable banking systems and numerous other factors that impede effective climate financing.

The report sheds light on the formidable barriers faced in accessing multilateral climate finance for state-led adaptation projects in conflict-affected countries. These challenges materialize as a result of stringent governance prerequisites and a certain aversion toward investing in volatile contexts.

As of January 2022, a mere 19 single-country projects in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have successfully secured funding approval, with the disbursed amount accounting for less than 0.5 percent of the global allocation of climate project funds. This stark disparity underscores the pressing need to address the limited access and utilization of climate financing in conflict-affected regions.

To overcome these obstacles, Dalton advocates for the collaboration of all sectors of society, emphasizing the necessity for concerted efforts in order to develop tangible, implementable solutions.

While the ICRC acknowledges that it operates at the periphery of climate negotiations, it recognizes the necessity of addressing climate change due to its impact on the regions it serves. Achieving this requires tangible strategies and concrete actions that go beyond mere agreement on the importance of adaptation.

“It’s not the fact that we all agree this needs to happen, but it’s the how. What are some very concrete ways that this could happen tomorrow because it’s needed then after the COP. And I think that happens in two ways because it’s not just in the form of negotiations, but it’s also in providing the space for actors to come together and look at some of these issues. So I think my second expectation is that we find a way to do that. You know, the remaining question is who can help us achieve that outcome. So yeah, money in places like Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, and any of these places that need that support,” Dalton said.

Dalton also touched on how small-scale initiatives play an important role in building community resilience amidst the challenges associated with the de-prioritization of climate action in conflict-affected settings, citing solutions such as education on sustainable agricultural practices, and the distribution of climate-resilient seed varieties to strengthen food security and build community resilience.

Armed conflicts exert a dual impact on the environment, both directly and indirectly, with profound consequences for human well-being. Such conflicts erode environmental governance structures and disrupt societal order, thus perpetuating the conditions conducive to environmental degradation. Consequently, the direct environmental harm caused by conflict and the subsequent degradation of ecological systems undermine the availability of natural resources, rendering communities more susceptible to the repercussions of climate change.

The report presents compelling instances that highlight how deliberate acts of environmental degradation can heighten the immediate jeopardy faced by significant population groups. A notable example is the seizure of Iraq’s Mosul Dam in 2014, which precipitated a looming risk of dam collapse. The accompanying threat to intentionally destroy the dam and flood downstream Baghdad underscores the urgent requirement for increased vigilance and accountability in safeguarding critical infrastructure systems and protecting vulnerable communities.

Dalton highlighted the imperative of engaging with the inhabitants of conflict-affected regions, acknowledging their lived experiences and incorporating their perspectives into climate resilience initiatives, stating: “We need to listen to those people about what changes they’ve seen, about what solutions they perceive might be.”

This approach recognizes the significance of local knowledge and ensures that adaptation strategies are contextually relevant and responsive to the specific challenges faced by these communities. By fostering connections between local, national, regional and global levels, a comprehensive and integrated framework can be established, incorporating diverse solutions and approaches to address the multifaceted issues arising from climate change and conflict.

“Communities need to understand how they can be part of the solution as well and what they can do in their own way not to make the situation any worse. And that’s exactly the same for humanitarians. We have that ‘do no harm’ principle. How can we respond to people’s needs but without making it any worse for them in terms of the assistance we give?” she said.

Revisiting climate-finance priorities

The report draws attention to the discrepancies between climate finance flows, vulnerability to climate change, and countries torn by conflict. De Jong, the senior advisor of the UAE COP28 team, highlighted a distressing statistic: out of the 46 countries listed as least developed, 22 are affected by conflict and fragility.

Paradoxically, these conflict-ridden nations receive the least amount of climate finance, exacerbating their vulnerability to both conflict and climate change. This predicament perpetuates a vicious cycle, hindering governments’ capacity to tackle these intertwined challenges effectively. To break this cycle, De Jong advocates for a paradigm shift in climate financing, with a renewed focus on prioritizing conflict-affected nations. She highlights the importance of engaging climate finance providers, multilateral development banks, humanitarian organizations, and peacebuilding actors in finding solutions.

“This is something that we would like to see changed. It’s not easy. This is a fairly complicated problem. But the advantage of focusing on this as a COP28 presidency is that we can talk to all these climate finance providers, so we can talk to the multilateral development banks, and we can talk to humanitarian actors and peacebuilding actors in this space to really bring all of them together to look at the solutions. Because the solutions are there. We know that there are plenty of actors that are able to work in these settings,” De Jong said.

Global pact for climate adaptation

To address this imbalance, De Jong proposes a global pact that includes actionable solutions such as streamlined application procedures, adjusted eligibility criteria for conflict-affected actors, and increased flexibility in project locations could drive progress in climate adaptation efforts.

“It won’t be all different at COP28, but we do really want to see a very big step forward at COP28. And this could, for example — and that would be my dream outcome — be in the form of some sort of global pact that all of these actors would sign up to that doesn’t include just principles that we all agree on, but that also would include at least a couple of solutions to these issues,” De Jong said.

“Our proposal is mainly the global pact that I mentioned. So this would focus more, I guess, on changes in the policy spectrum. But it could, for example, also include like a regional capacity-strengthening facility that would help governments apply and develop strong adaptation projects that would then basically build a pipeline of adaptation projects which would help them in the long run, so it wouldn’t necessarily include a fund,” De Jong said.

With the presidency of COP28, the UAE aims to create a platform that brings together various actors to collectively explore solutions. De Jong stresses the need to leverage existing momentum for change, emphasizing that COP28 is a stepping stone toward addressing these complex issues comprehensively.

Syria’s Assad arrives in China for first visit in almost 20 years

Syria’s Assad arrives in China for first visit in almost 20 years
Updated 21 sec ago

Syria’s Assad arrives in China for first visit in almost 20 years

Syria’s Assad arrives in China for first visit in almost 20 years
  • Talks with Xi Jinping to focus on Syrian reconstruction
  • He will also attend opening ceremony of Asian Games

JEDDAH: Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday began his first visit to China since 2004 and his latest attempt to end more than a decade of diplomatic isolation under Western sanctions.

Assad arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou aboard an Air China plane in heavy fog, which Chinese state media said “added to the atmosphere of mystery.” Assad last visited China in 2004 to meet then-President Hu Jintao. It was the first visit by a Syrian head of state to China since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1956.

China — like Syria’s main allies Russia and Iran — maintained those ties even as other countries isolated Assad over his brutal crackdown of anti-government demonstrations that erupted in 2011, leading to a civil war that has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions more, and battered Syria’s infrastructure and industry.

Assad will attend Saturday’s Asian Games opening ceremony before leading a delegation in meetings in several Chinese cities. 

He meets President Xi Jinping on Friday.

Being seen with China’s president at a regional gathering adds further legitimacy to Assad’s campaign to return to the world stage. 

Syria joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2022 and was welcomed back into the Arab League in May.

Faced with a crippled economy and little to show so far from his efforts to rebuild ties with Arab states, Assad is keen for financial support. 

But any Chinese or other investment in Syria risks entangling an investor in US sanctions under the 2020 Caesar Act that can freeze assets of anyone dealing with Syria.

“In his third term, Xi Jinping is seeking to openly challenge the US, so I don’t think it’s a surprise that he is willing to … host a leader like Assad,” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. 

“It will further marginalize China in the world, but he doesn’t care about that.”

The visit comes as China expands its engagement in the Middle East. 

This year Beijing brokered a deal restoring ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. 

That detente was followed by Syria’s return to the Arab fold at a summit in Saudi Arabia in May, ending more than a decade of regional isolation.

Analysts expect Assad’s visit to China will focus, in part, on funds for reconstruction. 

“Assad intends for his trip to China to convey a sense of international legitimacy for his regime and paint a picture of looming Chinese support for reconstruction in Syria,” said Lina Khatib, director of the Middle East Institute at SOAS university in London.

Syria signed up to China’s vast Belt and Road trade and infrastructure initiative in January 2022.

Assad’s meeting with Xi “is expected to revolve around convincing China to aid Syria’s economic recovery,” said Haid Haid, of the Chatham House think tank in London. 

China pledged $2 billion in investments in Syria in 2017, but Haid said the funds had “yet to materialize.”

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas
Updated 23 min 20 sec ago

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas
  • President urges states that have not yet recognized state of Palestine to do so immediately
  • Calls for peace conference that ‘may be last opportunity to salvage two-state solution’

LONDON: Those who think peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full rights are mistaken, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, he said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory “violates the principles of international law and legitimacy while it races against time to change the historical, geographical and demographic reality on the ground, aimed at perpetuating the occupation and entrenching apartheid.”
Abbas said his country remains hopeful that the UN will be “able to implement its resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of our territory and realizing the independence of the fully sovereign state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the borders of June 4, 1967.”
He added that Israel continues to attack his people, and its “army and its racist, terrorist settlers continue to intimidate and kill our people, to destroy homes and property to just steal our money and resources.”
Abbas said Israel “continues to assault our Islamic and Christian sacred sites … especially the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which international legitimacy has recognized as an exclusive place of worship for Muslims alone.”
He added that Israel is digging tunnels under and around the mosque, threatening its full or partial collapse, “which would lead to an explosion with untold consequences.”
He urged the international community to assume its responsibilities in preserving the historic and legal status of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
He also requested an international peace conference in which all countries concerned with achieving peace in the Middle East would participate.
“I ask your esteemed organization and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for and undertake the necessary arrangements to convene this peace conference, which may be the last opportunity to salvage the two-state solution and to prevent the situation from deteriorating more seriously, and threatening the security and stability of our region and the entire world,” Abbas said.
He also urged states that have not yet recognized the state of Palestine to do so immediately. “I call for the state of Palestine to be admitted to full membership in the United Nations,” he said.
“There are two states that the entire world is talking about: Israel and Palestine. But only Israel is recognized. Why not Palestine?
“I can neither understand nor accept that some states …are reluctant to recognize the state of Palestine, which the UN has accepted as an observer state.
“These same states confirm every day that they support the two-state solution. But they recognize only one of these states, namely Israel. Why?”

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery
Updated 21 September 2023

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery
  • Fund to be used for reconstruction in places affected by the September 8 earthquake

RABAT: Quake-hit Morocco’s government announced on Wednesday a budget of more than $11 billion for reconstruction, rehousing and socio-economic development of areas hit by the deadly disaster.
The 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Al-Haouz province south of Marrakech on September 8, killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring thousands more.
The government said in a statement it was setting aside 120 billion dirhams ($11.7 billion) to help 4.2 million inhabitants affected by the quake over a period of five years.
The funds would be used to “rehouse affected people, reconstruct homes and restore infrastructure,” said the statement published at the end of a meeting chaired by King Mohammed VI.
The earthquake razed thousands of homes in central Morocco, including the High Atlas mountain range, forcing families to sleep out in the open with winter around the corner.



Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity
Updated 21 September 2023

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity
  • Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah emphasizes nonintervention in states’ internal affairs and the need for conflicts to be resolved peacefully
  • Al-Sabah delivers address on safeguarding global peace at UN Security Council session on margins of 78th UN General Assembly

NEW YORK: Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah affirmed countries’ right to maintain sovereignty, independence and territorial sanctity in a speech during a UN Security Council session.
Addressing a session on safeguarding global peace on the margins of the 78th UN General Assembly, Al-Sabah emphasized nonintervention in states’ internal affairs, resolving conflicts peacefully and abstaining from the use of force, as well as people’s right to self-determination, and encouraging respect for human rights.
Kuwait News Agency reported on Thursday that the deputy foreign minister underlined the significance of the UN charter’s goals and principles, especially the “role in defending small countries.”
Al-Sabah said that due to a range of issues, the global order is facing its toughest test since the UN’s establishment in 1945.
“The international community has no choice other than uniting to face regional and international challenges.
“Kuwait renews its rejection of using force or resorting to threats in the relations among states,” KUNA reported Al-Sabah as saying.
Al-Sabah called for Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty to be respected.
“We call on the parties (of the Ukrainian conflict) to abide by the rule of the international law and the humanitarian law in respect of protecting civilians, facilitating safe and rapid delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need,” he told the UN session.
Al-Sabah also called for the Black Sea grain deal to be renewed.

Lone gunman fires at US Embassy in Lebanon

Lone gunman fires at US Embassy in Lebanon
Updated 21 September 2023

Lone gunman fires at US Embassy in Lebanon

Lone gunman fires at US Embassy in Lebanon
  • Surveillance cameras showed a lone gunman dressed in black firing a Kalashnikov rifle before fleeing the scene on a motorcycle
  • Embassy spokesman Jake Nelson: There were no injuries and our facility is safe

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces are investigating a late-night gun attack on the US Embassy in Beirut in which more than a dozen shots were fired.

The diplomatic mission said that no one was hurt in the incident late on Wednesday.

Surveillance cameras showed a lone gunman dressed in black firing a Kalashnikov rifle before fleeing the scene on a motorcycle.

Embassy spokesman Jake Nelson said: “There were no injuries and our facility is safe,” adding that the mission was in “close contact” with local law enforcement.

Lebanese military police marked at least five bullet holes in the wall next to the embassy entrance.

The military judiciary has taken over the investigation into the attack.

A judicial source told Arab News that the shooting was likely “a political message to the embassy rather than a security incident.”

The source said that a bag had been found near the embassy’s perimeter, but “its contents or possible connection to the incident remain undisclosed.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the heavily guarded compound.

The Lebanese army has beefed up security around the site.

An army checkpoint, hundreds of meters away, monitors anyone using the road.

Reformist MP Melhem Khalaf described the incident as “an extremely dangerous and unacceptable attack, reflecting both the fragility of the security situation on the one hand and an unprecedented audacity in conveying messages on the other, as if we have become a banana republic.”

Khalaf said: “In order to nip in the bud any conspiracy or any rogue security project that may target Lebanon, the judiciary and security services must act immediately to identify the perpetrators, arrest them, and impose the harshest penalties on them.”

The head of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, MP Samy Gemayel, said: “Checkpoints, identity checks and shots fired at embassies are scenes that the Lebanese people want to eliminate by building a respected state. Beware of the escalation of these incidents, as they will not be in anyone’s interest, especially those who instigate them.”

MP Ziad Hawat warned against “playing with fire at this critical and sensitive moment,” adding that “Lebanon can no longer tolerate the policy of serving as a mailbox and sending messages to serve foreign interests.”

Independent Beirut MP Fouad Makhzoumi said: “The US has always stood by Lebanon and its people, supported and backed it in all circumstances and during the most difficult ordeals it has faced.”

The attack and “other such suspicious practices, tarnish the true image of Lebanon and do not represent it in any way, jeopardizing its international relations,” he said.

Alfred Riachi, secretary-general of the Permanent Conference of Federalism, said: “The message of the de facto forces has reached the Army Commander, Gen. Joseph Aoun.”

The embassy attack comes amid rumors circulating in Beirut regarding US opposition to a French initiative to hold talks between rival Lebanese paries on the election of a president.

The divided Lebanese parliament, with Hezbollah supporters and Christian parties opposed to its candidate Suleiman Frangieh, has been unable to secure a quorum for any candidate.

The year-old presidential vacuum could now extend to key positions of power, including the army command, presidency of the Supreme Judicial Council, and governorship of the central bank, all of which are Christian positions.

In an address to mark International Day of Peace on Thursday, Joanna Wronecka, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, warned that “the presidential vacuum, the political impasse, and a protracted socioeconomic and financial crisis were undermining the ability of state institutions to deliver, widening the gap of poverty and inequality, and imperiling the country’s stability.

“The deepening political polarization and intransigence is threatening Lebanon’s social cohesion and the sense of belonging among its people. Political leaders must act in the national interest, and seek real and practical solutions for a better future for their country,” she said.