Frankly Speaking: Has the climate agenda become disconnected from human realities?

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Updated 22 October 2023

Frankly Speaking: Has the climate agenda become disconnected from human realities?

Frankly Speaking: Has the climate agenda become disconnected from human realities?
  • Crescent Group MD Badr Jafar declares Gaza conflict’s humanitarian toll, not its impact on oil markets, as his main concern at present
  • Jafar, who is also Cresent Enterprises CEO, urges developed countries to stop playing self-interested politics that widens trust gap
  • Says to people struggling to make ends meet, “a lot of the green political agenda being preached today” can seem problematic

DUBAI: Western governments should stop preaching to developing nations about climate policy and instead work to improve inter-governmental cooperation, recognize economic realities, and prioritize sustainable development, Badr Jafar, CEO of Sharjah-headquartered Crescent Enterprises, has said.

In his opinion, there should be “less finger-pointing” by developed nations and “more extending hands of cooperation.”

Appearing on the Arab News program “Frankly Speaking,” Jafar, who is also special representative for business and philanthropy for the 28th UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, due to be held in Dubai next month, added that the human-development agenda must not be decoupled from the climate agenda.

“This is a problem with a lot of the green political agenda being preached today, with so many struggling to make ends meet or even survive, who may see this rhetoric as Western elitist bigotry, ignorant of their human realities on the ground,” he said.

“So, we can no longer decouple the human-development agenda, which is 12 of the 17 SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals) from the climate agenda, or the nature agenda for that matter.”

Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises, managing director of the Crescent Group, COP28 Special Representative for Business & Philanthropy, speaks to Katie Jensen, host of Frankly Speaking. (AN photo)    

Jafar added: “They are two sides of the same coin. And the edge of that coin is conducive climate policy that embraces a greener evolution of all of our systems, while ensuring equitable opportunities for the billions who haven’t yet been afforded them, including the 800 million without access to electricity today, or the 2.3 billion with no access to clean cooking fuels.”

Speaking to Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” Jafar discussed among other issues whether criticisms of the UAE hosting the summit were justified, his role in ensuring that the event created a lasting legacy, and the possible repercussions of the rapidly escalating conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

In the troubled Middle East region, the response to climate change could seem far down the priority list. Nevertheless, in a part of the world that was so bound up in global energy security, what happened in the region could not be overlooked.

On what the Israel-Hamas war may mean for the region’s oil markets, Jafar said he was more concerned about the humanitarian situation.

“Right now, I am not interested in market concerns when it comes to human suffering,” he said.

“Human suffering is front and center, and should be front and center, for everybody, of everything we are doing and thinking about right now. So, the market is neither here nor there as far as I am concerned.”

As one of the largest oil and gas producers in the world, critics have suggested that the UAE was a poor candidate to host COP28. Others have defended the choice of venue, highlighting the absence of criticism when Scotland, itself an oil producer, hosted COP26 in 2021.

The COP28 summit will unfold from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 at Expo City, Dubai, marking a significant gathering to steer the world toward a greener future. (Shutterstock)

Jafar, who is also managing director of the Crescent Group, which operates a portfolio of more than 25 diversified companies through Crescent Enterprises and Crescent Petroleum, felt such criticism missed the point of the summit.

He pointed out that COP28 participants and observers should focus on assisting communities in the most climate-vulnerable nations of the developing world instead of their self-interest.

“I feel compelled to say that we must not forget the true purpose of everything being discussed, including climate change,” Jafar said.

“Surely, it is to safeguard and secure the well-being of humanity and our habitat, focusing on our most vulnerable. And this is especially pertinent with the incredible suffering that we witnessed this week (in Gaza), including as a result of war being waged on some of the most defenseless and voiceless civilians on Earth.

“Think about it, and I’m speaking now in figurative terms. When your house is burning, it’s silly to expect you to contemplate adding solar panels to your roof or to worry about limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2030. You’re simply trying to survive another day, another hour.”

Jafar noted that some developed nations had been scaling back their emissions pledges and issuing new licenses for oil and gas drilling and suggested that the “trust gap” between the industrialized and developing worlds needed to be bridged if climate goals were to be achieved.

“All nations need to look in the mirror with intellectual honesty and ask themselves if what they are doing themselves is actually helping the situation as opposed to playing self-interested politics and making things worse by creating larger trust gaps across the world that will guarantee that we never reach our climate and nature goals,” he said.

Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber, COP28 president; Razan Al-Mubarak; UN Climate Change High-Level Champion; and Badr Jafar engaged with global leaders Williams Ruto, Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg at an event focused on health and climate to discuss the COP28 Action Agenda, designed to deliver an immediate response to the GST. (Supplied)

Defending the choice of Dubai as the COP28 venue, Jafar said the UAE should be judged based on its climate policies and investments in clean renewable sources of energy.

“This is what the UAE and its stewardship of COP28 is all about. In just two generations, the UAE rapidly diversified its economy with over 70 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) today generated outside petroleum,” he said.

Jafar highlighted the UAE’s Green Agenda, launched in 2015, its “net zero by 2050” strategy, and its commitment to invest more than $160 billion in clean energy in the coming years, adding that Abu Dhabi’s Masdar was already the largest single renewable energy investor in the world.

He also pointed out the UAE’s efforts to protect natural carbon sinks by reversing deforestation and launching initiatives such as the Mangrove Breakthrough to restore 15 million hectares of mangrove worldwide.

Lauding the Saudi Green Initiative and other projects in the Middle East aimed at combating climate change, Jafar said they were “all really in line with the energy transition that is taking place.”

He told Jensen that a successful climate summit would entail the inclusion of business leaders and philanthropists in seeking and implementing climate solutions.

Badr Jafar, COP28 Special Representative for Business & Philanthropy, speaks to Frankly Speaking host Katie Jensen. (AN photo)

“The private sector, including philanthropy in my opinion, holds the greatest promise to accelerate the accomplishment of our climate and nature global goals,” he said.

“I honestly believe that a major reason the COP process overall hasn’t been as successful in implementation and action, as it has perhaps been in declarations and pledges, is because business has not been properly engaged in the process. And this needs to change and will change with COP28.”

Jafar felt that governments alone could not be relied upon to deliver on their ambitious pledges to cut emissions and implement green policies.

“Another critical reason why the authentic inclusion of business is no longer optional is because business can provide the all-important connective tissue between COP presidencies,” he said.

“We’ve all witnessed over the years the flip-flopping by various governments, mainly in Europe, and perhaps even the US, with warring political parties playing ping-pong politics with climate policies and some even pushing net zero off the cliff to suit domestic agendas.”

He added: “The constant failure of many nations to abide by their climate finance pledging is another reason why we can’t simply rely on pledges. So, this disconnect, and this discontinuity is a killer for a process like the COP.”

Jafar noted that a Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum would be held in December after the COP28 UAE to look at targeted solutions for accelerating technology transfer, de-risking green investments, enabling effective investment for nature conservation, enabling climate small- and medium-sized enterprises and startups, and investing in resilience for the most vulnerable, among other essential private-sector outcomes.

In doing so, the organizers hope to build “an agenda around outcomes and not around names,” Jafar said.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing with the forum, and I believe at COP28 more broadly. That’s really been the focus over the last couple of months, to make sure that the agenda is not just relevant to the COP28 and primarily, of course, relevant to the COP28 action agenda or the president’s action agenda, but also making sure that it’s relevant to the communities that this whole agenda and the outcomes need to serve.”

Speaking to Arab News at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, Jafar said the world was not dealing with an energy crisis, but rather a management crisis, pointing to the West’s failure to lead nations toward realistic solutions for climate change.

On “Frankly Speaking,” he again highlighted what he considered as a failure to embrace an economic reality that had resulted in greater division.

“Most discourse in the West’s energy policy circles today, or I should say political arena, seem to be obsessed with a starting point — a world dependent on fossil fuels — and an endpoint, a net-zero world to replace the old with the new, with a fantasy flick of the switch and dividing the problem into zero-sum camps,” Jafar said.

“When we think about problems in this reductionist way, we fall victim to our gap instincts: Us and them, the West and the rest.

“We create warring groups with an imaginary gap between them that creates an impossible choice, especially for many emerging (economies) who feel bullied into choosing between climate goals or growth; and such gaps instincts have moved the world further away from climate goals.”


France calls at UN for ‘a truce leading to a ceasefire’ in Gaza

France calls at UN for ‘a truce leading to a ceasefire’ in Gaza
Updated 15 sec ago

France calls at UN for ‘a truce leading to a ceasefire’ in Gaza

France calls at UN for ‘a truce leading to a ceasefire’ in Gaza
  • The French ambassador to the UN urges council members to take more action to address the conflict because it requires more than only humanitarian pauses
  • More than 700 Palestinians have been killed since Israel resumed its military operations in Gaza on Dec. 1 after a week-long temporary truce

NEW YORK CITY: France on Monday urged the UN Security Council to do more to address the conflict in Gaza, stressing that pauses in the fighting are not enough and what is needed is a truce that can pave the way for a ceasefire.

Nicolas de Riviere, France’s permanent representative to the UN, said that in the short term “we need more than a humanitarian pause. We need a truce leading to a ceasefire, full humanitarian access, full respect of international humanitarian law. Of course, we need the release of hostages.”

He also reiterated that his country respects “Israel’s right to defend itself and go after the terrorists who committed crimes on Oct. 7.”

De Riviere was speaking to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York ahead of a closed meeting of the Security Council. It was called by the UAE, which cited the “deeply concerning resumption of hostilities” at the weekend and the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

More than 700 Palestinians have been killed since Israel resumed its military operations in Gaza on Dec. 1 after a week-long humanitarian pause in the fighting. Another 15,500 were killed before the temporary truce.

Israel this week expanded its operations into southern Gaza, forcing tens of thousands of already displaced Gazans into “increasingly compressed spaces, desperate to find food, water, shelter and safety,” according to Lynn Hastings, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Warning that “an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold,” she added: “Nowhere is safe in Gaza and there is nowhere left to go. The conditions required to deliver aid to the people of Gaza do not exist.”

De Riviere meanwhile, also called for the resumption of a political process to address the wider Palestinian issue, saying: “I don’t think we can continue to refuse to address the aspirations of the Palestinians to statehood. It is a necessity. It should not be under the carpet like has been the case for the past seven years.”

Council members have been discussing a draft resolution, proposed by the UAE, for the scaling up and monitoring of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

However, speaking before the closed-doors meeting on Monday, US Ambassador Robert Wood told reporters there is no need at the moment for additional resolutions or statements from the council.

He said it already adopted an “important” resolution on Nov. 15, which calls for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and aid corridors to be established throughout the Gaza Strip. Resolution 2712, the first one that council members have agreed on since the beginning of the conflict, also calls for the release of all hostages and for all sides to refrain from depriving Gazan civilians of access to the basic goods and services that are critical to their survival.

Wood said what is needed now is a “focus on how we can actually bring relief to the people on the ground, improve the situation, and try to get the negotiations back on again, with regard to the hostages. We’re seeing more aid getting in, although clearly not enough. So that’s where we need to focus our efforts.”

Asked to comment on the latest death toll, and whether or not Israel is doing enough to avoid civilian casualties, Wood said: “Israel is doing more and we have been saying to Israel for quite some time now, ‘You need to do more to protect civilians.’

“It’s a difficult operation when you’re trying to root out Hamas and protect civilians, because Hamas is hiding among the civilians. But they’re listening to us and I think that’s important, and they’re taking steps and we’ll continue to encourage them. Because, obviously, no one is happy with the situation on the ground and it needs to improve and they need to do it.

“The Israelis want to do a better job protecting civilians and we’re going to continue to work with them on that.”

Cyprus president pushes Gaza corridor idea

Cyprus president pushes Gaza corridor idea
Updated 04 December 2023

Cyprus president pushes Gaza corridor idea

Cyprus president pushes Gaza corridor idea

Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides will visit Egypt and Jordan on Tuesday as part of an initiative to establish a humanitarian aid corridor to Israeli-besieged Gaza.

Cyprus, the closest European Union member state to the Middle East, has offered to host and operate facilities for sustained aid directly into the Gaza Strip once hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian militant Hamas group cease.

Christodoulides planned to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and King Abdullah of Jordan. There were “technical discussions” on the matter between Cypriot and Israeli officials on Sunday.

The Cypriot plan is aimed at expanding capacity for humanitarian relief directly to the coastal Gaza Strip beyond limited deliveries being made through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian enclave.

Such an aid corridor faces logistical, political and security challenges — Gaza has no port and its waters are shallow.

Britain, which sent 80 tons of Gaza-destined aid in the form of mostly blankets and tents to Cyprus last week, has offered watercraft able to access the coastline without the need for special infrastructure if the corridor ever materializes, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

As many as 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes in an Israeli bombing campaign that has reduced much of the crowded coastal strip to a desolate wasteland.

Separately, human rights groups sought to block the Dutch government from exporting F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, arguing in court on Monday that the exports could make the Netherlands complicit in possible war crimes.

The Netherlands houses one of several regional warehouses of US-owned F-35 parts, which are then distributed to countries that request them, including Israel.

The rights groups, which included Oxfam Novib, the Dutch affiliate of the international charity, argued Israel was using the planes in attacks in Gaza that were killing civilians. 

Preventing that was more important than the Netherlands fulfilling its commercial or political obligations to allied countries, they argued.

“The (Dutch) state must immediately stop its deliveries of F-35 parts to Israel,” lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said in summary proceeding at the Hague District Court.

“That is its obligation under ... Article 1 of the Geneva conventions, it is its obligation under the Genocide Treaty to prevent genocide, and it is its obligation under export law.”

Biden’s allies demand that Israel limit civilian deaths in Gaza

Biden’s allies demand that Israel limit civilian deaths in Gaza
Updated 04 December 2023

Biden’s allies demand that Israel limit civilian deaths in Gaza

Biden’s allies demand that Israel limit civilian deaths in Gaza
  • If asking nicely worked, we wouldn’t have been in this position today: Sen. Sanders

WASHINGTON: As a ceasefire ticked down last week and Israel prepared to resume its round-the-clock airstrikes, Sen. Bernie Sanders and a robust group of Democratic senators had a message for their president: They were done “asking nicely” for Israel to do more to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza.

Lawmakers warned President Joe Biden’s national security team that planned US aid to Israel must be met with assurances of concrete steps from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government.

“The truth is that if asking nicely worked, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today,” Sanders said in a floor speech. It was time for the US to use its “substantial leverage” with its ally, the Vermont senator said.

“And we all know what that leverage is,” he said, adding, “the blank-check approach must end.”

With Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs hanging in the balance, the senators’ tougher line on Israel has gotten the White House’s attention, and that of Israel.

Lawmakers of both major political parties for decades have embraced the US role as Israel’s top protector, and it’s all but inconceivable that they would vote down the wartime aid. The Democratic lawmakers are adamant that’s not their intent, as strong supporters of Israel’s right of self-defense against Hamas. But just the fact that Democratic lawmakers are making that link signals the fractures in Congress amid the daily scenes of suffering among besieged Palestinian civilians.

Sanders and the Democratic senators involved say they are firm in their stand that Israel’s military must adopt substantive measures to lessen civilian deaths in Gaza as part of receiving the supplemental’s $14.3 billion in US aid for Israel’s war.

The warning from friendly Democrats is a complication for the White House as it faces what had already been a challenging task of getting the supplemental aid bill through Congress. Some Republicans are balking at the part of the bill that provides funding for Ukraine’s war against Russia, and the funding for Israel was supposed to be the easy part.

The demand is a warning of more trouble ahead for an Israeli government that’s often at odds with the US in its treatment of Palestinians.

“There’s a big difference between asking and getting a commitment” from Netanyahu’s government on a plan to reduce civilian casualties and improve living conditions in Gaza, Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen said. Van Hollen has been one of the key senators huddling with administration officials on the demands.

“So our goal is to achieve results,” Van Hollen said. “And not just set expectations.”

Following the senators’ warning, the Biden administration has upped its own demands to Israel since late last week, insisting publicly for the first time that Israeli leaders not just hear out US demands to ease civilian suffering in Gaza, but agree to them.

Over the weekend, as an end to the ceasefire brought the return of Israeli bombardment and Hamas rocket strikes, the Israeli military said it had begun using one measure directed by the Biden administration: an online map of Gaza neighborhoods to tell civilians which crowded streets, neighborhoods and communities to evacuate before an Israeli attack.

Heavy bombardment followed the evacuation orders, and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they were running out of places to go in the sealed-off territory. Many of its 2.3 million people are crammed into the south after Israel ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the war, which was sparked by the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in Israel that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

At least 13 killed in gunfight in India’s Manipur — official 

At least 13 killed in gunfight in India’s Manipur — official 
Updated 04 December 2023

At least 13 killed in gunfight in India’s Manipur — official 

At least 13 killed in gunfight in India’s Manipur — official 
  • Their bodies, with multiple bullet wounds, were found in a village in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district 
  • The development comes seven months after ethnic clashes in the border state that killed 180 people 

GUWAHATI: At least 13 people were killed in a gunfight between two unknown militant groups in India’s restive Manipur state on Monday, a police official said, seven months after ethnic clashes in the border state killed at least 180 people. 

Their bodies, with multiple bullet wounds, were found in a village in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district where the official said a “massive” gunfight was reported. 

The state has witnessed sporadic violence since the peak of ethnic clashes that erupted on May 3 between members of the majority Meitei ethnic group and minority Kuki community over sharing government benefits and quotas. 

The clashes have marked a rare security failure for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in a state ruled by his Bharatiya Janata Party. 

No weapons were found near the bodies, the senior police official told Reuters by phone from state capital Imphal, requesting anonymity. 

“It could be possible the weapons were looted after they were killed,” the official said, adding that they could not immediately identify the dead or the militant groups. 

Philippine police identify possible suspects after deadly blast at Catholic mass 

Philippine police identify possible suspects after deadly blast at Catholic mass 
Updated 04 December 2023

Philippine police identify possible suspects after deadly blast at Catholic mass 

Philippine police identify possible suspects after deadly blast at Catholic mass 
  • Powerful explosion in Marawi killed at least 4, injured 50 others  
  • Daesh reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack late on Sunday

MANILA: Philippine police are looking into possible suspects behind the bombing at a Catholic mass in the country’s south, a regional police chief said on Monday after the blast that killed four people was claimed by Daesh militants. 

On Sunday, a powerful explosion ripped through a gymnasium at Mindanao State University in Marawi, a southern Philippine city that was besieged by pro-Daesh militants for five months in 2017. The death toll stood at four as of Monday, while around 50 others were injured from the blast. 

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack late on Sunday, saying that its members had detonated an explosive device at the gathering, according to reports.  

“Following the explosion, the PNP (Philippine National Police) created a special investigation task group to focus and expedite the investigation relative to this incident … We (now) have persons of interest,” regional police chief Allan Nobleza told reporters, adding that one of the suspects was linked to a local militant group.  

“The investigation is still ongoing. In order not to preempt the investigation, we will not divulge the names.”  

Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., chief of staff of the Philippines’ Armed Forces, said that Sunday’s attack may have been in response to a series of recent military operations that had targeted local militant groups.  

Philippine forces launched an operation targeting the local Dawlah Islamiyah cell in the southern province of Maguindanao on Friday, killing 11 suspected militants including the group’s alleged leader Abdullah Sapal. The militant group, which has been linked to bombings and other deadly attacks in the southern Philippines, pledged allegiance to Daesh in 2015. 

In another operation in Sulu province on Saturday, government forces killed Mudzrimar Sawadjaan, also known as Mundi, a senior leader of another Daesh affiliate, the Abu Sayyaf Group. Brawner said Mundi was the mastermind of two major attacks in the Sulu capital of Jolo, including the 2019 cathedral bombings that killed at least 20 people. 

Both Dawlah Islamiyah —also known as the Maute group — and the ASG were behind the 2017 Marawi siege, a five-month battle that killed more than 1,100 people and forced more than 300,000 others from their homes. 

“Because of the accomplishments … we believe that that could be one of the strong possibilities why this (attack) occurred,” Brawner told reporters in Marawi on Monday.  

“We will go after the perpetrators as soon as possible and use all resources at our disposal in order to make this happen.”