The last international climate change negotiation (COP17) took place in Durban in 2011 and the outcomes were pretty disappointing given the urgency of the matter in hand. Unsatisfactory outcomes aside, climate change negotiations have been providing momentous opportunities for NGOs, individuals and the private sector to engage and exchange ideas on solutions to climate change mitigation.
This year Qatar will host the UN climate change conference, COP18, in December and hopefully this will also be an opportunity for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to step up the game in climate change activism . However two important things need to happen to ensure all countries in the MENA benefit.
Balancing the powers
The irony is great: Climate Change negotiation in Qatar will take place atop vast natural gas deposits and in a country with the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world, almost three times those of the United States.
As we all know, Qatar’s economy relies heavily on its oil resources, so finding solutions to climate change mitigations is an important goal for Qatar and other Gulf states too. No doubt the meeting will be an opportunity to commercialize ideas (such as carbon capture and storage) that mitigate carbon emissions from oil.
However the risk is that Gulf state constituencies may drown out other frameworks and issues that are more relevant to a larger majority of non-oil rich countries from the MENA such as the alternative energy sector in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt , Tunisa, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Mauritania, Morocco and Israel. If this were to happen, COP18 would become counterproductive for the advancement of climate change mitigation practices in the MENA region as a whole. The Middle East and North Africa must present themselves as a diverse economic region moving away from the aggregating stereotype of an oil rich region.
Seize the Moment
The trick will be ensuring that a diverse group of MENA participants benefit from the sudden surge in opportunities during that brief moment of time when climate change becomes vogue again. As shown here, at the end of every year since 2005 you can notice volume peaks of the word “UN Climate Change” in google search.
These are the peaks the Arab world should strategically take advantage of to demonstrate that there is a budding movement of engeneers, scientists and even grassroots organizations who are increasingly becoming engaged in the MENA to mitigate its human footprint on the world.
Image UN Framework Convention on Climate Change via UNFCC
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