How can the Arab World Benefit from Climate Change Negotiations in Qatar?

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

More on Climate Change Negotiations:

Saudi Acts as Oil Cheerleader at COPY 17 in Durban

Guide to Durban Talks and the Oil Rich Middle East

Cancun Ends on Slightly Better Note Than Copenhagen

About Linda Pappagallo

Linda's love for nature started when at the age of eight she discovered, with her dog, a magical river in the valley of a mountainous region in Lebanon. For four years Linda and her dog explored along the river, until one day she saw construction scrapers pushing rock boulders down the valley to make way for new construction sites. The rubble came crashing into the river destroying her little paradise, and her pathetic reaction was to shout at the mechanic monsters. Of course that was not enough to stop the destructive processes.As she continued to observe severe environmental degradation across the different places she lived in the Middle East and Africa, these terrible images remained impressed in her mind.However, environmental issues where not her first love. Her initial academic and career choices veered towards sustainable economic development, with particular interest in savings led microfinance schemes.Nevertheless, through experience, she soon realized a seemingly obvious but undervalued concept. While humans can somewhat defend themselves from the greed of other humans, nature cannot. Also nature, the environment, is the main “system” that humans depend on, not economics.These conclusions changed her path and she is now studying a Masters in International Affairs with a concentration in Energy and the Environment in New York. Her interests lie on ecosystems management: that is how to preserve the integrity of an Ecosystem while allowing for sustainable economic development, in particular in the Middle East and Africa.

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