Activists at COP18 in Qatar: Islam and the Arab-world Not Eco Enough

arab youth climate change doha cop18 in qatarYoung Arabs in Doha are telling the Arab world it’s time to take a lead on climate change during the first climate change talks to be held in the Middle East.

With more than a billion Muslims in the world, Arab activists claim that Muslim leaders are pretty much silent about global warming and environmental issues. AP is reporting this as world leaders gather in Doha, Qatar for the UN-mediated COP18 climate change talks this week. Arab activists from Lebanon sent Green Prophet the same message today in a press release asking for Arabs, not necessarily Muslims, to step up to the plate to be part of the solution. 

Qatar is one of the world’s polluting countries, with the largest carbon footprint per capita. Its economy like others in the Arab Gulf region is built on natural gas wealth (in other cases oil) and extravagance. But the situation is polarized when we talk about Muslims and Arabs since many Arab/Muslim countries like Egypt, Jordan and Syria are very poor and compared to western nations are relatively benign when it comes to the over all picture of carbon emissions per capita.

Still the Muslim imans and clerics can be pretty powerful if they send a message to their community through the mosques.

qatar climate change qatar cop18

“Unfortunately the Arab and Islamic countries have political and economic problems,” said Adham Hassan to AP. He’s a worshipper from Jordan streaming out of the al-Khatabb mosque in Doha. “Islam calls for the protection of the environment, but the Muslim countries are mostly poor and they didn’t cause pollution and aren’t affected by climate change.”Only one from the six mosques the AP newswire contacted had sent a message about climate change and taking action to its worshippers.

Despite there being a clear reference to nature and Planet Earth in the Quran, Islamic leaders have a missing voice on the global dialogue, for the most part. Muslim environmental activists like those in the Beirut-based IndyACT want to see a change from the Arab world. Members from the NGO and others were in Doha and organized on the streets in the form of a march to call for more Arabs to joint the movement.

Ali Fakhry, IndyACT media campaigner explained “the marchers are here to ask their country leaders to act now, there is no time left.”

While hundreds of people gathered holding their banners they chanted “Pledge Pledge, Pledge,” “Arabs; it’s time to lead,” “One Environment, earth,” calling for urgent climate action, concrete steps towards binding future agreement in Doha and a second commitment of Kyoto protocol that should start in 2013.

“Time is running out for us to ensure climate impacts [sic] do not spin out of control. We only have one environment and one earth, as the ministers and decision makers are coming, we need them to hear civil society voices and push for concrete steps they are willing to take whether it is committing to cutting their emissions or ensuring poorer countries get support to take action,” Ali said.

Activists from more than 15 Arab countries such as Qatar, Mauritania, Morocco, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, Oman, Egypt and Bahrain will also call on their own leaders – during the first climate negotiations ever held in the Middle East -to submit concrete voluntary pledges for mitigation targets at COP18 in order to fulfill their own responsibilities in reducing Greenhouse gas emissions.

IndyACT also recently formed the  Arab Youth Climate Movement.

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