This past Friday we saw the conclusion of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland. This two-week long conference brought together representatives from 189 countries for talks to lay the groundwork for Copenhagen in 2009, where the convention signatories have agreed to finalize a global treaty for the post-2012 period (2012 is when the Kyoto Protocol, the currently operating climate change treaty, is set to expire).
While the Middle East has not been a major actor in the unfolding drama of global climate change and its politics, their role is still significant, according to Wael Hmaidan, who represented the Arab Climate Alliance in Poznan. Hmaidan says that, as countries with both a lot of fossil fuels and a great capacity for solar energy production, Arab countries are both part of the problem and part of the solution to climate change.In a recorded interview, Hmaidan called for a new “annex” within the global framework on climate change. The current agreements have Annex I, for industrialized countries, and Annex II, for developing countries; Annex I countries bear most of the historical responsibility for climate change, because of their consumption of greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels.
Hmaidan believes that there should be a new category for fossil fuel-rich countries like Saudi Arabia. Even though these countries have not consumed fossil fuels at the same level as Annex I, he insists that these countries bear some of the historical responsibility for climate change because they have reaped billions of dollars of profit from the sale of dirty fossil fuels.
He also sees the oil wealth of these countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, as an obstruction to the mass production of renewable energy. He says that Saudi Arabia relies on the world’s oil dependence as a source of political power, so they act to obstruct or diminish the political will for clean, renewable energy.
Hmaidan’s organization, the Arab Climate Alliance, was formed last year specifically to build that will. Their goal is to harness the power of Arab civil society and direct the energy of NGOs in the region toward one the greatest challenges ever facing humanity: preventing catastrophic climate change.
They intend to gain a commitment from Arab League Governments to a post-2012 international climate agreement that will reduce global greenhouse gases 60-80% below 1990 levels by 2050, in line with recommendations from the International Panel on Climate Change.
Echoing Hmaidan’s comments from Poznan (which you can see in their entirety at the end of this post) the Alliance believes that the renewable energy technologies to achieve this goal are already available.
If only one percent of the Arabian Desert is used to produce solar energy, using Concentrating Solar Thermal Power (CSP) technology, it is possible to supply the whole World with renewable and clean electricity. All that is needed is the political will to create the policy framework necessary to facilitate the adoption and integration of these technologies.
For more on climate change and fossil fuels in the Middle East, be sure to read the following Prophecies:
Will Shell Oil Strike a Mega-Deal in Oil Shale with Jordan?
Will Climate Change Reduce or Increase Middle East Rainfall?
Middle East Oil Barons See Green Oil Fields in Clean Technology