Today opens the two-week round of climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark. From this corner of the world the conference is a meeting of giants – literally, the giant polluters like the U.S. and China, which make it seem like there is little the small countries of the Middle East can do to stop global warming. But Middle East policy makers still have serious goals for reducing dependence on fossil fuels at home. Here’s a brief of the messages coming out of Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt on the opening day of the 192-country Copenhagen conference. Statistics are from the International Energy Agency.
Lebanon: 2007 carbon emissions: 11.4 million metric tons.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced in November he would attend. Lebanon’s tiny coastal location makes it vulnerable to rising seas, and the already dry climate would be battered if the rivers dried up. Environmentalist Wael Hmaidan from the IndyACT green organization (which we covered here) told the Daily Star that even though Lebanon is small, the country must devise renewable energy solutions to reduce its carbon footprint. Further, he said Lebanon has to recycle more than its paltry 8 percent of waste. Regarding Lebanon’s other issues – namely, internal division, Hmaidan said, “If we don’t work on climate change there is no need to work on anything else.”
Lebanon also issued a plea to the rest of the world to get its act together before it’s too late, including reducing emissions by 40 percent in the next eleven years. In a meeting of the Lebanese Parliament and the United Nations Development Program, Lebanon demanded that industrial countries donate to the developing world to lower their carbon footprint, and called for a halt to all ad hoc subsidies of dirty fuels like coal.
Jordan: 2007 carbon emissions: 19.2 million metric tons.
Queen Rania has taken a strong stand on the need for solutions to global warming, and Jordan is sending Environmental Minister Khalid Irani to Copenhagen. The Jordan Times reports the possible consequences to the Hashemite Kingdom: “If climate change continues at its current pace, Jordan is expected to witness a 1-2°C increase in temperatures by 2030-2050, diminished aquifers and oases, reduced green cover and the transformation of semi-arid lands, some 80 per cent of the country’s total area, into arid deserts, according to environment experts.”
But the paper’s environmental writer Hana Namrouqa, while pointing out the catastrophic effects of the industrialized world, didn’t shy away from digging into Jordan’s problematic carbon profile. In November, Namrouqa reported that 74 percent of Jordan’s carbon emissions come from energy production, with most of the rest from waste disposal. Jordanian environmental officials want to jack up renewable energy to ten percent of the national budget by 2020.
Israel: 2007 carbon emissions: 65.9 million metric tons
For the first time, Israel is sending a government representative to a climate change conference (until now green NGOs represented Israel). Environmental Minister Gilad Erdan has decided to tackle Israel’s large per capita carbon footprint (Israel is ranked 30th per capita) by encouraging renewable energy at home and slamming the Ashkelon coal-fired power plant expansion. He also hired the international consulting company McKinsey & Co. to analyze Israel’s emissions; they found that with no further action, Israel’s carbon dioxide levels will double by 2030. Like its Arab neighbors, Israel can expect sparser and less predictable rainfall if temperatures rise. Yet Erdan has not issued any firm commitments on how much the country will shrink its carbon profile.
What the Minister has done, according to the Jerusalem Post, is try to get Israel out of its current “developing country” status – which carries no obligations – and into the industrialized category of Annex 1. This would make any agreements signed in Copenhagen binding for Israel.
Egypt: 2007 carbon emissions: 168.7 million metric tons.
According to a Pew research poll, which surveyed global attitudes toward global warming, Egypt’s population has gotten much more worried about climate change in the last few years: Last year, just 38 percent of Egyptians thought it was a major issue, and this year the figure stands at 54 percent.
Still the Hurriyet Daily News reports that Egypt’s controversial new project to green the desert has raised the hackles of both environmentalists and its upstream neighbors; at a time when global warming may decrease the surface water across Africa, Egypt’s move to divert the Nile to fields has been seen as short-sighted.
For more information, check out the Arab Forum for Environment and Development, which has issued joint pan-Arab statements on climate change here.
(Photo from International Land Coalition)