How Arab states are accelerating climate action in the run-up to COP26

The UN says nations must do far more if the world is to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2C. (AFP)
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Updated 08 July 2021

How Arab states are accelerating climate action in the run-up to COP26

  • Expectations are high ahead of the COP26 summit, with Arab states eager to do their bit to help cut emissions
  • Facing acute challenges associated with climate change, the Arab world has an integral part to play, say experts

DUBAI: As representatives of governments and other attendees prepare to gather in Glasgow from Oct. 31 for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), observers are hopeful that the summit can effect meaningful change.

The conference — under the theme “Uniting the World to Tackle Climate Change” — will include contributions from more than 30,000 delegates from around the globe, including the Arab region.

Along with other GCC countries, Saudi Arabia is accelerating action toward the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It has unveiled a National Renewable Energy Program — through which it aspires to meet 50 percent of its domestic energy needs from renewable sources by 2030 — and launched the Saudi Green Initiative, a project to plant 10 billion trees in the country to mitigate its CO2 emissions.




Renewables have become the world’s main and cheapest source of power generation. (AFP)


The Kingdom has also pioneered “circular carbon economy,” an integrated strategy for tackling emissions while enabling economic growth that was endorsed by G20 leaders at the summit, under Saudi presidency, last year.

The recent announcement of the Sakaka solar project was another sign of the Kingdom’s ambitions in renewable energy sources. Saudi Arabia is also leading the way in the use of hydrogen, which some energy visionaries see as the fuel of the future. Saudi Aramco shipped the first ever consignment of the fuel last summer.

For its part, the UAE now has more than 2.4 GW of installed renewable energy capacity, as it plans to diversify its energy mix and increase its share of renewables to 44 percent by the middle of the century as part of its National Energy Strategy Plan 2050.

“We all have an important role to play in addressing this global issue, as it affects not only the environment, ecology and biodiversity of our planet but also the natural resources available for future generations,” Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, permanent representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), told Arab News.

“Arab countries constitute an integral part of this collective action to further the achievement of COP26 goals of securing global net-zero by mid-century, keeping temperature goals within reach, protecting communities and natural habitats, mobilizing finance, and working together to rise to the challenge and deliver,” Al-Hosany added.

While significant progress has already been made, the UN says nations must do far more if the world is to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2C — and ideally 1.5C — by the end of the century.

“We hope to see world leaders capitalize on momentum around the Green Recovery to take real and meaningful action on climate change,” Mohamed Jameel Al-Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, a renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi, told Arab News. “The Arab world faces particularly acute challenges from climate change. Scientists warn that, without immediate climate action, we could witness regular life-threatening heat waves across the region.”
 




Establishing the policy, regulatory, technical and economic frameworks to enable states to scale up renewables will be indispensable to the world’s collective success. (AFP)

Yet climate change does not always get the attention it deserves in the Middle East, he noted. To address this, he believes the region’s young people — the Arab world’s largest and most important demographic — will have a vital role to play in spreading the message and taking action.

For Daniel Gribbin, corporate sustainability lead at WSP Middle East, recent activity against big oil players by investors and non-governmental organizations will likely have caught the attention of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) policymakers, as the global impetus towards integrating environmental, social and governance measures and transitioning to low-carbon economies gathers pace.

“We can expect to see these trends highlighted at future COP summits, as world leaders place a higher degree of focus on governments, companies and organizations that are not doing enough to drive adequate climate action,” Gribbin told Arab News.
 




Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, permanent representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency. (Supplied)

“Future COP summits will also place increased pressure on governments, companies and organizations whose strategies, levels of disclosure and transparency are currently lacking in regard to climate-related risks, opportunities and targets.”

This focus on big oil, and how the Middle East is facilitating the transition to low-carbon economies, is firmly on the agenda, particularly with the UAE launching a bid to bring COP28 to Abu Dhabi in 2023.

“There is an expectation that Middle Eastern nations will need to become more transparent about how they manage accelerated climate action in line with their ambitions to transition beyond economic models traditionally reliant on fossil fuels,” Gribbin added.
 

 

The Middle East, perhaps more than most, is feeling the effects of climate change, with record temperatures, declining biodiversity, and stress on water resources.

“Specific ecosystems in this region are already very vulnerable, like the hyper-saline Arabian Gulf,” Tatiana Antonelli Abella, founder of the UAE-based green social enterprise Goumbook, told Arab News.

Abella urges collective action to reduce carbon footprints, to work towards an energy transition driven by renewables, and to tackle social and economic disruptions in the region — worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic — through inclusive economic-recovery plans.
 




Climate change does not always get the attention it deserves in the Middle East. (AFP)

“We need to cut down on plastic pollution, preserve ecosystems, especially blue carbon, and foster circularity and sustainable economic-growth models,” she said. “Regional collaboration is also needed to address cross-border impacts.”

Climate change is already having a devastating impact on ecosystems, economies and communities around the world due to rising temperatures, desertification, droughts and flooding. To halt this trend, COP26 is urging all countries to set ambitious 2030 targets that align with reaching net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

“Many of these challenges can be opportunities to make this decade one of energy transformation and sustainable policies that will further increase investment and advance innovation in renewables to help mitigate climate change,” Al-Hosany told Arab News.

“Not only will this help sustainable socioeconomic development in this region, which has great potential for diversifying its energy mix, but it can also help tap into the 42 million renewable-energy jobs that will be available by 2050 per IRENA’s Renewable Energy and Jobs Report.

“If collective action to mitigate climate change is attained, then and only then will these challenges become part of the past.”

There has been noteworthy progress already. Today, more than 170 countries have renewables targets, which many have included in their Nationally Determined Contributions — non-binding national plans highlighting climate actions set under the Paris Agreement.
 




Mohamed Jameel Al-Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, a renewable energy company based in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

Additionally, major economies accounting for 70 percent of global CO2 emissions now have targets for carbon neutrality by 2050, and markets are now pricing in energy transitions. More than 80 percent of all new power added in 2020 was renewable — a 50-percent increase on the previous year.

For Francesco La Camera, IRENA’s director-general, these are all positive signs. But the urgency required cannot be overstated. “2030 is really the crucial time by which we need to align our energy system with near-term development goals and longer-term climate goals,” he told Arab News.

“We need a fundamental transformation of our energy system, and we need it in every country, and fast.”

In La Camera’s view, expectations are high for all countries, including those in the Arab region. He stressed that this is a crucial COP meeting that must move the world from dialogue to action.

“Many countries in this region have already shown how serious they are about the renewable energy transition,” he said.

“The announcement of a $4 billion green hydrogen project in Egypt, the ambitious plan to build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia, and the inauguration of the region’s first industrial-scale green hydrogen facility in the UAE all point to a forward-looking region that is increasingly embracing the energy transition. But there is much work to be done.”
 




To address climate change, Mohamed Jameel Al-Ramahi believes the region’s young people will have a vital role to play in spreading the message and taking action. (AFP)

Renewables have become the world’s main and cheapest source of power generation, he said. “This is a fact, and it will drive the uptake of renewables significantly. Our latest data suggests most new renewables outcompete existing coal on costs — this is game changing, and it can be used to ramp up ambition.

“Now is the time to translate ambition into action through some of the steps that the IRENA has outlined in its World Energy Transitions Outlook road map to a 1.5-degree future.”

Establishing the policy, regulatory, technical and economic frameworks to enable states to scale up renewables will be indispensable to the world’s collective success.

“The real challenge today is not about technology, costs or investment flows. The main thing that holds us back from moving faster is vested interests and political will,” La Camera said. “Policy and investment decision-making must reflect the urgency of the task at hand.”

Twitter: @CalineMalek


East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2

Updated 26 sec ago

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2

  • The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces said the helicopters collided in the air over the village of Msus
  • The crash came as they have been battling Chadian fighters in Libya’s southern areas on the border with Chad
CAIRO: Forces loyal to a powerful Libyan commander said two military planes crashed on Sunday over a village in eastern Libya, killing at least two officers.
The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, said the helicopters collided in the air over the village of Msus, 130 kilometers (81 miles) southeast of the city of Benghazi.
A two-officer crew, including Brig. Gen. Bouzied Al-Barrasi, was killed in the crash, while the second helicopter crew survived, the forces said in a brief statement. It did not give the cause of the crash and said the helicopters were on a military mission.
Mohammad Younes Menfi, head of Libya’s Presidential Council, mourned the two officers.
Haftar’s forces control eastern and most of southern Libya. The crash came as they have been battling Chadian fighters in Libya’s southern areas on the border with Chad.
The clashes erupted last week and could further destabilize the wider Sahel region, after Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno was killed in April in battels between his government and Chadian rebels.

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Updated 19 September 2021

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

  • Meeting was “to increase coordination in the field of border security”: Hala Akhbar news site
  • Petra said Huneiti and Ayoub discussed border situation in southern Syria and fighting terrorism

AMMAN: Syria’s defense minister met Sunday with Jordan’s army chief in Amman after after Syrian troops captured several rebel-held areas near Jordan’s border, state media reported.
The Hala Akhbar news site, which is linked to Jordan’s military, reported that the meeting between Jordanian Gen. Yousef Huneiti and Syrian Gen. Ali Ayoub was “to increase coordination in the field of border security to serve the interests of the two brotherly countries.”
The recent push by Syrian troops in the country’s south is the biggest since government forces captured wide areas along the border in 2018, including the Nassib border crossing.
The crossing with Jordan was reopened in 2018, months after it fell under Syrian government control. Syrian rebels had seized the site in 2015, severing a lifeline for the government in Damascus and disrupting a major trade route linking Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the oil-rich Gulf countries.
Ayoub’s visit came nearly two weeks after Syrian forces entered the rebel-held district of the volatile southern city of Daraa as part of a truce negotiated by Russia to end weeks of fighting. In the days that followed, Syrian troops captured rebel-held parts of several villages near Daraa.
The latest push by Syrian troops brings all parts of southern Syria under full government control.
Petra, Jordan’s state news agency, said Huneiti and Ayoub discussed border security, the situation in southern Syria, fighting terrorism and confronting narcotics smuggling.
Syrian state TV said the visit came at the invitation of Jordan’s army commander, adding that Ayoub was accompanied by top army officers. It said the talks focused on “fighting terrorism and border control.”
Jordan is a close Western ally and has long been seen as an island of stability in the turbulent Mideast. The kingdom hosts more than 650,000 Syrian refugees.
Earlier this month, ministers from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt said after meeting in Amman that Egyptian natural gas should reach Lebanon through Jordan and Syria as soon as next month, after maintenance of pipelines and the review of a deal interrupted 10 years ago.

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TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway

Updated 19 September 2021

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway

  • The first tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it was taken into Lebanon on tanker trucks on Thursday
  • Mikati said on Friday the Iranian fuel shipments constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty

DUBAI: A third tanker has sailed from Iran carrying Iranian fuel for distribution in Lebanon, TankerTrackers.com reported on Twitter on Sunday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday the Iranian fuel shipments, imported by the Hezbollah movement, constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The Iran-aligned group says the shipments should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
The first tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it was taken into Lebanon on tanker trucks on Thursday.
Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.


Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break

Updated 19 September 2021

Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break

  • A country with a millennia-long history, Iran has an abundance of 746 museums
  • Iran’s museums attracted more than 21 million visitors in the year before the outbreak of COVID-19

TEHRAN: Iran reopened museums in Tehran and other cities Sunday after a more than year-long closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Museums in Tehran and other large cities that are no longer red-coded, meaning the risk of contracting the virus was very high, reopened on Sunday,” the director of Iran’s museums, Mohammad-Reza Kargar, said.
“Tourists and visitors are welcome to return while observing (sanitary) measures.”
A country with a millennia-long history, Iran has an abundance of 746 museums, including 170 in the capital.
“We are absolutely delighted, and we think the people are too because they were fed up with staying home, and visiting museums improves their mood,” Kargar said in his tourism and heritage ministry office.
“We have safety protocols in place of course, and the number of visitors will be dependent on the space at our sites so the public stays safe and healthy.”
Kargar said only students, researchers and staff were allowed into museums during the past 14 months.
Iran’s museums attracted more than 21 million visitors in the year before the outbreak of COVID-19 that forced museums to close in May 2020.
On Sunday, the National Museum of Iran with its magnificent collection of treasures dating back to the Bronze and Iron ages was still deserted.
“We have to wait for the news to spread and schools to reopen for people to come back,” explained Firouzeh Sepidnameh, head of the museum’s pre-Islamic collections.
Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East, has confirmed more than 5.4 million cases of coronavirus, including 117,000 deaths, according to figures issued Sunday by the health ministry.
Out of a population of 83 million, 29 million Iranians have received a first dose of vaccination and almost 14 million have been fully vaccinated against the virus.


Former Algerian president Bouteflika given state funeral

Updated 19 September 2021

Former Algerian president Bouteflika given state funeral

  • Bouteflika passed away on Friday aged 84, having lived as a recluse since he was forced from power
  • State television announced that Bouteflika would be laid to rest at El-Alia cemetery, east of Algiers

ALGIERS: Former Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ousted in 2019 after mass protests, was given a state funeral on Sunday attended by senior officials but received little of the attention given to such occasions in the past.
Bouteflika died on Friday, aged 84. An armoured vehicle decked with flowers pulled his coffin, covered with the national flag, on a gun carriage from his home in Zeralda, west of the capital, to the Al-Alia cemetery in Algiers where five of his predecessors are buried.
Bouteflika was first elected in 1999, and is widely credited with a national reconciliation policy that restored peace after a war with armed Islamists in the 1990s killed an estimated 200,000 people.
But many Algerians blame him for the economic stagnation of his latter years in power, when he was rarely seen in public after suffering a stroke, and widespread corruption led to the looting of tens of billions of dollars from a state that depends heavily on its large gas and oil reserves.
He stepped down in April 2019 after mass demonstrations to reject his plan to seek a fifth term, and demand political and economic reforms.
As well as Bouteflika's family, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who laid a wreath of flowers on the tomb, and many ministers of the current government and military officers, including army chief of staff Lieutenant-General Said Chenegriha, were among the mourners.


Attendees also included foreign diplomats in Algiers.
The French presidency on Sunday described Bouteflika as "a major figure in the contemporary history of Algeria", adding that he embodied the foreign policy of Algeria.
"The President of the Republic sends his condolences to the Algerian people and remains committed to developing close relations of esteem and friendship between the French people and Algerian people," the French presidency said in a statement.
But state media gave little attention to the funeral, and state television did not broadcast live pictures of the burial ceremony, as it has the funerals of past presidents. It later showed recorded footage.
Until 2014, Bouteflika was able to use the export earnings from high energy prices to pay off foreign debt and keep spending on subsidies at high levels to avoid social unrest.
"The years of Bouteflika's rule were a good period. He accomplished major projects, rid the country of foreign debt and brought back peace," said schoolteacher Mohamed Hachi.
But his stroke, and a decline in energy prices, ushered in a more difficult time.
"Bouteflika's period witnessed a terrible spread of corruption that the public couldn't see until after he was forced out of power," said state bank employee Djamel Harchi.
Several former senior officials, including prime ministers, ministers and army generals, have been jailed for corruption since Bouteflika resigned in April 2019 under pressure from a protest movement known as Hirak.
Thousands of members of the leaderless movement continued to take to the streets every week until authorities banned rallies because of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
Bouteflika was a fighter in the 1954-1962 war that ended French colonial rule.
He became Algeria's first foreign minister and one of the forces behind the Non-Aligned Movement, which gave a global voice to many of the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.