The Middle Eastern View of Copenhagen

Todayopens the two-week round of climate change negotiations in Copenhagen,Denmark.

From this corner of the world the conference is a meeting ofgiants – literally, the giant polluters like the U.S. and China, whichmake it seem like there is little the small countries of the MiddleEast can do to stop global warming. But Middle East policy makers stillhave serious goals for reducing dependence on fossil fuels at home.Here’s a brief of the messages coming out of Lebanon, Jordan, Israeland 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, andthe 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 Starthat even though Lebanon is small, the country must devise renewableenergy solutions to reduce its carbon footprint. Further, he saidLebanon has to recycle more than its paltry 8 percent of waste.Regarding Lebanon’s other issues – namely, internal division, Hmaidansaid, “If we don’t work on climate change there is no need to work onanything else.”

Lebanon also issued a plea to the rest of the world to get its acttogether before it’s too late, including reducing emissions by 40percent in the next eleven years. In a meeting of the Lebanese Parliamentand the United Nations Development Program, Lebanon demanded thatindustrial countries donate to the developing world to lower theircarbon footprint, and called for a halt to all ad hoc subsidies ofdirty fuels like coal.

Jordan: 2007 carbon emissions: 19.2 million metric tons.

Queen Raniahas taken a strong stand on the need for solutions to global warming,and Jordan is sending Environmental Minister Khalid Irani toCopenhagen. The Jordan Timesreports the possible consequences to the Hashemite Kingdom: “If climatechange continues at its current pace, Jordan is expected to witness a1-2°C increase in temperatures by 2030-2050, diminished aquifers andoases, 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 industrializedworld, didn’t shy away from digging into Jordan’s problematic carbonprofile. In November, Namrouqa reported that 74 percent of Jordan’scarbon emissions come from energy production, with most of the restfrom waste disposal. Jordanian environmental officials want to jack uprenewable 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 toa climate change conference (until now green NGOs represented Israel).Environmental Minister Gilad Erdan has decided to tackle Israel’s largeper capita carbon footprint (Israel is ranked 30th per capita) byencouraging renewable energy at home and slamming the Ashkeloncoal-fired power plant expansion. He also hired the internationalconsulting 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 Arabneighbors, Israel can expect sparser and less predictable rainfall iftemperatures rise. Yet Erdan has not issued any firm commitments on howmuch 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 ofAnnex 1. This would make any agreements signed in Copenhagen bindingfor Israel.

Egypt: 2007 carbon emissions: 168.7 million metric tons.

According to a Pew research poll,which surveyed global attitudes toward global warming, Egypt’spopulation has gotten much more worried about climate change in thelast few years: Last year, just 38 percent of Egyptians thought it wasa major issue, and this year the figure stands at 54 percent.

Still the Hurriyet Daily Newsreports that Egypt’s controversial new project to green the desert hasraised the hackles of both environmentalists and its upstreamneighbors; at a time when global warming may decrease the surface wateracross Africa, Egypt’s move to divert the Nile to fields has been seenas short-sighted.

For more information, check out the Arab Forum forEnvironment and Development, which has issued joint pan-Arab statementson climate change here.

(Photo from International Land Coalition)

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