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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Climate change ‘not sexy’ in Arab world, but activists say COP18 may pressure region to care


Arab countries have “been the least serious” about global warming, but activists are hoping that the upcoming high-profile COP18 conference in Doha will begin turning the tide in favor of the environment.

“Global warming/climate change is a challenge that can lead to the human collapse of human civilization globally – this is an agreed scientific reality,” said Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network – International in a recent interview with Doha News.

“If we don’t sharply change the way we consume energy in the coming five to seven years, we might not be able to avoid this fate.”

But climate change “is not sexy in the Arab region,” largely because so many of the region’s economies revolve around fossil fuels, he added. Still, the region is under “huge pressure to prove they take this problem seriously.”

Groups like CAN are harnessing that pressure in the run-up to the conference, which starts Nov. 26, by lobbying Arab governments to pledge to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

Such promises, while not legally binding, would help put “a searing of energy into the process,” Hmaidan said, adding that as COP president this year, Qatar should be the first to make a pledge.

Identity issues

“This consumer life from one refrigerated mall to another, this consumer lifestyle – it’s not the values this community was built on,” Hmaidan said. “I’ve heard many Qataris that are not happy with this development – they say they are losing their culture.”

Mona Fadel Abdulla Sulaiti, a Qatari and COP18’s director of exhibition management, agreed.

“We need to pass a message – we are part of protecting our planet. We are not excused from that.”

While the efforts of individuals can make a difference, Hmaidan said the only way to really change the direction the planet is headed in is through government intervention.

“We don’t want to give the false feeling that if you turn off the light behind you the problem is solved and you’ve done your part,” he said.

But governments forcing efficiency standards on buildings that mandate how high an air conditioning unit can go; closing down traditional power plants and replacing them with solar energy; and reducing the consumption culture are all ways Qatar can make a difference, he said.

Meanwhile, activists say they hope the environment continues to be part of conversations in this region far after the conference is over.

“After COP ends, everyone forgets,” said Hmaidan, who will be attending his third COP this year. “Initiating a strong climate movement that continues is a top priority.”


Credit: Photo by Bander AlMutlaq

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