Ambassador Dr. Mahmoud Fathallah
The year of the Arab climate... from Sharm El-Sheikh to Dubai
The Arab region is one of the most important parts of the world, extending from the ocean to the Gulf, where the elements of history and geography united its inhabitants in customs and traditions, and the two units of water and land brought close distances so that human relations are similar to each other, which increased the strength of the unity of language and belief, which made the intertwining of interests and visions fuse to move towards creating a facility that brings them together. To unify the ranks, the League of Arab States was to document the moral and psychological union between the peoples of the Arab countries, and translate it into organizational and political frameworks to serve as an Arab mouthpiece that expresses the hopes and desires of the Arab peoples. Given that the Arab world is one of the hottest regions most affected by climate change, it was necessary to open the file of the role of the League of Nations. The Arab League to study that impact and its efforts to reduce the negative effects on the Arab peoples, which was addressed in the symposium of Al-Ahram Economic Magazine and the Boutros Ghali Forum under the title “Climate change in the Arab world from COP 27 to COP 28,” in which it hosted the Ambassador Dr. Mahmoud Fathallah, Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Meteorology. Air Force Committee of the League of Arab States to talk about what the League has achieved for the benefit of the Arab peoples within the outcomes of COP 27 and the preparations and hopes expected from COP 28.
At the beginning, Sherif Abdel Baqi, editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram Al-Iqtisadi, spoke, stressing that Egypt is setting its vision according to its successful experience in COP 27, to be the starting point for the success of COP 28, especially since everyone expects a lot from the UAE, because Egypt presented a global model for green projects that were implemented by young people, and it was a successful experience in COP 27. We have a great treasure, which is our youth, which represents 70% of the population’s strength. Therefore, integration between Arab countries contributes to the success of COP28, and climate change has become a reality that the man in the street feels in his daily life. Therefore, it is not money alone that can confront this problem, but rather vision and science.
For his part, Ambassador Mahmoud Fathallah reviewed the issue of climate change in the Arab world, where he summarized it in several important points as it has economic and social dimensions, noting that the economic indicator of the Arab region is determined by its global trade volume at about 5% and that the domestic product does not exceed 3% of the total global product. While the total area of the Arab countries represents about 10% of the world’s area, the region has a global strategic dimension due to it being a storehouse of reserves of various energy sources, reaching 30% for gas and 50% for oil. Therefore, the Arab countries differ in their classification, and we find some of them exporting oil. Some of them export raw materials, such as Sudan and Mauritania, and some of them diversify their exports, such as Egypt. The average per capita income also varies between high income in some countries and medium or low income in other countries. Studies have highlighted a clear discrepancy in the effects it had on environmental deterioration, as it was high. Income increases consumption. There was also variation in the extent of achieving sustainable consumption from one country to another, so this is reflected in the volume of emissions. Therefore, the population growth index was different from one country to another, and also the demographic distribution differed, as we find that about 60% of the population of the Arab world lives in urban areas. At the expense of the countryside, this is reflected in an increase in the level of the carbon footprint and a decrease in the biological capacity of the environment to recover from its deterioration. Ambassador Fathallah added that the university issued a report examining the extent of land degradation in the Arab region, which was prepared by the Arab Organization for Agriculture, which is one of the technical branches of the League of Arab States. The report indicated The deterioration of agricultural lands in the Arab region has reached a rate of up to 7%, which represents a dangerous degree because the Arab region is an arid region. Therefore, it is a dangerous level as it has had a bad impact on the extent of providing food security, especially for strategic crops, where the shortage of corn crop has reached a rate of 14% and wheat. By about 17%, and these numbers are expected to double as the impact of climate change continues. This is why we find that the balance of the trade balance of agricultural goods has become negative in most Arab countries. Therefore, the twenty-two countries differ in their capabilities, challenges, and development rates. This is why the Arab League approved the strategy for dealing with climate change in 2017. 2016 with the aim of determining monitoring mechanisms, especially the scientific aspect, as a ministerial council was established under the umbrella of the strategy, which includes Arab ministers concerned with meteorological affairs, and its role is similar to the IPCC team in the Climate Change Convention. The strategy took into account the environmental conditions of all countries, such as the ability to link to the concept of sustainability and integrate Economy and environment.
Fathallah also added that the strategy for dealing with climate change has developed mechanisms to keep pace with all the outcomes of a climate conference. This is done in cooperation with the secretariat of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and ESCWA. This is done according to two tracks: the first is to develop an action plan to deal with climate change, and the second is to move in the negotiations according to the dimensions of adaptation and mitigation, which In it, we face the problem of achieving a balance between them, as most of the funding is directed to mitigation. Therefore, the university focuses on voluntary mitigation, especially in the field of agriculture, because it collides with the issue of food security and its availability, such as rice cultivation and cow raising, as they are among the biggest negative impacts on the environment. Therefore, the university forms the component negotiating group. From various fields, from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Industry, Irrigation, Agriculture and Environment, periodic meetings are held to coordinate between them to unify visions. The Arab ranks are also unified through the assistance of delegations whose number is small, as they are provided with assistant negotiators so that the roles are distributed. For this reason, cadres are prepared through workshops training for Arab negotiators throughout the year, in which specialists from the Climate Change Convention lecture with the aim of highlighting the technical aspects of technology and the details of the agreement, in addition to lectures from experts from the ESCWA, UNESCO and UNEP organizations. These are efforts through which the university aims to achieve integration in decisions and coordination in order to reach the strengths in achieving In the interest of the Arab countries, this is why the League is preparing to launch a financing strategy during the COP 28 activities to finance climate projects in the Arab region, and the Council of Arab Environment Ministers will be the point of contact. Fathallah added that COP 27 is not the first in the Arab region, but was held before in Morocco and Qatar. However, to its credit, COP 27 addressed the issue of losses and damages and created a fund for this matter. Therefore, it is an important shift in the history of the agreement, like the Paris Conference in 2015. This is in addition to the success of COP 27 in creating awareness momentum among the man in the street in introducing the concept of the climate issue, which in itself is a success on the level masses.
Ambassador Fathallah touched on the concept of climate justice, explaining that the issue of climate change appeared in its first steps to be scientific discussions dealing with the impact of climate change on the environment, but the curve has shifted towards political negotiation since the Kyoto Conference, when the principles of commitment by emitting countries towards the affected countries were discussed, but with increasing Damages The negotiations took on political and social dimensions, human rights, and conflicts arising from climate change. The direction became not only environmental, but also agencies concerned with foreign affairs, defense, and the economy. Demands for achieving justice increased when the term climate refugee appeared, as it appears in Sudan as a result of the floods, where the League developed an aid plan for Sudan, but The matter was in increasing degrees, which is why the university has a disaster management department in cooperation with the United Nations Office to confront natural disasters such as the floods in Oman, the torrents of South Sudan, and the fires in Algeria and Lebanon.
Fathallah stressed that the course of the university’s climate change action plans is carried out through a set of foundations that are jointly implemented by a number of joint Arab action institutions, which are bodies that are arms of the university, such as the Industrial Development Corporation, the Organization of Agriculture and Desertification, and Arab financing institutions, and their practices are carried out in an integrated manner through established codifications. The plan includes developing agricultural systems and introducing various techniques to develop agriculture and combat pests, in addition to relying on national reports on drought and desertification and assisting countries in preparing them. The League is currently in the process of developing a strategic Arab plan for Arab food security by developing a number of programs and activities under the supervision of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development.
Ambassador Fathallah indicated that the League of Arab States is seeking to provide technical support and train cadres to fulfill obligations in international agreements, such as the Arab Strategy for Food Security, which addresses many programs that help Arab countries confront the effects of climate change and provide food, such as developing roots and plants that can withstand high temperatures. Arab heat and soil salinity as a form of adaptation to climate change. This is in addition to the role of national institutions in each country in implementing this activity, as well as achieving consensus among Arab countries in implementing visions in the form of partnerships to unify efforts to achieve these policies. The university also focuses on updating work plans in developing meteorological services in all Arab countries and modernizing the early warning system within the United Nations global program, which aims to spread the idea of establishing early warning centers in every country in the world. The university also focuses on providing technical support to Arab countries in this field.
Ambassador Mahmoud Fathallah added that the university is an emphasis on its pioneering role in establishing relations with many international forums, all of which are on the agenda of the forums, such as Arab-European cooperation, which is the green deal with Europe, where the university proposed dialogue and discussions about the work of that deal, especially since the European importer sets environmental standards. It hinders Arab production from entering the European market, so the university focused on providing financial and technical support to complete exports to Europe according to those standards, such as the carbon tax. The university also concluded a memorandum of understanding with China in order to establish an Arab-Chinese center to combat drought and desertification through the exchange of experiences, through which Implementation mechanisms have been determined and working will begin in the next phase. The university is focusing on preparing notes for all the events of the planet and presenting all the daily events collected and sending them to each country daily and not at the end of the planet. They will be in the form of daily reports including the initiatives that were put forward, the topics that were discussed, the progress of the negotiations, and the theses put forward by the negotiators. In 2019, the university implemented a climate financing project in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Climate Change Convention with the aim of identifying the needs of each Arab country to achieve adaptation and mitigation. The university asked each Arab country to prepare detailed reports, especially since many countries have a deficiency in preparing projects and proposals that are being prepared. Approval, as this requires some conditions set by the financing funds, some of which are an obstacle to achieving the state’s demand, such as Palestine, whose projects are rejected. Therefore, the university determined that the evaluation be carried out according to each sector, so that adaptation or mitigation projects are determined according to the principle of those most in need, and this varies from one country to another. Especially since donors were directing 79% of funding to mitigation projects, while adaptation-oriented projects received 17%, and 4% of funding was directed to projects that combine adaptation and mitigation.
Get ready for CUP 28
Dr. Fathallah explained that the League of Arab States is preparing for the COP 28 climate conference by launching a series of events during this year 2023, which was called the Year of the Arab Climate, from Sharm El-Sheikh to Dubai, with the aim of raising many issues and activities, such as establishing a special pavilion for the League in the Blue Zone in COP. 28, which aims to be a platform for the university from which many initiatives and strategies can be launched, in addition to representing an important political dimension in the university’s presence within the conference activities. The Arab interactions item, which is one of Egypt’s theses at COP 27, will also be activated so that everything new in the conference will be presented. The field of climate change for each Arab country and its discussion on the League’s agenda, such as approving a law or completing a project or initiative related to climate change. Therefore, the League is on a path that aims to achieve integration between Arab countries in the long or medium term, whether in the field of biodiversity, desertification, or development, such as projects electrical connection between Arab countries.
The most important recommendations of the symposium were crystallized in the importance of focusing on spreading awareness of the climate issue at the Arab level, achieving smart agriculture methods in the Arab world to provide food security in light of the impact of climate change, and spreading the idea of rain enhancement techniques in the Arab countries to achieve the maximum benefit from rain in areas that benefit, with the importance of Developing a system that ensures readiness to confront the problems of climate change while providing opportunities for exchanging information and providing data.