By Neeshad Shafi
Two years after the historic Paris Agreement, it’s time for concrete action in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, but the recent chaos and the embargo on Qatar by its Arab neighbours have given rise to mixed feelings about the future cooperation of the Gulf Block for a collective climate action mechanism in the region. However, the silver lining is that the blockade will provide Qatar with an opportunity to become sustainable and also help in designing regulatory and policy frameworks, which should include policies of long-term certainty for low-carbon energy investments and policy coordination to create ample space for renewable energy. Furthermore, Qatar may also want to ensure its interests are represented in the respective global governance partnership.
As a result of the blockade, business and financial activities were initially interrupted, not only in Qatar but also its neighbouring countries. Climate change impacts the entire MENA region and countries must support collaborative investment on renewables and mitigation for climate action efforts, provide adequate support between the developing countries, track progress to ensure that commitments are delivered and advance new efforts if we are to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.
A regional cooperation in the Gulf countries in areas of low carbon economy and clean energy can help develop climate policy and technical dialogue, and capacity building, of member governments for a long-term implementation of the Paris Agreement. Cooperation between national governments, private sector supported by international agencies and institutions can help tackling climate change and its impacts will depend greatly on action by all levels of government where new and ambitious goals should be set and collaboration should be a way forward. Indeed, engagement of different levels of governments in adaptation and mitigation efforts present a real opportunity for accelerating action, including by getting buy-in of a wide range of stakeholders.
With all Gulf States signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement, GCC countries embarked upon a new economic priority to build truly sustainable and resilient economies that will last beyond oil and natural gas. The Gulf countries’ vulnerability to climate change is real and a joint action to move together towards a low-carbon development and green growth will in turn enable the GCC states to make further contributions to global climate action.
The recently concluded 23rd edition of the annual UNFCCC international meeting COP23 was to figure out how to deal with the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. While on one hand the shadow of Donald Trump and the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement looms large, the climate negotiators worked on details for a ‘rule book’ to be adopted at the 2018 Climate Summit in Poland.
COP23 included a ‘facilitating dialogue’, which consisted of taking stock of all climate related efforts and organising the first negotiations to raise the targets beyond 2020. As defined by the Paris Agreement, these target figures should be reviewed every five years.
Following the success of COP23, another major event to celebrate the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement agreed in the French capital in 2015 was the One Planet Summit. Spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron and co-organised by the United Nations and the World Bank, the forum gathered world leaders to commit to climate financing. Since his election to the French presidency earlier this year, civil society and global leaders have pinned their hopes on Macron against his American counterpart Trump. The US president, who decided to pull America out of the Paris Agreement in June, was not on the invitation list of the One Planet Summit.
The One Planet Summit focused on the financing of climate goals and was aimed at defining the rules of the Paris Climate Agreement, which were rather technical in nature.
Current pledges made so far are inadequate and many are conditional on other countries keeping their side of the bargain. Fresh momentum is sorely needed in the common battle against climate change. A greater collaboration is also required between public and private sectors and between the different levels of governments (international, national, regional and local), whose climate actions and strategies must be better aligned for better results.