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Environment and development AL-BIA WAL-TANMIA Leading Arabic Environment Magazine

Content Details - 189
December 2013

Dozens of Lebanese seeking new opportunities in Australia lost their lives when a boat carrying them from an island in Indonesia capsized. While the Phoenicians were known to be adventuring traders and daring seafarers roaming throughout the world, their descendants are fleeing their sinking homeland in search for stability and better living conditions.

Prior to the Indonesia boat incident, thousands of immigrants from North Africa, including many Arabs, drowned on board of worn-out boats taking them to Lampedusa Island in southern Italy. They wanted to escape the conflicts and starvation plaguing their side of the Mediterranean. A few weeks later, ten thousand lives were lost in the Philippines as a result of floods and hurricanes. Experts see the frequency and severity of such weather events as a sign of the imminent negative impacts of climate change. They might be mere rehearsal of the actual act to come, which won’t be theater but real calamities affecting real people.

We have repeatedly noticed such catastrophic scenes of people deprived of basic human rights, mostly as a result of futile conflicts that destroyed chances for decent life in their countries. Many of these countries had been, for centuries, governed by tyranny and corruption and plundered of their natural resources by bands of thieves, under the pretext of politics and trade.

Immigrants escaping wars and conflicts, whether to Australia via Indonesia, to Europe through Lampedusa, or through any other ocean, are but a tiny fraction of the mass exodus from the South to the North that will happen when the very likely impacts of climate change strike. All the world’s border security fleets will not be able, then, to stop the starving millions looking for food and shelter from going anywhere, be it to Europe, Australia or America.

Can we imagine the fate of the inhabitants of the countries vulnerable to deteriorating droughts and water scarcity if their present fruitless internal disputes and armed conflicts persist? Their rulers and peoples seem not to be concerned about developing and implementing rational resource management systems or promoting regional cooperation to avoid the anticipated negative consequences. Instead, they are losing time in clashes based either on individual and tribal interests or on metaphysical beliefs. Therefore, their so-called “divine” wars on the heavens are washing away all hopes for decent life on earth.

We cannot, in any case, neglect the challenges of climate change. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the climate is definitely changing rapidly due to human activities. The BBC had to go far to a remote Australian University to find one person with a scientific title who was ready to oppose the report findings. Just three years earlier, there was a campaign by many experts and professionals against the previous IPCC report. IPCC members were accused of manipulating figures and numbers. But things changed in three years. Some countries replaced their skeptic climate change negotiators in the recent Warsaw Summit, and adopted a new approach acknowledging facts and joining international endeavors to confront climate challenges.

The Arab region is among the most affected by climate change. It will witness increased droughts, less water and rising sea levels; and food security will be the first victim. But solutions are possible if Arab countries take immediate effective measures for managin resources, promoting sustainable development and adapting to a changing world. The Arab world is a region where the interconnection among issues of energy, food and water is so grave. This is why the latest report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment discussed the issue of energy as a key component of an integrated sustainable energy system, which also includes water management. The report pointed out that most of the electricity generated in some Arab countries is used for desalination, whereas irrigation efficiency stands low, at an average of 40 percent. This translates into double waste of energy and water. Furthermore, the average efficiency of energy – generation, distribution and consumption is less than 50 percent. Such a situation is an indication of the absence of any proper planning to counter climate change challenges. The AFED report further urged policymakers to address climate change mitigation and adaptation in the energy sector through: a) Systematic assessment and monitoring of energy systems to ensure that they are robust enough to adapt to anticipated climate-related impacts, b) Implementation of energy efficiency and demand management as an adaptation measure, and c) Development of a new holistic approach to deal with the energy-water-climate nexus in the Arab region.

Some Arab countries act as if by defying nature they can solve resource challenges. They are desperately looking for any means to increase food production and power generation, rather than pursuing demand management and sustainable development plans. It should be noted that a 56 percent reduction in consumption can be achieved through the right investment in energy and water efficiency, while maintaining the present food productivity and industrial output levels. Any efficiency measures are definitely less costly than building new power generation and water desalination capacities. But current energy and water subsidy policies in most of the Arab countries, the benefits of which go mostly to the rich, neither promote efficiency nor provide fair competitive grounds for all forms of energy, including oil, gas, solar and wind.

Five years ago, the politburo of the Chinese Communist Party adopted a strategy of promoting solar photovoltaic panels for the generation of electricity. This made China today the world leading manufacturer of photovoltaic panels with their products dominating the markets of the world. Similarly, any change in the Arab countries requires a high-level political decision. Policies of governments should include clear signals that encourage the private sector to invest in energy efficiency, clean energy technologies and renewable.

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Boghos Ghougassian
Recent Publications
Arab Environment 9: Sustainable Development in a Changing Arab Climate
ان جميع مقالات ونصوص "البيئة والتنمية" تخضع لرخصة الحقوق الفكرية الخاصة بـ "المنشورات التقنية". يتوجب نسب المقال الى "البيئة والتنمية" . يحظر استخدام النصوص لأية غايات تجارية . يُحظر القيام بأي تعديل أو تحوير أو تغيير في النص الأصلي. لمزيد من المعلومات عن حقوق النشر يرجى الاتصال بادارة المجلة
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