Copenhagen: Divergent visions

December 12th, 2009 | Posted in Egypt, Environment, Lebanon, Palestine
    Gamal Nkrumah Al-Ahram 10 – 16 December 2009.


    Photo Skyline from the sea coast in Alexandria, Egypt.

Mustafa Tolba, president of the International Centre for Environment and Development and a key participant at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, warned that even though the Arab world produces a mere five per cent of global carbon emissions, several Arab countries are in disproportionate danger from the negative impacts of global warming.

At the Copenhagen Environmental Summit the overriding concern seems to be who is responsible for global warming instead of what to do about the negative impact of climate change.

Much to the consternation of developing countries, concepts such as “carbon credits” and “capping”, where greenhouse gas emissions are traded or permitted only to certain levels, appear high on the agenda, promoted by Western nations. This is regarded as a cop out by underdeveloped countries, mainly the global South. Even middle-income developing countries and emerging markets object.

In effect, the Western stratagem entails bailing out their own industrial offenders, or at best regulating their carbon emissions. Western governments have been divvying up the noxious output of offending industries and then marketing the emissions for development or technological assistance. In industrialised nations many environmental groups regard such moves as a scam.

Demonstrators in the West, such as in London last week, vehemently decried the “carbon cap” as a lethal charade that will penalise the disadvantaged. Tolba lamented the fact that the Copenhagen Document discussed every aspect of the negative impact of global climate change, including the “carbon cap”, with the notable exception of “sea level rises on the lowlands of coastal zones. This is a problem of paramount significance for a country like Egypt.”

Tolba warned that coastal zones in Egypt are under threat, and that the country’s two main ports, Alexandria and Port Said, were particularly under threat. “Alexandria subsides by some 1.5mm annually and Port Said by about 3mm,” Tolba said. This constant erosion of Egypt’s coastal regions, especially the Mediterranean coastal areas, will have grave economic and social ramifications. The inundation and the saltwater intrusion pose grave dangers, Tolba explained. He noted that a third of Egypt’s population and more than 50 per cent of the country’s industrial production are threatened.

Unfortunately, Tolba noted that Arab governments are not prepared for the disaster. Tolba, co-author of the recently released report Climate Change and Arab Countries was pessimistic about the haphazard plans launched by Arab governments to remedy the deplorable environmental situation in the Arab world. Tolba also recently attended “Arab Environment: Future Challenges” conference convened in Beirut last month under the auspices of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED). “We have no Arab policies that are current to handle the impact of climate change and we have no long-term plan,” Tolba stressed.

Tolba’s remarks must be set against the backdrop of the intensifying friction between wealthy industrialised nations in the North and developing countries in the South.

There are two key concerns for developing countries. First, compensation by wealthy nations for loss of farmland as a result of global warming; second, compensation in order to carry out effective measures to meet new levels of carbon emissions demanded by rich nations. Wealthy nations have pledged $10 billion a year for the next three years to placate poor countries threatened with famine, drought and other natural disasters. “This will not buy developing countries’ citizens enough coffins,” Lumumba Di- Aping, a delegate from Sudan, scoffed in exasperation at Copenhagen.

In much the same vein, speaking on behalf of the South, the special envoy of Papua New Guinea concluded that “many countries will want to walk out” if the rich countries don’t cut emissions.

Tolba criticised the fact that the Copenhagen Summit appears to focus on carbon dioxide emissions and other global warming issues but not what he views as the most crucial issue — water utilisation and rising sea levels. At the Beirut climate conference, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman raised another critical concern of countries of the Arab Crescent: “Israel has insistently and systematically exploited the use of our water for decades.”

Israel consumes four times more water per capita as Palestinians. In Copenhagen, Dov Khenin, a member of the Israeli Knesset Environmental Committee admitted that, “our energy market is mostly carbon fuel based. Our renewable energy market is very limited. And our energy market is not sufficient.” The solution, as far as the Israelis are concerned, is to exploit the energy resources of Arab neighbours.

Brazil, India, China and South Africa, representing the interests of the developing countries, are preparing a draft report that they consider a “more balanced vision” than that adopted by developed countries to be officially presented at the Copenhagen Summit.

1 Comment »

Global Warming!-IS- Human/ Industrial Waste!
The best indisputable SCIENCE example that should be the #1 item on the Copenhagen Agenda would be the toxic waste dump, the size of Texas, 900 miles off of the United States and Canadian West Coast.
That is a Big SCIENCE problem with no dedicated U.S SCIENCE and INNOVATION DEPARTMENT to address the issue. The U.S (or Canada) has not even sent out a SCIENCE research vessel to evaluate this ecological disaster; neither country wants to take the responsibility for the industrial/human pollution or even acknowledge its existence.
No Profit-No Action!-No SCIENCE! Will the World Trade Organization and the New Industrial World Order address the issue? Where is their World Department of SCIENCE?
Can the problem be solved with SCIENCE? Probably so, Americans are very ingenious primarily because we were raised with the compliments of Freedom and Democracy and are free thinking individuals. We could probably figure a way to clean up the mess and possibly make a profit doing so.
We can do nothing until we have a DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE that is free to address SCIENCE and to develop the advancement of SCIENCE. (Yes, for the sake of humanity; SCIENCE FIRST.)

Comment by Lawrence Baker — December 12th, 2009 @ 6:53 PM

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