An Arab climate plan

Mahmoud Bakr , Tuesday 8 Nov 2022

Mahmoud Bakr met Arab League Director of Environmental and Meteorological Affairs Mahmoud Fathallah to learn more about the League perceptions of climate challenges and solutions

A sandstorm in Iraq photo: AFP
A sandstorm in Iraq photo: AFP


The Arab countries are among the developing nations that are suffering the most from the detrimental impacts of climate change.

Arab League Director of the Department of Environmental and Meteorological Affairs Mahmoud Fathallah told Al-Ahram Weekly in an interview this week that the League has a two-pronged plan for dealing with climate change.

The first part addresses accommodation, with a particular focus on projects in agriculture and water, the areas most impacted by climate change in the Arab region. The second part addresses negotiation issues.

“Arab League members have been meeting daily in order to identify and discuss negotiating priorities and work out a unified Arab stance,” Fathallah said.

He underscored the particularly severe impacts of climate change on some Arab League states. Somalia, for example, has been devastated by widespread famine due to a lack of rainfall during the rainy season for three years running. Food security in other Arab countries is also in grave jeopardy.

Not only is Iraq afflicted by drought, but persistent dust storms have also caused an upsurge in respiratory illnesses and interrupted aerial navigation systems and transportation, aggravating the food supply problem, Fathallah noted.

Water scarcity is a major problem for most Arab countries, he said. “This is why Egypt had to put the question of water security on the agenda of the COP27. It is a critical question that is a product of the climate-change crisis.”

Desertification is another issue of concern to the Arab countries, as 80 per cent of the land in the Arab region is arid or semi-arid. This and related issues fall under the heading of climate-related loss and damage, which, Fathallah said, was discussed at length by the members of the Arab and African group in their preparatory meetings for the COP27.

“The Arab League has contributed several initiatives that we are presenting at the COP27,” Fathallah said. “One concerns climate security in the Arab region, and another addresses funding climate action. We have also submitted a report on Arab efforts to implement the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

With regard to the negotiations, Fathallah said that Arab negotiators were meeting daily to discuss issues on the agenda of the conference. Prime among them is the question of funding, a matter of concern to all the developing nations as Egypt pointed out during its presentation in the opening session of the conference.

Fathallah noted that Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri had highlighted this issue when he had urged the industrialised nations to fulfil their pledge to commit $100 billion a year to help the developing nations meet the challenges of climate change.

There is also the question of technological transfer. “Funding and technological transfer complement each other. We need funding for climate-accommodation projects, and we need technology transfer because without the technology we, as Arab and developing nations, have our hands tied.”

Fathallah lauded the effort that Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul-Gheit has dedicated to climate and environmental concerns. The Arab League General Secretariat has also hosted numerous meetings and seminars on the subject for many years.

The Arab League was represented at the high-level discussion circles on food and water security that took place in Sharm El-Sheikh on 7-8 November. Food security is of central concern to the Arab countries, Fathallah said, and the Arab League members had prepared a unified vision that was presented during the talks.

It took into account the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war on food security in the region.

The Arab League is currently drawing up a comprehensive food security strategy, in collaboration with Arab national and regional organisations. This will foster investment in agriculture using alternative technologies, such as genetic engineering, in order to boost production and adapt to declining water resources, the increased salinisation of the soil, weather changes, and other effects of the climate on agriculture.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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