Qatar’s Fight Against Climate Change

Qatar's environmental records have always been in news, of course for the negative ones, but it has always strived to work towards reduction of GHGs emissions. Qatar is already doing plenty to help poor countries with financing and it seems unfair to focus on per capita emissions for a country with estimated population of 2.27 million making it the 143th most populous country on earth. (For climate talks, that is heresy). This may sound harsh, especially since Qatar's contribution to global warming is tiny compared with the United States, China or India.

In recent years, Qatar is making itself a benchmark for all future sustainable and renewable initiatives in the Middle East. Qatar is committed to creating a cleaner and more energy efficient environment which is expected to make significant contributions in addressing climate change challenges and moving towards a more sustainable future. However, these positive moves will not be enough to cover up the fact that Qatar, much as the other oil-producing countries in the Gulf, has still not made any commitment as part of the UN climate talks.

Qatar’s Revamping Climate Plans

In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar aims to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Sustainable development has been identified as one of the top priorities in Qatar’s National Development Strategy. Environmental Development is one of the four main pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to manage rapid domestic expansion to ensure harmony between economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.

According to recent reports, Qatar is getting close to opening its long-delayed 200-megawatt solar tender. Qatar currently has a stated goal of installing 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity by 2030; the 200 MW solar tender represents just a portion of the installations expected over the coming years, but is still a noteworthy quantity. Qatar, as part of its environmental commitment and sustainable development, is turning to renewable sources of energy such as solar power, with initiatives already underway.

Qatar Foundation (QF) plays an instrumental role in Qatar’s sustainability efforts as it helps transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. It also endeavors to realize this vision by making sustainability an integral part of the day-to-day lives of local residents. By doing so, QF is working towards achieving its own strategic mission of unlocking human potential and promoting creativity and innovation.

Qatar Foundation (QF), in partnership with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), is setting up a pioneering Climate Change Research Institute and a Global Climate Change Forum as part of MoU signed on sidelines of COP 18 UNFCC Doha conference in 2012. The Institute, the first of its kind in the region, will seek to fill critical gaps in research on mitigation, adaptation and climate resiliency for key regions such as tropics, sub-tropics and dry lands. However, it is making a very slow pace due to various issues.

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is producing up to 85 percent of Qatar's total solar energy as it announced the launch of one of the Gulf region's first Energy Monitoring Centre (EMC) to manage its smart grid and monitor solar power generation across all sites within Education City. The EMC is part of the recently completed Solar Smart-Grid Project that added a total of 1.68MW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at various facilities. The PV systems at QF now generate 5,180 MWh of clean energy annually, resulting in savings of around 2,590 tons of CO2 emissions every year.

The Qatar Green Building Council, a QF member was established in 2009 to promote sustainable growth and development in Qatar through cost efficient and environment-friendly building practices. There has been rapid progress in green building sector in Qatar with the emergence of many world-class sustainable constructions in recent years. With the fifth-highest number of LEED-registered and certified buildings outside the U.S., Qatar has valuable experience and inputs to offer on the system’s local relevancy and application.

Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) which hosted Doha UNFCCC climate conference COP 18/CMP8 was the first LEED certified project in Qatar and remains its largest rooftop solar system installed to date. Subsequently, Qatar Foundation continues to have the largest pipeline of all PV installations in the country, in addition to its pipeline of LEED-certified green buildings. With more than five megawatts of solar energy installations planned, Qatar Foundation's clean efforts are one of the largest in the Gulf region.

QF is equally dedicated to sustainable infrastructural development. For instance, the student-housing complex at Education City is currently one of the only platinum LEED-certified student housing complexes in the world. Having earned 12 Platinum LEED certifications in the category of ‘New Construction’ from the US Green Building Council, it is also the largest collection of platinum LEED- certified buildings in one area in the world.

Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) has officially opened one of the largest vertically integrated PV module production facilities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The 300 MW facility, located in the Doha industrial zone of Qatar, is the first significant development of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels in favor of more renewable energy sources. Qatar's fledgling forays into the solar PV sector have gathered pace last year, when state-backed Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) acquired a 29% stake in SolarWorld in a move that raised eyebrows throughout the industry.

The Head of Qatar’s state-run electricity and water company (Kahramaa) has already announced ambitious plans to install solar panels atop the roofs of many of the country’s 85 reservoirs. With these latest plans are for creative solution to Qatar’s lack of viable land space (the country measures just 11,571km²), it is a must in a country with very little available land for large-scale solar plants. Qatar will adopt a scattered model, installing several small- to medium-sized PV installations.

Qatar's National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) has been a driving force behind the nation’s thirst for renewable energy, creating an action plan designed to better utilize Qatar’s abundant solar radiation. Meanwhile, Qatar Solar Tech 70% owned by the Qatar Foundation (QF) has announced that it is scaling up its local manufacturing capabilities, and will build a 297 acre solar farm in the country’s Ras Laffan Industrial City.

As the host country for 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has pledged solar-powered stadiums and the country is also working on a range of other solar projects gearing up to this Football Extravaganza.

Conclusions

Climate change and increase in temperatures is making Qatar even more vulnerable to the lack of water and food insecurity. Every single drop of water that is used in Qatar needs to be desalinated. Every single gram of food that is eaten needs to be either imported or grown with desalinated water. The plunging price of oil, coupled with advances in clean energy and resource conservation, offers Qatar a real chance to rationalize energy policy. Qatar can get rid of billions of dollars of distorting energy subsidies whilst shifting taxes towards carbon use. It is heartening to see that Qatar has recognized the importance of renewable energy and sustainability and its fight for reducing its ecological footprint. A cheaper, greener, sustainable and more reliable energy future for Qatar could be within reach.

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Making a Switch to Circular Economy

All forms of wealth and security, including climate stability, biodiversity, resource availability, soil fertility, air and water purity and health, are depleted by the systemic error of running a linear economy. Linear economics consumes the basis for future growth so what is now growing fastest is unproductive activity, inactivity and instabilities. The credit crunch marks the withdrawal of faith in growth-as-usual and any reliable revival of growth and prosperity requires a switch of vision.

Circular Economics

The future for growth is circular economics where more economic activity would mean a faster pace of change away from waste-making and towards looking after the world and all its inhabitants. This would preserve and regenerate material value, co-operation and natural capital instead of losing it, so growth would work to build the basis for more growth. Today this may appear idealistic. Yet if circular economics was already practiced, and people were accustomed to prosperity based on resource security, then any proposal to adopt an exploitive self-defeating vision would be laughable.

Promise of Precycling

Economic dependence on waste is perpetuated by managing waste primarily as an addiction to disposal, “how can we get rid of all this junk?” The ‘waste hierarchy’ (reduce, reuse, recycle, then dispose) that has been available since 1975 is commonly quoted but in practice the bulk of effort and funding provides for continuing long-term disposal to ecosystems (by landfill, waste-burning and pollution). The waste hierarchy is being used backwards and no nation has yet attempted to create the incentives for an economy that grows from the work done to end waste dumping and implement circular economics. This is achievable with the concept of ‘precycling’ originally used for public waste education.

Precycling is applicable throughout an economy and may be understood as action taken to prepare for current resources to become future resources. The ‘pre’ prefix emphasises that this cannot be arranged after something becomes waste; it must be done beforehand. The scope of action extends far beyond recycling, to creating the economic, social and ecological conditions for all resources to remain of use to people or nature.

Precycling Insurance

A simple economic tool is available to switch from linear to circular economics and from dumping waste to dumping the habit of wasting. This tool internalises diverse externalities efficiently within markets by paying the price of preventing problems instead of the larger or unaffordable price of not preventing them. Precycling insurance is an extension of the EU WEEE Directive’s ‘recycling insurance’ from just recycling to all forms of preventing all products becoming waste in any ecosystem. This allows a single economic instrument to work with the issues at every stage of product life-cycles. Significant producers would be obliged to consider the risk of their products ending up as waste in ecosystems and to retain responsibility for insuring against that risk.

Life Insurance for Products and Planet

Precycling insurance is a form of regulation to be set-up in every nation but not centrally planned. The volume of regulation can be cut but its effectiveness drastically boosted. For example, emissions can be cut rapidly with no need for any further ineffectual negotiations about capping. Unlike taxes, the premiums from precycling insurance would not be handled by governments (whose role would be to legislate, monitor and ensure full public transparency).

Unlike conventional insurance, the premiums would not be collected up and then paid out following (potentially irrecoverable) planet crunch shocks. Premiums would be distributed by insurers and invested preventively throughout society, to cut the risk of resources being lost as wastes. Support would be provided for the dialogue, understanding, participation, capabilities, designs, efficiencies, facilities and ecological productivity needed to return used matter as new resources for people and for nature. Today’s resources would feed tomorrow’s economy.

A Free Market in Harmony with Nature

Precycling insurance would switch the power of markets to reversing the planet crunch. The speed and scale of change would exceed the expectations of all who are accustomed to ineffectual controls designed to make markets less-bad. All market participants (such as buyers, sellers, investors and governments) would adapt their decisions to the new incentives, profiting by addressing actual needs rather than superficial consumerist wants.

Producers would remain free to choose how to meet customers’ needs without waste, and even free to continue making wasteful products, in competition with other producers cutting their costs (including precycling insurance costs) by cutting their product’s waste risk. Economic growth would no longer be a competitive scramble between people rushing to acquire and discard ever more resources from an every-shrinking stock. The economy would prosper in harmony, rather than in conflict, with nature.

Shrinking Material and Energy Demands

The material requirements of today’s linear economy would rapidly shrink since the new incentives would lead to the most needs being met with the least materials moved the least distance and then regenerated rather than dumped. The energy requirements of today’s linear economy would rapidly shrink since a smaller material flow with higher quality materials closer to where they are needed requires less energy to process. Shrinking energy dependence is the key to energy security, economic recovery, climate restabilisation and prevention of conflict over diminishing non-renewable resources. The resource and energy efficiency of circular economics makes it realistic to plan the necessary reductions in GHG concentrations (ie net-negative emissions).

 

Note: This article is part 4 of 8 of author's Advanced Research Workshop paper, Seven Policy Switches for Global Security, for the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme

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Climate Change Impacts in the Levant

Many countries in the Levant — such as Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria — are afflicted by water scarcity, weak institutional and governmental resource management, high food import dependency and fragile economies –  all coupled with increasing populations and demand. According to the recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the Arab World will be witnessing hotter and drier conditions with extensive droughts causing severe water shortages that will have dire impacts on agriculture and livelihood. Farmers in the Arab world for centuries have been addressing adaptation and resilience issues through farming, water management and environmental degradation. Global climate change is foreseen to increase the severity of climatic conditions and increase the vulnerability of resource dependent countries and communities.

Water Scarcity

Water scarcity is one of the issues expected to increase with climate change. This will adversely affect livelihoods and sectors like agriculture, which is the largest water user in the country. The Levant region is projected to be one of the most severely impacted region in the world as per most general circulation models (GCMs) due to the expectation of severe water scarcity which will in turn impact its socio-economic development (Assaf, 2009). The Levant states’ engagement in the UNFCCC process is vital since major regional studies conducted by the Arab Development and Environment Forum forecasts alarming impacts part of which suggests that increasingly scarce water resources will be further reduced between 15-50% in all four countries.

Moreover, due to water loss and land degradation agricultural self-sufficiency is dismal, especially when considering inefficient irrigation techniques that are more suitable to other areas instead of the Levant region, e.g. severe land degradation in the Euphrates Valley of Syria (Nasr, 2009). This in turn will result and influence the whole issue of food security leading to widespread poverty in the region. The situation may be exacerbated due to current political instability and conflict in the area — noting that Syria is heavily dependent on water resources outside its borders, while Jordon already consumes more than 100% of their available water (Nasr, 2009; Tolba and Saab, 2009). Jordon, ranked as the fourth most water insecure country in the world, has already identified four critical sectors – water, energy, agriculture and food security – in addition to waste reduction and management.

Agriculture

Increase in temperatures and decrease in rainfall also characterizes the main climatic changes facing Levant countries such as Lebanon. Agricultural sector in Levant is expected to experience minimal impact of climate change. However, a reduced amount of agricultural land will be available due to desertification and urban expansion. This means that agriculture will be affected and the price of vegetables, fruits, and other agricultural products will rise as well, bringing about negative impacts on marginalized communities.

Increase in Sea Level

An additional factor is the expected rise in sea level that could further contaminate the nearby aquifers such as the coastal aquifer of Gaza that should provide water to impoverished Palestinians. The annual decrease in precipitation has led to less freshwater availability for surface or ground water. It is being projected that a one meter rise in 50 years will cause salt intrusions in Iraq well into the north beyond Basra and intrude into water aquifers in Lebanon, as far as downtown Beirut and Dbayyeh areas (Nasr, 2009).

Political Vulnerability

With stringent Israeli control on natural resources use and management, the Palestinian Authority lacks the capacity to enforce regulations and mechanisms to ensure the integ1ration of climate change impacts into development planning in the country. This ultimately increases the vulnerability of governmental and nongovernmental institutions and further intensifies the vulnerability and exposure of communities to the effects of climate change. Nevertheless, climate change adaptation planning is supported by governmental institutions like the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and the Water Authority in addition to environmental NGOs and engaged stakeholders. Similar to Jordan, Palestine climate projections clearly state that water shortages will increase, increasing the water asymmetry already existing due to the unequal use of water between Israel and Palestinian areas.

Economic Considerations

In the Levant region, the water sector currently undergoes several environmental stresses resulting from different socio- economic activities and practices, including agriculture, energy, and transport. The potential impacts of climate change on the coastal zone include losses in coastal and marine economic activities such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries, transportation and other essential services. Coastal communities relying on ecosystem services, such as fishing for livelihoods will bear the impacts of increase in sea water temperature as the marine fish stock might decrease and marine biodiversity miay change or decline.

In countries such as Lebanon, the coastal zone has very high population density (estimated at around 594 inhabitants per km2) and is characterized by a concentration of Lebanon’s main economic activity. In fact, the largest Lebanese cities (Beirut, Saida, Tripoli and Tyre) are located along the coast, and contribute to more than 74% of Lebanon’s GDP through commercial and financial activities, large industrial zones, important agricultural lands as well as fishing and tourism.

In addition to organizational and technical constrains similarly faced by other Levant countries, Palestine is also experiencing political constrains due to the Israeli situation. The shared trans-boundary groundwater is unequally distributed  with Israel using more than 80% of Palestinian water resources.

Research Gap

Due to economic growth and increasing population, energy demand is expected to rise by at least 50 percent in some countries over the next 20 years. The provision of reliable energy supply at reasonable cost is thus a crucial element of economic reform and sustainable development. Transportation sector is of crucial importance for the regions further economic development. In general terms, lack of and access to data are the main barriers that proved to be the most hindering. The lack of statistics particularly affects the assessment of GHG emissions and economic development scenarios. In turn, governments have blamed the weak economic base for the inability to support research. The absence of scientific assessments and research in terms of assessing e.g. economic impacts of climate change, the ecological impacts of global warming and the degree of resilience of the different systems are hindering the prioritization of adaptation strategies in the decision-making process.

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Green Finance in Middle East

Green finance is among the most important enablers that would boost innovation and increase the adoption of green solutions and practices across different industrial sectors. Green finance, which has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, provides public well-being and social equity while reducing environmental risks and improving ecological integrity.

Middle East is making good progress towards green growth and low-carbon economy. “The latest regional trends highlight the need for green financing mechanisms to support transition to green economy”, said Ruba Al-Zu’bi, CEO of EDAMA. “While green may be the obvious feasible and sustainable approach, access to finance makes it more appealing for small and medium enterprises and to individuals to promptly take the right decision”, she added.

Jordan is one of the earliest proponents of green finance in the Middle East. “Green finance in Jordan is being offered through public channels, such as the Jordan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund (JREEEF), commercial banks, micro-finance institutions as well as International Financial Institutions”, said Ruba.  “Most of green finance mechanisms are supported by technical assistance, awareness-raising and targeted marketing activities, all ofwhich are crucial to success of green projects”, she said.

In the GCC, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) is gearing up to launch a $500 million green bond, the first in the region. This green bond will provide a boost to renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, and is expected to catalyze sustainable development projects in the GCC.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi has the distinction of being the first issuer of green bonds in the Middle East

To sum up, green finance will act as a major enabler for local, regional and international financing needs of green projects. The upcoming COP22 in Marrakesh is expected to provide impetus to climate change mitigation and adaptationprojects across the Middle East region. The key to success, according to Ruba Al-Zu’bi, will be market readiness, effective governance frameworks, capacity-building and technology transfer.

Key Questions about COP21 Climate Agreement

The headlines from the CO21 Climate Summit tell an inspiring story. Agence France-Presse reported an outbreak of “euphoria” as the international climate accord was sealed. Reuters hailed a global “turn from fossil fuels.” The Guardian headlined “a major leap for mankind.” As the euphoria of delegates at the UN climate talks in Paris fades, it is time to get down to the business of saving the planet and ask what it means for me.

This time, they were. They managed to seal a pact that sets a surprisingly ambitious target for limiting global warming, reflects the vast differences between countries in terms of their different historical and current responsibilities for causing climate change, and recognizes poorer countries’ need to eradicate poverty even as they embark on a more sustainable development path.

Unfortunately, however, the main text of the agreement is long on rhetoric and short on action.

Here are the key questions about the COP21 climate agreement.

What have we achieved?

The world's first comprehensive climate change agreement which will see action to curb rising temperatures by all countries.

Why we needed a new deal?

If we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere on current trajectories, we are facing a world with temperatures of more than 4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 – hotter globally than at any time in human history.

Rising temperatures will lead to sea level rises, more intense storms and flooding, more extreme droughts, water shortages and heatwaves – as well as massive loss of wildlife and reduction in crop yields, potentially sparking conflict, mass migration and public health concerns.

The higher temperatures rise, the worse the situation will be – so we need to curb the emissions that cause global warming.

Why are we only doing something now?

This deal has effectively been 20 years in the making. A first treaty, the Kyoto Protocol – which was adopted in 1997, only covered the emissions of developed countries – and the US never ratified it.

It runs out in 2020 and the Paris Agreement will be its successor.

Why has it taken so much time?

World leaders tried to secure a deal in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, at talks which was a failure. A weak agreement came out of acrimonious talks which scarred the UN climate process and everybody involved.

But in Durban, South Africa, two years later, the EU teamed up with some of the world's poorest countries to get nations to agree to work towards a new deal to be secured in Paris this year.

Why was it different this time?

The world is not just out of recession like in 2009, the costs of technology such as solar panels have fallen while deployment has grown exponentially and countries are keen to tackle the problem for other reasons, such as to cut air pollution in China.

The science is even clearer, with the UN's global climate science body called IPCCC warning last year that global warming was "unequivocal".

Countries also started negotiating a lot earlier, with 187 countries covering more than 95% of the world's emissions putting forward national climate plans for action they will take up to 2030, before or in a few cases during the conference.

Why do we need an agreement too?

The climate plans by countries are not enough, as the emissions curbs in the commitments still put the world on track for a 3C rise in global temperatures by 2100.

So the deal includes a kind of "review and ratchet" system for countries to update and increase their levels of climate action every five years, based on a global assessment of how far nations are off meeting the long term goal to tackle climate change.

Countries are being requested to submit updates, by 2020, to their existing plans out to 2030 after an initial stocktaking exercise in 2018.

So has the planet been saved?

Only history will tell how successful this deal will be.

Tackling climate change will involve a vast, global, transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy, as well as curbing deforestation and emissions from agriculture – with experts warning of the need to reduce emissions to net zero later in the century to stabilize the climate.

The COP21 Paris climate agreement is truly a watershed moment in the world's fight against climate change. It creates a legally binding framework for progress, and that's fundamentally new.

But grand ambitions also must be met with concrete action.

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Green Finance: Powering Sustainable Tomorrow

Green finance provides linkage between the financial industry, protection of the environment and economic growth. Simply speaking, green finance refers to use of financial products and services, such as loans, insurance, stocks, private equity and bonds in green (or eco-friendly) projects. Green finance, which has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, provides public well-being and social equity while reducing environmental risks and improving ecological integrity. For example, global interest in green energy finance is increasing at a rapid pace – in 2015, investments in green energy reached an all-time high figure of US$ 348.5 billion, which underscores the significance of green finance.

Potential and Promise

Environmental sustainability, climate change mitigation, resource conservation and sustainable development play a vital role in access to green finance. During the past few years, green finance (also known as climate finance) has gained increasing relevance mainly due to the urgency of financing climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, and scale of sustainable development projects around the world.

The impetus has been provided by three major agreements adopted in 2015 – Paris Agreement on climate change, a new set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the ‘financing for development’ package. The implementation of these agreements is strongly dependent on finance, and realizing its importance the G20 nations established Green Finance Study Group (GFSG) in February 2016, co-chaired by China and the UK, with UNEP serving as secretariat.

According to Sustainable Energy for All, a global initiative launched by the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, annual global investments in energy will need to increase from roughly US$400 billion at present to US$1-1.25 trillion, out of which US$40-100 billion annually is needed to achieve universal access to electricity. On the other hand, around US$5-7 trillion a year is needed to implement the SDGs globally. Such a massive investment is a big handicap for developing countries as they will face an annual investment gap of US$2.5 trillion in infrastructure, clean energy, water, sanitation, and agriculture projects. Green finance is expected to fill this gap by aligning financial systems with the financing needs of a sustainable or low-carbon economy.

Bonding with Green

An emerging way to raise debt capital for green projects is through green bonds. Green bonds are fixed income, liquid financial instruments dedicated exclusively to climate change mitigation and adaption projects, and other environment-friendly activities. The prime beneficiaries of green bonds are renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transport, forest management, water management, sustainable land use and other low-carbon projects.

A record US$41 billion worth of green bonds was issued in 2015 which is estimated to rise to US$80 billion by the end of 2016. Notably, the World Bank issued its first green bond in 2008, and has since issued about US$8.5 billion in green bonds in 18 currencies. In addition, the International Finance Corporation issued US$3.7 billion, including two US$1 billion green bond sales in 2013.

Green bonds enable fund raising for new and existing projects with environmental benefits

Green bonds have the potential to raise tens of billions of dollars required each year to finance the global transition to a green economy. According to International Energy Agency, around $53 trillion of energy investments are required till 2035 to put the world on a two-degree path, as agreed during the historic Paris Climate Conference COP21. The main drivers of green bonds for investors includes positive environmental impact of investments, greater visibility in fight against climate change and a strong urge for ‘responsible investment’.

Key Bottlenecks

Many developing countries experience hurdles in raising capital for green investment due lack of awareness and to inadequate technical capacities of financial institutions. Many banks, for instance, are not familiar with the earnings and risk structure of green investments, which makes them reluctant to grant the necessary loans or to offer suitable financing products. With rising popularity of green finance, it is expected that financial institutions will quickly adapt to funding requirements of environment-friendly projects.

Earth Day 2017: Environmental and Climate Literacy

The campaign theme for Earth Day 2017 is Environmental & Climate Literacy, and conservationists, researchers and educators will be using this Earth Day to increase awareness about climate change and environmental issues. Earth Day has now grown into a global environmental tradition making it the largest civic observance in the world and is widely celebrated event in which over one billion people from over 190 countries will participate by taking suitable actions for saving our mother Earth.

Significance of Climate Literacy

Education is the foundation for progress. We need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection.

The campaign hopes to not only educate and inspire but also advance policies geared towards defending our environment and accelerating green jobs and technologies. To achieve these aims, Earth Day 2017 encourages everyone to gather with their communities for an Environmental & Climate Literacy Teach-In.

“Education is the foundation for progress,” Earth Day Network said on their website. “We need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection.”

Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for green growth and advancing environmental and climate laws and policies but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs.

Time for Action

Planting trees and enhancing forest cover is critical work because it has the potential to restore land, benefit local communities, and combat climate change. In fact, poverty is linked to deforestation, and without tackling sectors like agriculture and forestry, it will be nearly impossible to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Environmental education is the foundation for progress.

To help jumpstart Earth Day education efforts, the Earth Day Network has downloadable Earth Day Action Toolkits available that explain scientific and environmental crises caused by human actions. By providing this literature, the network is hoping to help enact change and take steps toward progress.

The Earth Day movement is continuing, entering the 47th year to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion, and motivate people to action. Let us contribute to the best of our capabilities. This initiative will make a significant and measurable impact on the Earth and will serve as the foundation of a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet for all.

You can also get involved by making small green changes in your lifestyle:

  • Walk to work, cycle or take public transport
  • Cut back on single use plastics
  • Recycle
  • Go paperless
  • Go meat or dairy free at least once a week
  • Plant a tree
  • Buy local produce

 

Renewable Energy Prospects in Kuwait

shagaya-renewable-energy-parkRenewable energy is in nascent stages in Kuwait, however there has been heightened activity in recent years mainly on account of the need for diversification of energy resources, climate change concerns and greater public awareness. The oil-rich State of Kuwait has embarked on a highly ambitious journey to meet 15 per cent of its energy requirements (approximately 2000 MW) from renewable resources by 2030. One of the most promising developments is the kick-starting of the initial phase of 2GW Shagaya Renewable Energy Park in 2015. Al-Abdaliyah integrated solar project is another promising solar venture currently at pre-qualification stage, which will have a total capacity of 280 MW, out of which 60 MW will be contributed by solar thermal systems.

Potential of Renewables

In Kuwait, the predominant renewable energy resource is available in the form of solar and wind. The country has one of the highest solar irradiation levels in the world, estimated at 2100 – 2200 kW/m2 per year. The average insolation of 5.2 kWh/m2/day and maximum annual sun hours of around 9.2 hours daily makes Kuwait a very good destination for solar power plant developers.

Wind energy also has good potential in the country as the average wind speed is relatively good at around 5m/s in regions like Al-Wafra and Al-Taweel. Infact, Kuwait already has an existing 2.4MW Salmi Mini-windfarm, completed in 2013, which mainly serves telecommunication towers in remote areas and the fire brigade station in Salmi. As far as biomass energy is concerned, it has very limited scope in Kuwait due to arid climate and lack of water resources.

Kuwait's Renewable Energy Program

Interestingly, Kuwait has been one of the earliest advocates of renewable energy in the Middle East with its involvement dating back to mid-1970s; however the sector is still in its early stages. The good news is that renewable energy has now started to move into development agenda and political discourse in Kuwait. The Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR) and the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (KAPP) are playing an important role in Kuwait’s push towards low-carbon economy. KISR, in particular, has been mandated by the government to develop large-scale alternative energy systems in collaboration with international institutions and technology companies.

Kuwait’s renewable energy program, with the aim to generate 2GW renewable energy by 2030, has been divided into three stages. The first phase involves the construction of 70 MW integrated renewable energy park (solar PV, solar thermal and wind) at Shagaya which was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. The second and third phases are projected to produce 930 MW and 1,000 MW, respectively.

The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), founded in 1967, is one of the earliest research institutions in GCC to undertake commercial-scale research on potential applications and socio-economic benefits of renewable energy systems in Kuwait as well as GCC.

Shagaya Renewable Energy Park

Shagaya Renewable Energy Park comprises of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and wind power systems, being built on a 100 km2 area in Shagaya, in a desert zone near Kuwait’s border with Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The $385 million first phase, scheduled to be operational by the end of 2016, will include 10MW of wind power, 10MW of solar PV, and 50MW of solar thermal systems. The project’s thermal energy storage system, based on molten salt, will have nine hours of storage capacity, one of the few projects worldwide with such a large capacity.

Shagaya is to Kuwait as Masdar is to Abu Dhabi.

Shagaya is to Kuwait as Masdar is to Abu Dhabi.

Future Perspectives

The major driving force behind Kuwait’s renewables program is energy security and diversification of energy mix. The country has one of the world’s highest per capita consumption of energy which is growing with each passing year. In recent years, the Middle East has received some of the lowest renewable-energy prices awarded globally for both photovoltaic and wind power which seems to have convinced Kuwait to seriously explore the option of large-scale power generation from renewable resources. However, Kuwait has a long way to go before renewable energy can make a real impact in its national energy mix.

Another key driver for Kuwait’s transition to low-carbon economy is its carbon and ecological footprints, which is among the highest worldwide. Widespread use of renewable power will definitely help Kuwait in putting forward a ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ image in the region and beyond. The business case for green energy proliferation in Kuwait is strengthened by widespread availability of solar and wind resources and tumbling costs of alternative energy systems.

Earth Day 2015 – It’s Our Turn to Lead

Like Earth Days of the past, Earth Day 2015 will focus on the unique environmental challenges of our time. As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever. Earth Day 2015 will seek to do just that through its global theme: It’s Our Turn to Lead. With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our cities and forge a sustainable future. Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

Due to rising population, more migration is taking place from rural to urban areas. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities with urbanisation rates rising and impacts of climate change have prompted the need to create sustainable communities. The Earth day is observed believing that nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

It is a fact that people are crowding cities and with the increase in population density, pollution of all sorts is increasing as well. Many cities are finding it difficult to cope with this fast urbanisation and to provide basic facilities like shelter, infrastructures, water, sanitation, sewerage, garbage, electricity, transportation etc. to its inhabitants.

People who live in high-density air pollution area, have 20 per cent higher risk of dying from lung cancer, than people living in less polluted areas. Children contribute to only 10 per cent of the world’s population but are prone to 40 per cent of global diseases. More than 3 million children under the age of 5 years die every year due to environmental factors like pollution.

Earth Day 2015 will seek to create awareness amongst people to act in an environmental friendly manner, promote and do smart investments in sustainable urban system transforming our polluted cities into a healthier place and forge a sustainable future. It’s exceptionally challenging for our communities and cities to be green.

Time for Action

It’s time for us to invest in efficiency and renewable energy, rebuild our cities and towns, and begin to solve the climate crisis. Most of the Middle East nations have limited land area and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change which is affecting the social and environmental determinants of health, clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. We need to audit our actions and see what are we contributing towards your environment and community? Earth Day is a day for action; a chance to show how important the environment is to us. Earth Day is about uniting voices around the globe in support of a healthy planet. The earth is what we all have in common.

Let us be a part of this green revolution, plan and participate in Earth Day activities moving from single-day actions, such as park cleanups and tree-planting parties to long-term actions and commitments and make our city a healthier place to live as the message of the Earth Day is to “Actively participate and adopt environmental friendly habits”.

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Environmental Education: Key to a Better Future

environmental-educationTomorrow's leaders need to be equipped for tomorrow's challenges, and we must adequately prepare our children for the future they will inherit. As climate change is being felt across the globe and its long term catastrophic impacts have never been so scientifically clear, environmental education is the key to a better future. In an era where more and more children are disconnected from nature, we should recognize the importance of making a real investment in environmental education and outdoor learning. Studies have shown environmental education engages students in learning, raising test scores, and encouraging youth to pursue career in environmental and natural resources. And not only that: environmental education can help children perform better in social studies, science, language, arts, and mathematics.

Engagement at Different Levels

The secret to environmental education is to act at different levels, engaging the entire school and addressing students, teachers, parents, administrators and all members of the schools community. Eventually, it will link up all the participants within the community. The components of this initiative depend on interaction and participation, with teachers undertaking a guiding role by encouraging students to discover solutions on their own.

At first students should determine and check the extent of their use of natural resources in the school. Through this, they evaluate their efforts in the field of environmental management. 

As a second step, children should set up and run Eco Clubs. Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities. They also serve as a forum through which the students share environmental problems, along with the school staff, parents and the community surrounding the school, in order to work on finding solutions, and promote a positive environmental behavior. In this component the schools can implement internal and external projects, such as introducing efficient methods of irrigation, lowering the volume of waste, reducing the consumption of electricity and water and trying to reduce air pollution.

The third step focuses on organizing training courses for teachers and releasing educational resources in different themes and curricula, helping them to teach environmental concepts in innovative ways and through various educational materials. This will help teachers to adapt and to provide students with information about different habitats, biodiversity, climate change and other issues faced at the local level, as well as faced by the planet on a global level.

The final step should be to connect students to environmental causes and issues, and identify solutions through the provision of field trips. Additionally, such trips can be associated with the educational curriculum as they offer direct learning method. This helps boosting the understanding of various concepts by the students, and increasing the chance of using multiple senses such as eyesight, hearing, etc., which helps to raise their capacity to understand what they have learned. The success and engagement of schools to take on the environment field trips is great and extensive and it represents a set full of amazing adventures of exploration and knowledge.

Undoubtedly, the final and greatest outcome is to educate our children on the importance of becoming good environmental citizens.

Challenges in the Middle East

The Middle East region faces difficult natural conditions, and it is clear that steep population growth, poverty and the consequent degradation of natural ecosystems make it a priority when it comes to Environmental awareness and sustainability goals. One of the biggest challenges is certainly the lack of awareness. 

Most countries are blessed with high levels of education, with a large portion of the population pursuing secondary and higher education. Unfortunately however, human development and wealth are not always synonym with high environmental awareness and interest in sustainability issues… Jordan and Lebanon, for example, have their primary focus in tourism, which mostly contributes to their GDPs.

An interesting survey conducted in the Sultanate of Oman revealed that the environmental awareness of the Omani public was related to education level but also to gender and age. Males were found to have a higher level of knowledge about environmental issues than females. Males were also more environmentally concerned and tended to engage in more environmental behaviors than females. Younger and more educated respondents tended to be more knowledgeable and concerned about the environment than older and less educated respondents.

Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities.

Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities.

Another challenge that countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar are faced with, is trying to reduce their consumption patterns. Even though awareness levels seem to be higher than in other countries, these nations are notorious for their unsustainable consumption rates. For instance, KSA and the UAE’s water consumption have reached 265 and 550 liters per capita per day respectively, which significantly exceeds the world’s average. 

Participation of Emirati Youth

Educating the UAE youth and preparing them to lead the country’s sustainable future is the first goal in the UAE national environmental awareness strategy and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment encourages the youth to innovate and be part of global environmental efforts.

Recently the UAE has taken a major step including environmental education in all schools: back in November Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, announced that awareness of climate change and how to help save the environment will be taught in classrooms across the country.

Under plans to tweak schools' curriculum to include learning on sustainability, schoolchildren will also be shown how to take energy-saving measures. These include schoolchildren of all ages, including in private sector schools, learning the importance of turning off lights and air-conditioning when not in use, and how to use less water. Each pupil will also be encouraged to spread the message to their family and friends. One of these initiatives, called Sustainable Schools, is an extension of a program that started in Abu Dhabi in 2009.

As a consequence to all these efforts taken by the government, I observed an increase in the numbers of UAE nationals volunteers participating in our programs: we've usually had a majority of Indians and Europeans taking part in our tree planting events or in the anti-pollution awareness drives, but lately large groups of young Emiratis have come forward to participate actively in all our programs and we continue to receive many emails asking to become long term volunteers. This is one of the biggest achievements we could wish for the UAE.

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The City of Nouakchott – Perspectives and Challenges

Nouakchott, capital city of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is the biggest city in the Sahara region. Like other major cities worldwide, the city is plagued by environmental, social and economical challenges. Sewage disposal network, dating back to 1960’s is no longer sufficient for Nouakchott. The country is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and woody biomass for meeting energy requirements, though there is good potential of solar, wind and biomass energy. Solid waste management is becoming a major headache for city planners. Population is increasing at a tremendous pace which is putting tremendous strain on meagre civic resources.

Making of a City

Mauritania is a Western African country bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Morocco, Algeria, Mali and Senegal. Most of its 1,030,700 km2 are covered by deserts. A country as wide as Egypt, it is only scarcely inhabited by some 3.500.000 people. A crossing of cultures, most of the country is inhabited by Arab nomads, the Moors, while the South is inhabited by the African Toucouleur and Soninke people.

Before the country became independent in 1960, the French founded the new capital city Nouakchott. Originally, Nouakchott was a city intended for 3.000 inhabitants. Most of the inhabitants were nomads and the city was established at a meeting place and cattle fair for the nomads. The etymology of the name may mean salt marsh or shore. The area is flat, protected from the sea by low dunes and originally bordered by savannah type vegetation.

After independence, the city grew very quickly, well beyond the expectation of its French founders. In the 1970’s Mauritania sided with Morocco in the Western Sahara war, and was badly defeated by the Polisario rebels. The war caused a massive arrival of refugees from the combat zones in Northern Mauritania. At the same time, drought and famine devastated the whole Sahel region which causes a large-scale refugee influx in the Nouakchott region.

Problems Galore

The arrival of refugees swelled the population of the city, making it the fastest growing city in the region, apart from causing a massive disruption in the environment. For decades, the majority inhabitants of Nouakchott lived in slums. The refugees came with their cattle and contributed to the destruction of existing savanna vegetation by overgrazing. The sand dunes quickly became loose and began to threaten the city from the East and North. Chaotic urbanization caused further environmental destruction, destroying the littoral zone.

The city also suffered social problems, as traditional ways of life disappeared. Former shepherds, agricultural workers and freed slaves became urban poors with little education and abilities to fit in a new economical model. The modern way of life lead to proliferation in plastics items and the landscape of Nouakchott got littered with all sorts of wastes, including plastic bags and bottles.

Nouakchott continues to grow with population reaching one million. However there is stark absence of basic amenities in the city.  Apart from several wells, there are no potable water supplies. The city had no bituminous road beside the two main avenues until recently. The city lacks urban planning, wastewater management and waste management. The construction of harbour and urbanization has led to the destruction of the littoral dunes. The city is in real danger of being flooded in case of sea storm or high tide. The most threatened place is Tevragh Zeina, the most affluent part of the city.

Sand dunes are another cause of worry for Nouakchott. In the 1990’s a Belgian project for the construction of a green belt helped in stopping the progression of dunes. However with expansion of the city, people have now started to build their dwellings in the green belt. The city is also at risk of being flooded in case of rain. In September 2013, during late rainy season, several parts of the city were flooded by rain. Parts of the city are still marked by semi-permanent sewage pools which are a major threat to public health.

Silver Lining

Environment and sustainable development has become a priority during rule of President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz. The government has built roads in Nouakchott and constructed a water abduction system for bringing water from the Senegal River. Slums have been replaced by social dwellings for the poorest.  New schools, hospitals and universities are sprouting at a rapid pace.

Plans are underway to develop the interior of the country to stop internal immigration to Nouakchott. The country is also making made ambitious climate change strategies and has banned the use of plastic bags which has led to its replacement by biodegradable or reusable bags. Mauritania has rich biodiversity, especially in its sea. Infact, the country has many biodiversity hotspots which may attract people for ecotourism. 

There are huge challenges to be tackled to transform Nouakchott into a modern city. Due to nomadic links, Mauritania’s Arabs have a special link to desert and are counted among the environmentally-conscious people of Western and North Africa. However considerable efforts are required to educate the people living in and around Nouakchott and motivate them to become an active participant in sustainable development of the city.

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Green Girl’s Message to the World

These are strange times indeed. Children today are bombarded with phrases such as global warming, carbon footprint and deforestation. These scary terms were totally alien a hundred years ago, but we only have ourselves to blame for their importance now. I ask you a simple question “What kind of future are you leaving for children and youth like me?”

Every day, every minute we are writing an epitaph for a lake, or a wetland or a forest. The mighty river Ganges which once flowed, pristine and pure, from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, is now a cesspool of filth. The roaring Yangste River has forgotten its original trail thanks to the numerous dams and barrages which it encounters.

The Himalayas, shorn of their glacial cover, look like dull pieces of chalk. The historic Dodo is now rejoicing at the thought that it may soon have tigers, lions and pandas for company. The Caspian Sea is now more of a lake than a sea. Caviar may soon be just a word in the dictionary, given the rate at which sturgeons are being fished out.

Every day, while millions go hungry, we let tons of food rot in warehouses. Thousands of children walk miles in the scorching heat to collect a bucket of brackish water because the world does not take note while the rivers dry up.

The questions that arise are: by the time my child goes to school, how many more such species, lakes, forests, rivers will disappear? What kind of environment will the future generations inherit? Isn’t now time ripe to institute ombudspersons for our future generations so that we can prevent reoccurence of environmental disasters? The question that we ask is when, instead of why.

In the words of Robert Swan, “The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It”. I implore you to take action and turn back the clock before it is too late. We urge you not to ignore us. Listen to us, involve us, allow us to help you in framing the policies that will deliver the future we want.

In the the words of Mother Teresa – “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Thank you.

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