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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COP21 Paris: Powered by 200 Megatonnes of Coal-fired CO2

As negotiators around the world gather for what many expect to be a groundbreaking UN climate negotiating session at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) which will seek a legally binding agreement on climate action, few may know that their meeting is being funded by the Coal industry. The corporate sponsorship of COP21 creates a dangerous conflict of interest in three key respects. Many of the sponsors are highly invested in oil, gas, coal, and other carbon-polluting sectors, and have a vested interest in obstructing or weakening any real action on climate change. However, with major industrial polluters using their deep pockets to influence climate policy at every level, how will a meaningful agreement be secured?

Corporate Interest at COP21

A new report released by Corporate Accountability International highlights that 4 of the leading sponsors of this year’s UN climate negotiations are collectively responsible for more than 200 megatonnes of CO2 emissions worldwide. The report titled, ‘Fueling the Fire – The corporate sponsors bankrolling COP21’ reveals how European energy giants Engie, Électricité de France (EDF), Suez Environment and BNP Paribas collectively own more than 46 coal-fired power plants around the world, including investments in oil sands exploration in Canada and fracking for shale gas in the UK. This has raised serious concerns ahead of the UN conference as to the role that corporate lobby groups should have, as many feel that this direct financial interest goes against the moral focus of the negotiations.

Patti Lynn, Executive director of Corporate Accountability International noted that the decision to allow these large polluters to sponsor the conference is “akin to hiring a fox to guard a hen house". She also argued that the UN climate negotiation was at risk of becoming a “corporate tradeshows for false market-based solutions.”

The report not only highlights the public behaviour of many of these companies, but also what they do behind the scenes. Earlier this year, ExxonMobil was famously outed for having suppressed knowledge of their role on contributing to Climate Change for the past 30 years.  However, it appears that many of the new conference sponsors have similarly questionable records on direct policy interference. While EDF claims to be “committed to a decarbonized world,” it is an active member alongside ExxonMobil and Shell of Business Europe.  This group has been linked to; openly oppose the “market deployment of energy produced from renewable sources” across Europe.

But it is perhaps their public actions that speak the loudest. In 2014, the sponsoring energy giant Engie directly profited from more than 131 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to the pollution emitted from driving a car around the globe 12 million times. "Despite recent announcements to stop new coal projects, Engie still owns 30 dirty coal power plants worldwide." Célia Gautier, policy advisor at Climate Action Network France. The report finally calls for future climate policy-making to be free of corporate interests through directly disallowing large contributors to climate change from the policy-making process, in a similar way that big tobacco was kicked out of health talks a decade ago.

UNFCCC – Twenty Years of Inaction

After two decades of negotiations, the UNFCCC has been unable to achieve meaningful action on climate change. The failure of 20 climate summits to date has corresponded with a dramatic speed up of greenhouse gas emission rates. In fact, since 1988, more than half of all industrial carbon emissions have been released, raising the prospect of irreversible climate change.

Global inaction on climate change is also the consequence of political and economic interference by the fossil fuel industry. For decades, corporations, like ExxonMobil and Shell, have run sophisticated and effective campaigns of denial and deception about climate change. To undermine progress on climate policy and to secure their own profits, they have utilized a range of interference tactics, including financial contributions, corruption and lobbying, PR campaigns, litigation and legal threats, funding junk science, issuing contradictory statements, and sponsoring front groups, think tanks, and trade associations to do their dirty work.

The association of such corporations with the UNFCCC has not simply blocked or impeded meaningful climate action. It also has shifted the focus of negotiations onto market-based solutions, such as carbon prices and trading, as well as onto techno-fixes, such as carbon sequestration, fracking, and nuclear energy none of which have reduced overall emissions globally or spurred wide-spread low-carbon investments in national economies that meet the the deadlines for averting climate chaos. These same corporations have also interfered with the proceedings and operations of the UNFCCC. From the earliest COP meetings to today, transnational corporations and their associated business lobbies have positioned themselves to undermine or influence any potential climate treaty.

Time for Action

The time for action is now. With the world watching, governments must agree to remove the influence of fossil fuel corporations and other polluting industries from climate change negotiations. With precedent established in international law specifically, in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control it is possible to exclude the big carbon polluters from U.N. summits on climate change. Indeed, it is the only way to secure bold, effective policy at COP21 that will curb the effects of climate change and move us to a more just, equitable future for all.

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Carbon Capture and Storage: Prospects in GCC

Gulf Cooperation Council countries are burgeoning economies which are highly dependent on hydrocarbons to fuel their needs for economic growth. GCC nations are fully aware of the mounting consequences of increasing levels of CO­2 on the environment, mainly attributed to soaring energy demand of domestic and industrial sector. Regional countries are undertaking concrete steps and measures to reduce their carbon footprint through the introduction of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Among other options, Carbon Capture and Storage, popularly known as CCS, can be an attractive proposition for GCC nations.

What is CCS

Carbon capture and storage (or carbon capture and sequestration) is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere, normally an underground geological formation. CCS is a potential means of mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming and ocean acidification. As at September 2012, the Global CCS Institute identified 75 large-scale integrated projects in its 2012 Global Status of CCS report. 16 of these projects are in operation or in construction capturing around 36 million tonnes of CO2 per annum.

Among notable CCS projects world, In Salah project in Algeria is a fully operational onshore gas field with CO2 injection. CO2 is separated from produced gas and reinjected in the producing hydrocarbon reservoir zones. Since 2004, about 1 Mt/a of CO2 has been captured during natural gas extraction and injected into the Krechba geologic formation at a depth of 1,800m. The Krechba formation is expected to store 17Mt CO2 over the life of the project.

CCS Prospects in GCC

GCC accounts for 0.6% of the global population but ironically contributes 2.4% of the global GHG emissions per capita.  GCC countries are among the top-14 per capita emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. The GCC region is witnessing rapid economic growth and massive industrialization which has led to almost 8% growth in power consumption each year. The region is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons combustion for power generation and operation of energy-intensive industries.

There is an urgent need for carbon abatement measures for the industrial sector in Middle East nations as increasing carbon dioxide emissions will have serious repercussions for GCC and adjoining regions. Some of the potential impacts can be rise in sea level, droughts, heat waves, sandstorms, damage to ecosystem, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity. Carbon dioxide emissions reductions can be achieved from point sources such as refineries, power plants, manufacturing industries etc.

At the regional level, GCC nations have both the drivers and environmental gains to adopt the CCS technologies. Some of the GCC countries are already engaged in R&D initiatives, for example, Saudi Arabia has KACST- Technology Innovation Center on Carbon Capture and Sequestration while Saudi Aramco have their own CCS R&D program for CCS. In Qatar there is the Qatar Carbonate and Carbon Storage Research Center while Bahrain has Sitra Carbon Capture System. Recently, Masdar and ADNOC launched Middle East first Joint Venture for carbon capture usage and storage. On a multilateral level, back to 2007, King Abdullah pledged $300 million to finance a research program on the future of energy, environment and climate change. In addition, a sum of $150 million from Qatar, Kuwait and UAE has been allocated to support CCS research.

To sum up, CCS is a viable option to help GCC countries maintain their hydrocarbons-driven economies while enabling low-carbon electricity generation from existing hydrocarbons powerplants.

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Exploring Climate Change Disinformation

For decades, the oil and coal industries and some of their largest industrial customers have conducted a sophisticated and wildly successful multimillion dollar campaign to convince the public that climate change is not a serious threat. The impetus for the campaign has been to protect industry profits by blocking any action designed to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other global heating gases produced in burning fossil fuels.

Policies such as carbon taxes and carbon caps are intended to limit the release of carbon dioxide by restraining demand for fossil fuels. Fossil fuel companies, however, have correctly concluded that crimping fuel consumption would reduce revenue and would also erode the multi-trillion dollar value of their oil, coal, and gas reserves. 

Fossil fuel industry leaders have long known that as policies to address the dangers of fossil fuel burning and climate change were progressively made into law and policy, they would ultimately affect profits. Anticipating these threats to their income and wealth, large fossil fuel energy companies—and those who have made common cause with them—decades ago mounted a well-funded campaign to discredit climate science. Its architects recognized that, if successful, the campaign would provide the rationale for their political and legislative efforts to obstruct public policy efforts aimed at climate protection.

While the campaign has served and continues to serve a political and economic purpose for the industries behind it, it also serves the psychological need of reconciling industry’s economic interests with their version of climate science, climate economics, and the economics of climate protection. Thus those in the climate science denial camp believe themselves “on the side of the angels.” In the political arena, the energy company campaign not only succeeded in confusing facts about climate change but also managed to undermine U.S. participation in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a precedent-setting international climate protection treaty discussed frequently throughout this book.

The industrial opposition to climate science and climate-safe energy policies has grown more sophisticated and varied over the past decade. The campaign operates through dozens of industry-funded institutes, policy centers, councils, research foundations, and societies that speak for industry on climate and energy. The climate “skeptics,” as they like to be called, include anti-government and anti-regulation conservatives and libertarians who oppose government action on ideological grounds. Their strategy has often been to hide ideologically based misrepresentations of climate science beneath a mantle of science.  

A review of scientific publications on climate, however, reveals that whereas many thousands of high-quality scientific papers validated by peer review have been published documenting all phases of global warming, only a trivial number of dissenters who dispute the evidence have published in similar journals. Moreover, by contrast, the results of climate studies confirming global warming and humanity’s role in it can be found in the most prestigious scientific journals. Almost without exception, the deniers’ reports appear in publications that are not peer reviewed, since their objections to climate science have been repeatedly refuted; thus they are of little interest to responsible, well-respected scientific publications. Finally, the national academies of science of most nations of the world have passed resolutions affirming that we are warming the planet.

In the initial stages of the climate debate, industry proxy organizations often flatly contradicted climate science and claimed, variously, that the Earth was cooling or at least wasn’t warming, or that if the Earth was warming, the warming wasn’t due to human activity, or that if the Earth were to warm, it would be mild and beneficial. Many of these discredited claims have been abandoned by all but diehard opponents of climate science as the global scientific consensus on climate change has strengthened and as the evidence for global warming has become overwhelming. Some deniers still persist in presenting discredited arguments, however.

For example, industrial critics of decisive action on climate change (such as the National Association of Manufacturers in USA) made a case in Congress and with the public in 2009 that effective measures to reduce carbon emissions would bring economic disaster in the form of high taxes, lost jobs, lower productivity, and reduced competitiveness for America in world markets.

Since their arguments weren’t gaining traction in the world of science, industry-funded think tanks then spent millions of dollars making their case against climate science to more gullible media, government officials, opinion leaders, students, and the general public. Climate skeptics and their allies have thus become a major presence on the Internet, over radio, and on TV airwaves, as well as through industry-sponsored books, magazines, articles, reports, and press releases.

An unsuspecting person who uses an Internet search engine and enters terms commonly associated with climate change will be hard pressed to discern the truth amid the plethora of misleading information many of these organizations provide. Since some of the most effective arguments consist of deceptive statements wrapped in layers of truth, it can be very challenging for students and others without advanced scientific training or sophisticated rhetorical and analytical skills to sift truth from falsity without investing lots of time.


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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.


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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Trends in Sustainable Housing

There has been large-scale proliferation in construction of buildings worldwide due to population growth, economic development, urbanization and migration. According to UN Habitat, there has been a migration of the world's population from rural areas to cities or smaller urban areas. In fact, this trend is expected to continue and cities within the developed as well as developing nations are expected to grow in terms of population. As a result all forms of construction activities are expected to become more intense than ever in the years to come.

Usually the development of urban areas suffers from weak process of planning and control which lead to bad housing conditions, poor sanitation system, limited electricity and water supply, and often poverty.  These issues coupled with high population growth rate, environmental degradation, global warming and limited non-renewable resources highlights the importance of sustainable housing for the survival of humankind.

Sustainability in Buildings

Building construction and operation have extensive direct and indirect impacts on the environment. Buildings use resources such as energy, water and raw materials, generate a variety of wastes and emit potentially harmful gases. Basically the environmental impacts of buildings take place within six stages of building lifecycle:

  • Design process
  • Material or product manufacture
  • Distribution
  • Construction phase
  • Operation
  • Refurbishment or demolition

In terms of energy consumption, 60 percent of the world’s electricity is consumed by residential and commercial building. Space heating accounts for 60 percent of residential energy consumption and water heating for 18 percent in developed countries. Therefore radical changes must be made in design and performance of the buildings to reduce energy consumption and its corresponding environmental impact.

In many countries, sustainable construction methods are being adopted to lead the building industry towards sustainable development and provide better quality living environment. Basically sustainable building design and construction intend to diminish environmental impacts of building over its entire lifetime by paying attention to environmental, socio-economic and cultural issues.

Trends Around the World

The developed and developing world is facing sustainable housing and urbanization challenge in different ways.  Currently industrialized countries are the highest contributor in CO2 emissions. However it is expected that developing countries will take the lead in global warming in the near future. Developing countries are experiencing fast-paced urbanization and at the same time slums and informal settlements are also expanding rapidly which makes development of sustainable housing a difficult proposition.

Countries around the world are taking steps towards implementing sustainable design in the building sector. However most of them are still far from reaching the intended targets.  The major barriers in implementing energy efficiency in the building sector include:

  • Economic and financial issues;
  • Structural characteristics of political, economic and energy system; and
  • Lack of awareness and information

However different countries adopt different approaches for sustainable construction and set different priorities, depending on their economic condition. Nations with high economic growth are developing sustainable buildings making use of latest technologies and innovations. In case of developing countries, social equality and economic sustainability are foremost considerations. In fact, developing countries are moving slowly or even negative towards adopting sustainable housing strategies.

As far as Middle East is concerned, economic considerations dominate for oil and gas-rich GCC countries as they protect their oil and gas export reserves by investing in new ways to boost energy efficiency and lower energy consumption. However for less-affluent countries, such as Jordan, lack of indigenous energy resources and high energy costs are the primary reasons for implementation of sustainable design strategies in buildings.

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Enumerating Benefits of Recycling

Recycling is the process in which used or abandoned materials from our everyday waste is converted into new products. Items that can be recycled include; glass, paper, plastics and various metals.  The process of recycling involves waste segregation after collection, processing the recyclable waste and finally manufacturing products from the waste thus processed.

Need for Recycling

Manufacturing products involves obtaining raw materials from various sources. Raw materials may be from forests or mines. They are then transported to the place of manufacture usually by land or sea, which is an energy consuming process. Procurement of raw materials and their transporting causes pollution in addition to using up scarce resources like trees and fossil fuels.

All this, in turn, causes global warming by the release of gases and eroding the ozone layer which protects the earth from harmful radiation from the sun. Global warming is blamed for climate change and its disastrous consequences. Some of these are unseasonal rainfall or droughts causing flooding and famine respectively. Waste is commonly disposed off by burying it in landfills or having them incinerated. The former uses up vast tracts of land and can contaminate ground water, while the latter contributes to global warming. 

Merits of Recycling

Recycling waste reduces the demand on raw materials. It also reduces waste disposal by landfill or by incineration, hence helps reduce pollution and global warming. Recycling is seen as highly beneficial as it reduces the amount of domestic waste which is sent to landfills and incinerators pollute the environment. It is also a method of sustainable development where we can help sustain the environment for future generations.

Recycling also prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to collect raw materials. If used materials are not recycled then new products are made through the use of fresh raw materials through methods such as mining and forestry. Hence recycling help in the conservation of natural habitats. Recycling also saves energy as energy is required to extract raw materials as well as refine, transport and construct.

Countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom have implemented highly efficient recycling projects which have been implemented by governmental organizations. Countries as such have implemented recycling disposals at various designations throughout the country. Places such as, malls, towns, restaurants have all been equipped with color coded bins responsible for the disposal of various materials. Countries such as the United Kingdom have implemented source segregation of household waste under the supervision and directions of municipal authorities. Residents and businesses must separate their garbage and put them into separate bags for collection. Often a fine is passed if this is not obeyed.

Few Examples

The type of material accepted for recycling varies by city and country. Each city and country has different recycling programs in place that can handle the various types of recyclable materials.  For example, aluminum can is the most recycled consumer product in the world. Each year, the aluminum industry pays out more than US$800 million for empty aluminum cans.

Recycling aluminium cans is a closed-loop process since used beverage cans that are recycled are primarily used to make beverage cans. Recycled aluminium cans are used again for the production of new cans or for the production of other valuable aluminium products such as engine blocks, building facades or bicycles. In Europe about 50% of all semi-fabricated aluminium used for the production of new beverage cans and other aluminium packaging products comes from recycled aluminium. 

Among plastics, polyethlene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles have high recyclability and are an integral part of most curbside and drop-off recycling programs. Recycled PET and HDPE have many uses and well-established markets. The growth of bottle recycling has been facilitated by the development of processing technologies that increase product purities and reduce operational costs.

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Climate Change and Natural Disasters

Many natural disasters are directly linked with the climate change including floods, hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, wildfires and storms. Such disasters have claimed more than 600,000 lives in the past two decades. The frequency and magnitude of these disasters are increasing with time and is not going to subside even with the plans of reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and signing of climate change agreement at Paris.

UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction recorded an average of 335 weather-related disasters between 2005 and 2014, an increase of 14% from 1995-2004, and almost twice the level recorded during 1985-1995. According to the report, 4.1 billion people were injured, left homeless or were in need of emergency assistance as a result of weather-related disasters between 1995 and 2015. About 332,000 deaths occurred and 3.7 billion people were affected in Asia alone. These figures are alarming and an eye opener to all of us to understand and to promptly react to this urgent problem based on our floods and storms accounted for the majority of deaths due to weather related natural disasters.

As per data, floods accounted for 47% of all weather-related disasters from 1995-2015, affecting 2.3 billion people and killing 157,000. Storms were the deadliest type of weather-related disaster, accounting for 242,000 deaths or 40% of the global weather-related deaths, with 89% of these deaths occurring in lower income countries.

Extreme temperatures as a result of global warming caused deaths of about 164,000 people, of which 148,000 deaths, about 92%, were caused due to heat waves; 90% of the deaths from heat waves occurred in Europe alone. In Russia, more than 55,000 people died as a result of heat wave in 2010 and total deaths were 70,000 in 2003 in Europe.

According to the World Bank’s “Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis” report released in March 2015, more than 160 countries have more than a quarter of their populations in areas of high mortality risks from one or more natural disasters. The first decade of the 21st century saw 3,496 natural disasters from floods, storms, droughts and heat waves.

As per the World Meteorological Organisation, the world is nearly five times as dangerous and disaster prone as it was in the 1970s, because of the increasing risks brought by climate change. The cost of disasters rose to $864bn in the last decade. We need to understand that the climate changes are not uniformly spread around the world. The sea level rise is expected to be 10-15% higher in countries closer to the equator, low lying, coastal countries and small island states like Bahrain. The warming will bring more droughts, flooding, sea level rise, heat stress, more water consumption, more energy and cooling requirements and spread of waterborne diseases like cholera and diarrhoea. Thus, it will affect all of us irrespective of our location and status.

Bahrain understands its position and has been proactive in planning and designing efforts to tackle this global problem by investing in infrastructures, safe reclamation and preparing disaster management plans to respond to the threats and catastrophes. The time has come for every individual to adopt environmentally safe habits and caring attitude towards finite natural resources.

Energy Efficiency in MENA – A Tool to Reduce GHG Emissions

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the largest oil-exporting region in the world. Around 85 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production, electricity generation, industrial sector and domestic energy consumption. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. Without a change in energy policies and energy consumption behavior, MENA‘s energy-related GHG emissions will continue to grow. Presently, MENA countries are heavily dependent on fossil fuels to meet their energy requirement which is a major challenge in climate change mitigation efforts. However it also encourages local governments to craft policies and adapt stringent environmental regulations to reduce the GHG emissions.

Energy Efficiency Prospects

There is a great potential for MENA region to cut the projected GHG emissions growth by adopting energy-efficiency programs in commercial industrial and domestic sector. MENA governments need to create a policy environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation through both consumers and businesses. The Middle East electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.

The MENA region has great ambitious plans and already adapted an efficient energy programs aiming to achieve real energy efficiency gains related to environment. An immediate gain of adapting energy efficiency policy is to be seen in elevating consumers’ energy awareness, improving energy products procurement and services, reducing pollutant and saving money.

MENA governments should put energy efficiency at the top of energy policy agenda with a committed goal to reduce GHG emissions through energy efficiency programs. For example, Obama’s administration has focused on the importance of energy efficiency investment programs as an engine of economic growth and environment conservation in the United States. According to President Obama, “energy efficiency is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner.” 

Energy Efficiency Outlook

There is a wide array of measures which could help MENA countries in promoting and implementing policies to moderate increasing energy demand and reduce pollution in the generating, transmitting, and distributing energy from power plants.  Energy conservation may not yet be a way of life in the Middle East but the rapid changes being seen there are an indicator of what is to come. Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength in the region. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region.

Across the MENA region, there is a growing interest in renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, which could enable regional countries to adopt a green economy and cut down on fossil fuel consumption. In the transportation sector there are many energy-efficient adaptations to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions, like public transportation, carpooling, electric vehicles and alternative fuels. MENA countries can adapt new alternatives to fossil fuels such as fuel cells, bioethanol and biogas. 

The linkage between energy efficiency adaptations and GHG emission is crucial in the fight against global warming. Emerging technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) involves the capture of carbon dioxide from power plants and large industrial sources, and then injection into deep underground geological formations for long-term storage. CCS can not only reduce carbon emissions from power generation sector but also expand renewable energy capacity and increase energy efficiency.

Another attractive energy conservation method is Smart Grid which involves modernizing the system of transmitting electricity all the way from generation to end use. Unlike the tradition electricity meters, the smart meters provides consumers with situational awareness about how much electricity are consuming per unit of output. Smart grid offers an excellent opportunity to modernize power infrastructure, lay the foundation for energy management, provide new employment opportunities and ultimately reduce region’s dependence on fossil fuels.


The Middle East region has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world which can be offset by mass deployment of energy-efficient systems. An improved energy efficiency plan for MENA region (in both supply and use) will help in mitigating the domestic and global environmental impact of energy by reducing both atmospheric particulate matter and GHG emissions.

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Climate Change Impacts in Kuwait

Kuwait is facing a wide range of climate change challenges including sea level rise, water scarcity, desertification and loss of diversity. Kuwait is characterized by high temperature, high humidity and arid lands resulting in seriously degraded soil and land damage in addition to salt intrusion in the aquifers affecting the small scale agricultural lands thus enhancing the food security threat in the region. Since 1975, Kuwait has experienced 1.50C to 20C increase in temperature, which is significantly higher than the global average. In recent years, there has been a sharp change in rainfall pattern in Kuwait which may be attributed to climate change impacts. In addition, there has been marked increase in dust storms in last few decades which are noticeable signs of change in climatic conditions in Kuwait and neighbouring nations.

Rise in Sea Level

One of the main climate change impacts is sea level rise on coastal areas of all Arabian Gulf states. Kuwait is highly vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise as it could lead to severe impacts on industrial and socio-economic development. Climate change-induced sea level rise may lead to flooding of low-lying urban infrastructure, inundation of coastal ecosystems and deterioration of groundwater quality. Inundation will severely affect cities, roads, agricultural areas, as well as beaches and salt marshes across Kuwait. Among the most vulnerable sites in Kuwait are Bubyan Island, Qaruh Island and Al-Khiran which are in real danger of disappearance on account of any potential sea level rise.

Water Availability

Continued use of non-renewable water is major factor in depleting groundwater reserves in Kuwait and put it a serious risk of climate change impacts. Being a highly water-scarce country, Kuwait is heavily dependent on desalinated water and fresh groundwater to meet drinking water needs. On a per capita basis, Kuwait has one of the highest per capita water consumption worldwide, apart from having world’s highest per capita production of desalination water. Water resource management is huge challenge for Kuwait as its per capita natural water availability is lowest in the world. With climate change, it is expected that balancing water supply and water demand will become an even greater challenge. 


Kuwait is endowed with rich biodiversity of terrestrial flora and fauna, however the potential loss of terrestrial and marine biodiversity due to climate change is a major concern in Kuwait. Desert areas contain many species of annuals, which make up about 90% of plant species of Kuwait. Kuwait is also endowed with rich marine biodiversity. Many endemic species can be found including crabs, which are found on biota-rich inter-tidal Sabkha zones. An increase in seawater temperature will affect the reproduction period of fish and shrimp and may result in large-scale migration of fish to other areas which will have serious repercussions for the fish industry in Kuwait and neighbouring countries. Erratic rainfall and sand encroachment may lead to loss in plant cover thereby causing runoff and flooding. 


Agriculture production is directly dependent on climate change and weather. The possible changes in temperature, precipitation and CO2 concentration are expected to significant impact on crop growth. The potential of agricultural development in Kuwait is very limited, as less than 1% of the land area is considered arable. Moreover, only a portion of arable land area is actually cultivated due to a hyper-arid climate, water scarcity, poor soils, and lack of technical skills. Because of the nature of the terrain and water scarcity, it is quite difficult to put new land into agricultural production. Interestingly, agriculture consumes around one-third of groundwater but account for less than 5 percent of the GDP. 


Kuwait is both physically and biologically threatened by the climate change phenomenon. Over the next few decades, Kuwait could be potentially facing serious impacts of global warming in the form of floods, droughts, depletion of aquifers, inundation of coastal areas, frequent sandstorms, loss of biodiversity, significant damage to ecosystem, threat to agricultural production and outbreak of diseases. There is an urgent need to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, and prepare a strong framework for socio-economic development which may be sustainable in the long-run.


Islamic Discourse on Climate Change

Global ecological trends show that we face the risk of tipping points and irreversible changes in the environment and in its capacity to support and sustain human life in all its dimensions.  This state of imbalance and pollution is referred to as “fassad” in Islam which is attributed to human-made actions. Transforming society and the world’s economy to a sustainable basis presents the most significant challenge to the 21st century.

It is inspiring to harness local knowledge and culture to inform sustainability. Islam as a worldview and a way of life can provide a fresh outlook to human-environmental in a globalized market economy. Environment and sustainable development is a neutral platform for dialogue between cultures in East and West since ecology is about “interdependence” and “social learning”.

Islamic Development Model

Islamic worldview not only defines what constitutes a good life “Hayat Tayebah” but also can guide, inform and reform the current development model. The Islamic development model is based on living lightly on Earth (Zohd) to limit our ecological footprints. The Islamic worldview can add the 4th dimension to the sustainability model (ecology, society and economy); i.e., faith and spirituality. Islamic discourse offers a sense of hope and optimism about the possibility of re-alignment of human compass. There is a hope, if humans can re-think and re-adjust the dominant development models, life styles and mind sets as stated in the Holy Quran:

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

Corruption has appeared in both land and sea

Because of what people’s own hands have brought

So that they may taste something of what they have done

So that hopefully they will turn back

Qur’an 30: 41

The essence of Islam is being in a state of harmony and “natural state” (fitra) and in respecting balance (mizan) and proportion (mikdar) in the systems of the universe. All these notions embedded in the Islamic value system can provide an ethical dimension for Muslims on the climate change issue. Translating this into the technical terms of measuring the concentration of climate in parts per million (ppm). The climate debate is about the increase in the concentration or proportion of greenhouse gases which can be measured in ppm. Due to human development model and consumption patterns, we are seeing an increase in carbon dioxide concentrations of more than 420 ppm as compared to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm.

Addressing climate change, from an Islamic perspective, is about assuming the human role as a trustee and steward (khalifah) and the role of the median community (ummah wassat) to enjoin good and forbid evil and ensure harmony, balance, and right proportion (fitra). This balance has been disturbed due to human choices which result in overconsumption, overexploitation and overuse of resources. The ethical dimension of Islam is about linking theory and practice through evolving new consciousness and spiritual development. Embodying Islam in turn will lead to environmental activism to save the integrity of planet through protecting life on earth and to respect of rights of other species and the protection of the diversity of all communities of life.

Climate Change Global Debates

As for preparing for Climate Change global debates, parties to the UNFCCC have agreed to set an upper limit on acceptable warming at 2 0C above the pre-industrial level by the end of this century. This decision was based on political judgment informed by science. There are significant risks associated with any level of warming and many Parties call for stabilisation well below 2 0C aiming to be as close to 1.5 0C as possible.

The science is clear. Due to the fact that warming from carbon dioxide persists for many centuries, any upper limit on warming requires net carbon dioxide emissions to eventually fall to zero. Avoiding dangerous climate change therefore requires fundamental economic transformation, not fine tuning of existing systems, leading to deep, and later full, decarbonisation of energy supply. This transition will bring multiple other benefits and open up huge opportunities. So the moral and economic imperatives are therefore fully aligned.

Significance of Islamic Climate Change Declaration

To sustain the economic transformation over time, there is a need for strong and deep moral motivation for change. Religion can become a powerful part of the solution if we tap into this source of divine guidance through study and reflection and if this motivates us to act differently. The Islamic declaration on climate change, launched in Istanbul on 19th August 2015, is a profound example of the role of faith in informing and reforming sustainability dialogue.  This makes faith-based climate engagement essential, considering that 84% of the world’s population is religiously affiliated, according to the Pew Research Center.

Islam has been the motive force behind civilization through history. The declaration can help to channel the spiritual and moral force of Islam towards the aspiration to build a low-emission climate resilient future.

In sum, Islam counts amongst its faithful 1.6 billion people. Many of them, perhaps the majority, are in countries which are most vulnerable to climate change. The Muslim leadership can contribute to global discourse as manifested in the Islamic declaration of climate change. Muslims have a mandate and responsibility to channelize the spiritual and moral force of Islam towards the aspiration to build a sustainable human civilization and a low-emission climate resilient future.

Paper Bag Boy’s Message to the World

Abdul Muqeet, also known as the Paper Bag Boy, has risen from being just another ordinary student to an extra-ordinary environmentalist. Ten-year old Abdul Muqeet has demonstrated remarkable commitment to saving the environment in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere, and has been a poster-boy for environmental campaigns in the Middle East. Here he shares his views on environment, recycling and public awareness.

It is said that you should break your goals down into small steps which you can accomplish each day. Set a goal, and approach it in a simple and basic manner. When I started my environmental campaign couple of years back, I had no idea that within a short span of time I would be invited to UNEP Tunza Conference in Indonesia or a film featuring myself will be run at CoP18 in Doha.

My endeavor began with collection of old newspapers and then making simple shopping bags out of it. My main objective was to spread environmental awareness and educate people about the harmful effects of plastic bags. Public awareness is essential to the success of any waste management program as people will start caring for the environment only on realizing ecological and health impacts of their day-to-day activities. Industrial pollution, environmental degradation, water scarcity, climate change are some of the burning issues nowadays which, if not tackled, will have serious effects on the coming generations.

Plastic wastes, as you may be aware, as one of the biggest source of pollution nowadays. We must not use it for our convenience; rather have the commitment to avoid the usage of plastic. Let us discuss some of the major harmful effects of Plastic. The decomposition of plastic takes a very long time, running into hundreds of years.  When we throw plastics all around, animals like camels and cows eat these plastics which choke their digestive systems ultimately leading to a painful death. Our drainage system is also blocked by accumulation of plastic wastes thus making our city dirty.

Another important issue in that of global warming, i.e. emission of harmful gases like carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. The safe limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million (ppm), but it is rapidly increasing day by day, and has reached high level of 392 ppm. A tough time is in store for humans if the carbon dioxide concentration reaches 400 ppm as the resulting temperature rise will aggravate melting of glaciers.

I would like to share few basic tips that may help us in reducing plastic consumption in our daily time. First of all, say NO to plastic, use eco-friendly bags for your shopping. Shopkeepers can start charging for plastic bags so customer will re-use bags again and again. Many companies use lot of plastic packaging to attract customers which could be avoided by implementing more creative ideas of marketing. Many supermarkets and packers unnecessarily use excessive amount of packaging which should be discouraged.

Any small action to save our Mother Earth would make a big difference to humanity. I believe that we all shouldn’t think about how I as a single person can save the earth, rather we should all believe that each one of us can make a difference by doing our part towards the environment. As our president, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said “Saving Climate, is not the responsibility of the government alone, it is the responsibility of each and every person, every citizen to save the environment.

We all should realize our duties and responsibilities towards conservation of natural resources. A small step in our day-to-day life can make a big difference for the environment. It is our sole responsibility to care for Planet Earth and make it a better place to live for the present and future generations. 

I humbly request you to join my campaign to stop use of plastic bags. Say NO to Plastic, and insist on eco-friendly bags. You can also give me more ideas how we can work together for a better future. Our late Baba Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may his soul rest in peace) was very keen to save environment and trees. He changed this land from desert to a lush green place which we enjoy today. He once said that man has to be kind not only to humans but also to animal and plants, as God bestows kindness on those who show kindness to others. Hence, we all should follow his footsteps and make sure do our best to save environment.

My concluding message to all of you is

  • Plant more tree
  • Use less water,
  • Do more recycling
  • Avoid use of plastics.

Last but not the least, I would like to remind one and all that Everything on Earth can be Recycled but not Time. So please dont waste time, act as fast as possible to save the Environment.