Tuesday,18 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)
Tuesday,18 September, 2018
Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Morocco prepares for climate summit

Preparations are underway for the COP 22 meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, reports Mahmoud Bakr from Morocco

climate summit
climate summit
Al-Ahram Weekly

Preparations for the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are underway in Marrakech, Morocco, two months ahead of the gathering on 7-18 November.

There are activities in several cities around the country, including local, regional and international workshops, lectures, meetings, seminars, celebrations and preparatory activities, as well as diplomatic action worthy of this global event.

Samira Sitail, head of communication for the COP 22 Steering Committee, said the preparations had made the UN Summit a remarkable event for Morocco, especially since it was an historic occasion in itself.

The Marrakech Conference will follow up on the initiative of the COP 21 in Paris in December in order to translate many decisions from the Paris Agreement into reality. This includes adaptation, alleviation, transparency, transferring to environmentally friendly technology, building capability and other urgent matters such as encouraging states to commit to a low carbon economy.

 Bolstering sectors linked to the green economy and the blue economy to take full advantage of related growth and employment opportunities that encourage sustainable development are also on the agenda. This will improve access to green technology and the criteria for its usage, as well as making progress in limiting carbon emissions.

The COP 22 organisers invited 55 journalists from 28 African countries to tour Morocco in order to better understand the challenges of climate change and the upcoming UN summit.

The journalists participated in the COP Academy, visited the solar energy facility of Noor Ouarzazate, reported on the Defence and Climate Change Summit on 7 September in Skhirat, and attended informal consultation sessions in the same city on 8-9 September before participating in an energy transition meeting sponsored by the COP 22 Committee on 8-9 September.

Sitail said this was the second African press trip to Morocco sponsored by the COP 22 organisers. The first one was in July and included 30 African media outlets in preparation for the global summit.

The African continent is likely to be one of the regions that suffers the most as a result of climate change because of the lack of water resources in some parts of the continent and natural phenomena such as drought and flooding.

Statistics show that Africa, responsible for three per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, will only be able to meet 13 per cent of its nutritional needs in 2050 if these phenomena are not brought under control.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said the Marrakech Summit would focus on implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change, including projects limiting harmful emissions in Africa.

Implementation is the primary aim of the summit, Mezouar said, noting that the gathering was especially important because it was being held on an African continent where countries were being acutely harmed by climate change.

The summit would send out a warning that Africa was facing serious difficulties that threatened its future, making it necessary to take real action and implement initiatives and projects as a top priority, Mezouar said.

He noted that the summit must implement the Paris recommendations and discuss key issues such as funding for implementing minimum emissions policies. He said that Africa must impose itself at the summit since it was likely to suffer as a result of climate change, while also seeking to benefit from funds available in the Paris Agreement that could serve development efforts that benefitted the African peoples.

Mezouar said that Africa had huge potential and resources that meant it would be able to resolve its problems and provide local funding for environmentally friendly projects. He said that since the Paris Summit there had been a desire to implement policies targeting climate change and a growing collective awareness of the dangers facing the planet.

“As the organisers of the COP 22 Summit we have opened up communication channels and provided resources on capacity and logistical aspects to facilitate participation at the summit for all interested parties,” Mezouar said. “We believe this will be a very successful summit with 20,000 participants.”

Cherki Drais, a representative of the Moroccan Minister of the Interior, said his country was undertaking massive security preparations to ensure the safety of participants at the summit and denied that the Islamic State (IS) group had any presence in Morocco.

Drais said Morocco had been preparing for the summit for some time and that it had highly trained security units to guard the delegates and key figures attending the gathering, which was taking place amid complicated security challenges across the globe and not only in the region.

There were growing terrorist threats, he said, but all security preparations for the summit would be completed by mid-October.

“The blue zone at the summit is secured by the UN, and Morocco has signed an agreement to appoint personnel responsible for securing it,” Drais said. “Everywhere else is the responsibility of the Moroccan authorities, which are blanketing Marrakech with security using special units.”

Abdel-Hak Al-Khayyam, director of the Central Office for Judicial Investigation in Morocco, the country’s counter-terrorism agency, said Morocco’s counter-terrorism plans were part of a global effort and that Rabat was coordinating with various countries, including Egypt.

Al-Khayyam said his country had adopted a pre-emptive approach to combatting terrorism and uprooting it at the source, as well as controlling religious discourse to ensure it was moderate.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Aziz Akhannouch said that agriculture should be at the core of the COP 22 Summit. “The Mediterranean region is very vulnerable to climate change, especially agriculture which is a cornerstone of socio-economic development in the region,” he said.

He noted that some 40 million people lived on agricultural activities in the Mediterranean region, representing 20 per cent of job opportunities.

Fisheries were one challenge facing the region, he said, because of the over-exploitation of marine wealth and the deterioration of marine ecosystems. He said that 20 per cent of marine life had been subjected to overexploitation in the Mediterranean Basin.

Nizar Baraka, president of the Scientific Committee of the COP 22 Summit, said that combatting climate change required mobilisation by all civil society activists.

 “Countering climate change is not only the concern of states and experts, but it also requires mobilisation by all civil society actors in order to draft, follow-up and assess local, national, regional and international policies,” Baraka said.

He urged people to take advantage of the economic opportunities available for combating climate change in various sectors of the green and blue economies that could create real opportunities for growth and jobs.

“We should not view climate change as a threat, but instead as an opportunity,” he said, calling for activities taking place in preparation for the COP 22 to be merged into a three-part charter, including climatic, social solidarity and economic and financial matters, in a way that would facilitate the transition towards a new model of development.

He noted that countries must now draft their own national plans to adapt to the current situation.

“We should all encourage our countries to participate in sectors related to the green and blue economies in order to benefit from the growth and job opportunities inherent in them. This will maintain the sustainability of our development models and improve the chances of accessing green technology and conditions for developing it in our countries to limit carbon emissions from existing and new activities,” he said.

Driss Al-Yazami, president of the National Human Rights Council in Morocco and head of the COP 22 civil society unit, emphasised the need for “global solidarity” in fighting climate change.

Al-Yazami said that even though historic responsibility and future impacts were unevenly shared, we must all take action to confront climate change that would require us to “design a new model for humanity”.

Civil society had a key role to play in making development initiatives successful on various national and international levels, and the UN was therefore giving it great importance in its projects to confront climate change and the causes of global warming, Al-Yazami said.

He added that while the COP 21 in Paris had been primarily focused on taking decisions, Marrakech would focus on action to alleviate the impacts of climate change and adapt to it.

There would be civil activism from around the world at the summit, and it would be an opportunity for activists to exchange expertise, share experiences, and explore global possibilities in climate activism, he said.

Marrakech mayor Abdel-Salam Bekrate Wali, in charge of security and logistics for the COP 22 Summit, discussed the various technical, logistical and security measures being taken by the organisers to ensure the success of this global event.

He showed visiting journalists Bab Ighli, where the summit will be held on an area of 224,647 square metres including 80,000 square metres that will be covered. There will be a blue zone under the control of the UN, 30 seminar halls, ten halls for observers, and another area for discussions, exhibitions, receptions and security.

Wali said the venue would include an area for NGOs, civil society, public institutions and local groups that would be in the heart of two locations called “civil society” and “innovation” on an area of 12,000 square metres.

There would be another area for services, exhibitions and restaurants. The venue also includes a water system, communication networks, banking and postal services, and travel agencies.

Wali highlighted the fact that the venue had observed all environmental criteria pertaining to development and sustainability and the fact that the outdoor lighting was also environmentally friendly.

He said the organisers had undertaken all the necessary arrangements in terms of logistics and health and security in order to meet the needs of the senior figures, guests, participants and media that would be attending and to ensure the summit was a success.

He added that work on the venue was continuing on schedule and that so far 70 per cent of the infrastructure had been finished. Thirty per cent of the preparations and 15 per cent of the electronic requirements were complete, he said.

Miriem Bensalah-Chaoroun, president of the Moroccan Federation of Industry, said the private sector would be participating at the COP 22 Summit with several energy and recycling projects.

She said the federation had adopted measures to limit carbon emissions in Morocco and that it would announce a water initiative during the summit.

The federation had formed a committee several years ago to assist the private sector in Morocco in complying with environmental criteria and the conservation of energy, she said, as part of adaptation plans to meet the impacts of climate change.

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