Tuesday,22 May, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1326, (5-11 January 2017)
Tuesday,22 May, 2018
Issue 1326, (5-11 January 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Arab youth and climate change

The African-Arab Youth Forum held in Luxor in December called for the establishment of a national authority to confront climate change, reports Mahmoud Bakr

Arab youth and climate change
Arab youth and climate change

Participants at the Eighth African-Arab Youth Forum, sponsored by the Arab Federation for Youth and Environment and held in cooperation with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) and under the auspices of Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul Gheit, called on President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi as a representative of Africa at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit to create an authority dedicated to managing natural disasters since the entire Arab and African regions are within the red belt of climate change.

The new authority would have offices in all the Egyptian governorates, a national fund in its support, and would prepare specialists to address natural disasters before they occurred, improving the country’s preparatory efforts to meet climate change.

The participants at the Forum, held in Luxor between 22 and 26 December, said that Egypt’s 2030 sustainable development plan, which comprises 17 goals, requires the addition of ten basic principles to enable cities to address the threat of natural disasters.

They said the government should present its vision and development plan to the UN, noting that Egypt’s agriculture sector also needed some $35 billion to confront possible damage resulting from climate change. This amount could be reached through annual grants of $3 billion from various international organisations.

The forum called for flexible development plans in keeping with climate change and evolving natural disasters. The participants warned of the dangers of building or cultivating areas in storm or drought-prone areas, and urged that alternative areas be located. Previous studies and experiences needed to be drawn upon to help avoid crises, they said.

Arab and African youth representatives from 15 countries at the forum also launched a campaign to nominate ambassador Moushira Khattab as a candidate for the next director-general of the UN cultural and educational organisation UNESCO.

Governor of Luxor Mohamed Badr, under whose patronage the Forum was held, said that he had called for a dedicated crisis and disaster management centre when a member of the cabinet’s Decision Support Centre, explaining that this had been delayed because it could have been seen as an unnecessary luxury at the time.

This was the view of the National Defence Agency, he said, but it was one that needed to be changed. There was a need for local councils and civil society to play a role, and he warned of the dangers of building in storm water drainage areas, adding that even some government buildings had been guilty of this as well as schools and youth centres.

Badr said that Luxor was the first governorate to complete a comprehensive 2030 development plan based on shifting towards a green economy and submit it to the government.

He added that efforts were underway to raise the efficiency of governorate agencies in order to deal with environmental disasters. There were still problems, however, owing to the lack of technical and funding resources and the absence of wireless communication between local authorities.

But 20 water and sanitation vehicles, alongside ten from the previous year, were now being acquired, Badr said, and 60 vehicles were being produced with the help of the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation.

Ashraf Noureddin Shalabi, regional coordinator for climate change and meteorological affairs and director of environmental affairs at the Arab League, said that the league was tackling climate change on two main tracks. An Arab plan of action to deal with climate change had been drawn up, and joint Arab action in climate change negotiations was being pursued.

On both these tracks, young people were playing a particularly important role, he said, adding that the Luxor Forum was evidence of the strong political will to hold more such events in cooperation with the Arab League in order to raise awareness of the environment and for young people to serve their societies.

Magdi Allam, secretary-general of Arab Environmental Experts Federation, said the Paris Climate Summit was a landmark in the history of climate change, but unfortunately the status quo was likely to continue and would “not progress one iota” because of various challenges.

There had been verbal disputes over the meaning of the “shared responsibility and various roles” to be shouldered by the main perpetrators of global warming, the price of which we were all now paying, he said. The leading industrial countries did not want to shoulder their responsibility for climate change, even though their citizens had profited greatly from the emission of the greenhouse gases causing climate change.

Allam said that since Egypt’s 2030 development plan was finalised the country had not taken steps to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals that included issues of climate change and crisis management, even though the international community had earmarked $100 billion annually to limit climate change.

“I had hoped that Egypt would present a proposal for compensation for the natural disasters it has endured recently, including the 15,000 feddans that have been completely destroyed, the heavy rainfall in Alexandria that was the equivalent of nine months of rain, and the flooding in Ras Ghareb,” he said.

He noted that Egypt needed $73 billion for its development plan, including $35 billion to address the agricultural crisis alone. “We don’t need to do any more than to present proposals and ask for compensation from the Green Fund created after the Paris Agreement, which has earmarked $100 billion annually to fund environmental projects and compensate for disasters,” he added.

Allam also suggested the creation of a national authority for crisis and disaster management with branches across the country and a national fund that could help meet each governorate’s financial and human resources needs.

He welcomed Prime Minister Sherif Ismail’s decision to restructure the National Committee for Crisis and Disaster Management and President Al-Sisi’s plan to cultivate 1.5 million feddans in the New Valley, including the building of 100,000 greenhouses. Each greenhouse will be 600 square metres in size, and the yield of each will be equivalent to one feddan even though it uses 12 to 25 per cent of the water used on regular land.

Arab Federation for Youth and Environment Secretary-General Mamdouh Rashwan said the international community would meet in two months’ time to discuss events since the Paris Agreement was signed. The Federation had an important role to play, he said, as its recommendations, based on the participation of young people, could set priorities for discussion and research.

Rashwan added that in the past the Federation had participated in the UN campaign to plant one billion trees around the world. It had planted 10 million trees over three years, he said, including 7.5 million in Egypt and 1.5 million in Syria.

ISESCO representative Mustafa Eid praised the involvement of Arab and African young people in important issues such as climate change, reflecting their maturity and awareness of the problems and challenges in the world.

He also praised the cooperation between ISESCO and the Federation, noting that ISESCO had signed more than 385 international agreements with the Federation, as well as other organisations and agencies. There were 300 cooperation agreements on the environment alone, he said.

In terms of cooperation with young people, ISESCO cooperates with 59 youth centres in Latin America, Western Europe, East Asia and other areas. Eid said an environmental map had been drawn up based on the recommendations of the recent Marrakech Summit in Morocco, along with a strategy to address disasters in the Arab and Islamic world that would increase the role of youth and take on board their views.

Sessions at the forum included lectures, including by Abbas Sharaqi, head of the Natural Resources Department at Cairo University, entitled “Climate Change and its Impact on Water Resources” which began with the question of whether climate change was permanent or whether it was the result of short-term fluctuations.

Sharaqi said that the rise in the temperature of the Earth’s surface would lead to the melting of the polar ice caps and rises in seawater levels, engulfing some coastal areas.

Sally Mohamed Farid, an economics professor at the African Research and Studies Institute at Cairo University, discussed the economic repercussions of climate change in the Nile Basin countries, while Magdi Rizk Khalil Samak, a professor of land use the African Research and Studies Institute at Cairo University, discussed the impact of climate change on agricultural yields in Africa.

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