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Time to act against climate change is now: Expert

‘Regional states need to move beyond establishing targets to taking action’, says energy scholar

Oman and other countries of the Middle East that find themselves on the front line of climate change must move beyond the planning stage and begin taking concrete steps in terms of both mitigation and adaption, according to a well-known energy expert.

Dr Aisha al Sarihi, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW), called for the climate change phenomenon to be addressed urgently, stressing: ‘There is no time to waste!”.

“Regional governments have created momentum in addressing climate change in terms of both mitigation and adaptation. However, that momentum has largely revolved around establishing initiatives and targets without necessarily linking them to the policies and regulations needed to achieve them. Implementation is equally important. Regional states need to move beyond establishing targets to taking action,” Dr Al Sarihi emphasised.

The comments came during ‘Climate Week 2021’ events organised by the Washington-based Middle East Institute (MEI) marking Earth Day on April 22. A number of experts and scholars were invited to offer their perspectives on pressing environmental issues facing the region.

According to Dr Al Sarihi, countries of the Arabian Gulf and Middle East, given their geographic location and arid climate conditions, are prone to climate stresses, particularly relating to rising temperatures and water scarcity.

Citing the World Resource Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, she pointed out that the Middle East is the most water-stressed region on Earth, with only 1 per cent of the world’s total renewable freshwater resources.

“Rising temperatures and extended periods of drought, combined with growing populations, socioeconomic development, and urbanisation, put further pressure on scarce water resources, posing serious threats to lives, livelihoods, biodiversity, economic stability, and human security. Importantly, given the region’s shared geography and natural resources, the impacts of climate change are likely to be felt across borders,” she warned.

In her paper, Dr Al Sarihi called for the prioritisation of “local innovations” over “imported” solutions. She said: “Despite the growing interest in addressing climate and environmental issues, most of the technology and know-how needed to do so is imported. While useful, these imports are not necessarily designed for the region, and they typically need to be adapted to suit local conditions.”

She also called on countries in the region to take advantage of their large youth populations and “enable a national innovation system to ensure that technologies and skills meet local needs and priorities”.

“Some Middle East countries have shared geographies and natural resources, including shared water resources and marine environments, coastal ecosystems, and agricultural lands. Therefore, climate change impacts are likely to be felt across borders, and if not properly managed, this could lead to conflicts or insecurity. Addressing climate challenges should therefore involve transboundary responses,” she further noted.

Earlier this month, the Sultanate affirmed its commitment to a decarbonisation strategy centring on a phased transition towards clean energy fuels in conjunction with the pursuit of energy efficiency goals and other initiatives – all aimed at reducing the country’s carbon footprint.

Those assertions came during Oman’s participation in the 1st Regional Dialogue on Climate Change hosed by US Climate Affairs Envoy John Kerry. The Sultanate was represented at the virtual forum by Dr Abdullah Ali al Amri, Chairman of the Environment Authority.

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