Written by Rana Hajj
Kamel: “It is important to turn climate emergency into an opportunity because investing in the green and the blue is actually a multiplier in terms of GDP growth, and a multiplier in terms of creating jobs.”
NNA - Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Secretary General, Nasser Kamel, has declared a state of “climate emergency” in the Mediterranean region, which has been identified as one of the main climate change hotspots in the world, as per the preliminary conclusions of the first-ever comprehensive scientific report on the impact of climate and environmental change in the Med region. Consequently, Kamel affirmed that the UfM would be stepping up its climate action activities during the UN Climate Change Conference COP25, which kicked off in Madrid on December 2, 2019.
During its fourth Regional Forum in October 2019, the UfM unveiled the ground-breaking findings of the aforementioned report, which has been developed by a network of over 80 scientists from across the Euro-Mediterranean area (MedEEC). The report shows that the Mediterranean region warms 20% faster than the rest of the world and 250 million people are projected to be considered “water-poor” within 20 years. With current policies, temperatures are expected to increase by 2.2 ºC by 2040, well above the global limit established by the Paris Agreement.
Interview with NNA
In an exclusive interview with the National News Agency on the heels of COP25, the UfM’s Secretary General responded with a “big yes” to a question on whether the new findings of the climate report have changed the priorities of the UfM’s agenda.
“The answer is a big yes, definitely. The MedECC was actually established with the support of the UfM and the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Program, through it ‘Plan Bleu’ Regional Activity Center. The study has shown all the adverse effects that climate change can have on the social and economic development of the region; these findings have not only impacted the secretariat of the UfM, but also member states. In this sense, climate change is now an institution-wide priority, as we are no longer just talking about climate change, but rather more about climate emergency to be quite honest,” Kamel said.
He went on to explain that when tackling different activities and different sectors of cooperation in the region, such as economic cooperation and development, the major focus was on circular economy, blue economy, and green economy.
“It is important to turn climate emergency into an opportunity because investing in the green and the blue is actually a multiplier in terms of GDP growth and a multiplier in terms of creating jobs,” the UfM chief added.
Furthermore, he revealed that the UfM was streamlining climate emergency into every single dimension of its activities. “Even through education, we have been trying to bring to the attention of younger men and women in the region the need to do more.”
UfM at COP25
During the COP25, the UfM will also be highlighting the opportunities to be seized in the region while contributing to the sustainable development of the Mediterranean. “Unless an economic incentive was created for an economy that is based on sustainable development, the desired goal in dealing with climate change would not be reached,” Kamel affirmed.
“There’s actually now an economic rational to work on this, as studies are showing very clearly that working on renewable energy is actually profitable as a sector, and so is working on circular economy, blue economy, etc; they all have a simultaneous positive impact in terms of lowering our carbon footprint and our economic growth,” Kamel elaborated further.
In response to a question on whether COP25 will be an opportunity to garner more financial support for environment-related projects in the Med region, Kamel said that during the COP25, an event would be held with the UNFCCC on climate action, during which climate financing would be discussed.
“This brings us back to the idea that in order to be successful in facing the climate emergency, we have to resort to what we call today ‘blending’-- we need the commitment of national governments to provide the necessary resources. For financial support, we need an architecture of finance; this means bringing different formats and types of finance – national and government finance, international financial institutions, and the private sector. All together they should create, identify, and structure bankable projects that could be attractive for economic actors in our society to engage in,” the UfM Secretary General explained.
However, Kamel confirmed that environmental financing had never been a problem. “I’m fully convinced that the issue is never about the lack of funds, but rather more about the creation of an economic model that will increase action. For instance, many boards of pension funds – at the global level – have decided to dedicate a percentage of their investments into sustainable, green, and climate change-related activities. I see a multiplication now of what we call an ‘impact investment private equity funds.”
The GCF (Global Climate Fund) has managed a few weeks ago to mobilize more than $10 billion, but Kamel said that he actually had the impression that the GCF lacked structured projects that could benefit from the available money that they have. “This brings us back to the problem, which is not about asking for more money, but rather more structuring projects that could attract this money,” Kamel explained.
The UfM’s chief went on to affirm that Lebanon and any other country could benefit from climate financing; however, in his words, it was up to the Lebanese actors, promoters, and government to start proposing projects that were feasible at the technical level and financially viable. “If they’re not, then we can look into the pool of finance that we can bring in to deal with the shortcomings in terms of financial viability. However, it’s all up to the local Lebanese actors on the ground, especially starting with cities such as Sidon, Beirut, and Tripoli,” he said.
Climate change awareness
Touching on the means by which the UfM helps spread environmental awareness in Med countries, in which the environment remains very low on their agenda, Kamel finally said, “We don’t have a magic wand, but what we are doing today is bringing this issue first to the attention of decision makers.”
Kamel then asserted that the climate emergency issue had been brought up during the last ministerial meeting of the UfM, and said that it would be discussed again in a couple of months with the ministers of environment of the 43 member states.
“We are mounting a very aggressive media campaign to help spread awareness in the region. We are working with the UNDP on ‘not pressuring’ but ‘encouraging’ member states in the Middle East to meet their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) and to see where they’re facing implementation problems. We are making it widely known that funds are available and that we are ready to help member states structure their projects and talk about their needs so that we can discuss means of implementing projects in terms of mitigation,” Kamel concluded.