Nasser Kamel, Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean: press photo
New York - 2 October 2019: In September, the Bahamas was hammered by Category 5 Dorian hurricane that brutalized and damaged everything on the islands. Hurricanes, rising sea levels and many other threats are results of Climate change.
The phenomenon of climate change was the main theme of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, hosting the Youth Climate Summit and Climate Action Summit.
Several international and regional organizations participated in the meetings, including Union for the Mediterranean, an intergovernmental institution that brings together 43 countries to promote dialogue and cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
In an interview with Ambassador Nasser Kamel, secretary general of the union, Kamel shared the main findings of a new study about the challenges and threats that face the Mediterranean region as a result of the phenomenon. The study will be released later in October.
In the below lines is the interview with Mr. Kamel:
You conducted the first regional study about the impact of global warming on the Mediterranean region. Would you tell us more about the study and What are the plans of the Union to tackle these challenges?
Climate and environment issues are one of the main areas of work in the Union for the Mediterranean. Nearly 40% of the Union's activities focus on these issues and 60% of the projects we support are related to this area as well. As the Mediterranean region gathers three continents, so there is the availability of a database on the impact of climate change and global warming on the Mediterranean region, where all studies were continental.
The Union for the Mediterranean, in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), under an initiative related to the United Nations called "Blue Plan", we created the first scientific group of 80 researchers and scientists from the region to study how the Mediterranean basin is affected by the effects of climate change.
The group presents the first preliminary results of this rigorous scientific research on the sidelines of the ministerial meetings of Union for the Mediterranean in early October and will provide a recommendation to decision-makers on what should be taken consider to deal with the phenomenon.
What are the main results of the study in this regard?
The study shows that the Mediterranean region is already one of regions most affected by global warming and the more horrifying is that it’s the second most affected area after the North Pole. One possible effect is to increase the rate of water poverty in the entire Mediterranean basin, as well as the impact of biodiversity and fish quantity. This study puts the problem within a Euro-Mediterranean framework and clearly demonstrates that unless the North Mediterranean countries move to support the southern Mediterranean countries, they will be equally affected.
Numerous reports and studies have reported the effects of climate change on the delta region and the potential of inundation of Alexandria city as a result of rising sea levels.. has the study dealt with this matter?
The study says that unless we act to reduce global warming and carbon emissions within 12 years and hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 1.5°C, there will be several effects, including the possibility of rising sea level to affect all coastal cities overlooking the sea, not only Alexandria. But these scenarios are based on the assumption that countries will not act to deal with this challenge, while the reality is that governments are conscious of the threat and each has a national plan as well as regional and international cooperation. For example, Egypt has taken many steps over the past five years by switching from traditional energy sources to non-traditional renewable sources, working on protecting the Mediterranean coast and infrastructure projects.
The countries most affected by climate change are the least contributing to the phenomenon as the main responsibility lies on the industrialized countries. Is the responsibility of confronting the phenomenon equal between countries?
The industrial countries realize that they have a greater responsibility as a result of the historical perspective of the phenomenon and given their economic abilities in the face of the phenomenon. Consequently, national determinations vary from country to country according to their capacity and the degree of thermal emissions they cause.
The European Union countries are among the most contributors to addressing it. They are committed to the Paris deal and are committed to its voluntary contribution providing technical to Southern Mediterranean countries in identifying challenges, developing strategies and finding funding.
What is the assistance provided by the North Mediterranean countries to the South?
The contribution relates to four areas, including financial support for a number of countries. The number of projects supported and adopted by the Union, worth 2.3 billion euros in all countries of the Southern Mediterranean. North also provides technical assistance and feasibility studies.
You referred to the Eco-friendly projects, are the green projects profitable compared to others?
Studies on the ground prove that Eco-friendly projects such as renewable energy and biological crops are economically feasible. The private sector is looking for investment opportunities for environmentally responsible infrastructure projects because of their returns. There is an example in Brazil when street lighting was changed by LED bulbs, resulting in a 63 percent reduction in emissions from city lighting and a 64 percent reduction in electricity consumption, moreover 14 percent returns for the private sector.
Also because of the economic feasibility of these projects, pension investment funds in Europe, the United States and major companies direct a proportion of funds to invest in such projects as part of their policies.
What are the actual steps taken by Egypt in the face of the phenomenon?
The Egyptian state initiative regarding the use of energy-saving bulbs is one of the most responsible environmental initiatives and its economic feasibility is quite clear. The government’s aim is that by 2025 Egypt will get 42% of its electricity from renewable sources and it constructed the Benban complex as the world’s largest solar park. All this shows that Egypt is on track and so do many southern Mediterranean countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan, as well as the North Mediterranean countries. Some north countries plan that by 2040 it will be emission neutral in the sense of reaching Zero Emissions.
To what extent the region able to overcome climate change?
I am optimistic about the serious steps being taken to combat the phenomenon by the governments of the region on different levels and through many methods; ecological agriculture, waste treatment, and eco-friendly projects.