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Let's unite to combat climate change threat

ENVIRONMENTALISTS are calling on individuals, organisations in all sectors in Bahrain to unite in combating climate change.

The country may only be responsible for 0.1 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions but per capita it is the sixth highest polluter in the world.

Climate change will affect many aspects of the environment and the challenge of rising sea levels will have a direct impact on Bahrain and the Gulf, said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative Sayed Aqa.

Globally, there will be more extreme weather including drought, flooding, disruption and destruction of plant and animal species, the spread of diseases and other natural disasters which makes the issue of climate change a major concern to all.

Halting climate change will require a commitment from everyone because it is humans who are causing the damage, he added.

"Our planet needs us. We have to unite to combat climate change. The governments cannot do it alone," said Mr Aqa, who is also UN resident co-ordinator.

"All players - the government, private sector, non-governmental organisations, academia, media and most importantly individuals must work together and share the responsibility in addressing environment-related challenges.

"Green technologies and habits should replace carbon emitting fuel-guzzling practices.

"Responsible use of water, energy and recycling on the part of individuals can go a long way in saving our future from catastrophes and devastation.

"We can no longer wait. We have to unite to fight climate change, we have to make protecting the environment central to our daily life."

According to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (2007) global warming is caused by human activity and not natural variations, noted Mr Aqa.

The UNDP human development report 2007-08 also concludes that stabilising greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that prevents catastrophic climate change would require a 50pc reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.

To achieve this, the report recommends that developed countries cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80pc by 2050, with 20 to 30pc cuts by 2020.

For major emitters in developing countries, it recommends aiming for an emissions trajectory that peaks in 2020, with 20pc cuts by 2050.

"Addressing this problem requires significant efforts, but the benefits of a strong early action considerably outweigh the costs," said Mr Aqa.

"Notably, the Stern Review emphasises that the failure to invest in activities addressing climate change could cost the global economy up to 20pc of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - equivalent to the great wars and depressions of the 20th century."

Mr Aqa said the way the world dealt with the problem now would have a direct bearing on the human development prospects.

"Climate change will compound existing water scarcity problems, increase the number of people suffering water stress and reduce access to clean drinking water," he said.

"It will have an impact on rain-dependant agriculture, affecting both local cropping patterns and international production and trade.

"Inter-governmental panel on climate change findings include - 75-250 million people across Africa could face water shortages by 2020.

"The loss of biodiversity will have additional negative effects on people's livelihoods."

Mr Aqa was speaking yesterday at a celebration to mark World Environment Day.

The celebration was organised by the UN, the Institute of Engineers Pakistan-Bahrain Chapter (IEP-BC) and the Bahrain Society of Engineers, held at BSE premises in Juffair.

More than 150 society members, UN officials, ambassadors, environmentalists and Press as well as Pakistan Urdu School, the Pakistan School and the New Millennium School attended.

United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) Global Environment Facility (GEF) liaison officer Dr Abdul Majeed Haddad, BSE president Abdul Majeed Al Gassab and Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife senior environmental specialist and engineer Rehan Ahmed also spoke at the event.

Dr Haddad said human activity had already damaged the planet and even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to be cut from now, the earth would still be affected.

"It's difficult to deal with uncertainties, we know the impact will happen, but we don't know exactly where it will impact and how it will happen," he said.

Dr Haddad said climate change needed to be tackled in two ways - through mitigation and adaptation at global, national and local levels.

He said at the global level the Kyoto Protocol on climate change had been agreed in 1997, became effective in February 2005 and as of October 2007, 175 parties had signed and ratified the treaty.

Its first commitment period for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions ends in 2012.

World leaders began talks for a new deal to address climate change at the UN climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007.

They are expected to wrap-up negotiations at the next UN climate-convention meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.

The main objective is to make new commitments which will come into force in 2013 when the current system expires.."



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