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The Environment and Development

UN-ESCWA Executive Secretary Bader Al Dafa presented a two-fold solution for thwarting the repercussions of climate change (CC) in the region, noting the asymmetry between its small contribution to CC on one hand, and the repercussions it will have to suffer from it on the other hand.
Al Dafa laid out these points in the presentation entitled “Strategies for Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change in the UN-ESCWA Region”, which he delivered on 12 December during the side-even organized by the five UN regional commissions in Bali, Indonesia, at the margins of the UN-held conference on Climate Change (3-14 December 2007).  The event was attended by UN Secretary-General’s Envoys on Climate Change, Han Seung-soo and Ricardo Lagos Escobar, Indonesian Minister of the Environment, Rachmat Witoelar, and head of the UN climate change convention, Ivo de Boer.
“Despite the fact that UN-ESCWA countries do not contribute significantly to Global Warming”, he said, “They will be disproportionately affected by Climate Change (CC), (…) as the UN-ESCWA region is likely to experience the full spectrum of CC consequences.”. With only 3% of the world population, UN-ESCWA region bears the responsibility for a meager 3% of the world CO2 emissions.
Highlighting the importance of natural resources in an area especially dependent on them, namely oil, gas, land and water, Al Dafa said “these critical natural resources determine the entire social, economic and political life in the region. Climate change will compromise all of them”.
 The repercussions of CC, which will be harshly felt throughout the region, comprise the exacerbation of water scarcity and of conflicts over natural resources, the increase in unemployment, the spread of wildfires, and the rise of the sea water levels that may displace more than 14 million people, to name just a few.
             Solutions to these problems lie in the adaptation to, and mitigation of climate change. In this respect, Al Dafa said “all countries of the region are keen on not being portrayed as spectators, but rather as active and involved members of the international community with “common but differentiated responsibilities””.
Under adaptation, UN-ESCWA will support its member countries in their efforts to adapt to the implications of climate change by developing a four step regional strategy which includes: preventing losses by building or modifying infrastructures; reducing losses to tolerable levels by redesigning crop mix;  sharing or spreading losses by designing social safety nets to provide disaster relief and minimize impact on the poor and disadvantaged groups; and providing alternative locations for the resettlement of displaced communities.
As for mitigation, UN-ESCWA will lay heavy stress on providing incentives to member countries to incorporate mitigation into their national development strategies. In this connection, it will propose a long-term regional strategy to promote climate-friendly policies and technologies, economic incentives; and renewable energy technologies; to support industrial, residential and commercial sectors in reducing their energy consumption; etc.
But first and foremost, collective action and strong determination are needed to thwart this phenomenon. “We all have a historical responsibility to future generations, our grandchildren will be our judges”, UN-ESCWA Executive Secretary said, quoting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Executive Secretary also took part on Friday 14 December, in the seminar hosted by the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, on “Emerging Development Issues and Challenges in the Regions”. UN-ESCWA delivered a presentation in the seminar, on “Capital Flows and Economic Social Development in the UN-ESCWA Region”, in which it focused on mobilizing human, economic and financial resources for regional development.
The presentation laid out regional options for addressing development issues and challenges, including a more constructive role of a transparent and efficient public sector, and the consideration of taxes on capital flows.