One of the exciting developments at the recent UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar that few have heard about is the emergence of an Arab youth movement that’s pushing for action on climate change in the Middle East.
Like the rest of the world, the Middle East is experiencing its share of impacts from climate change. Dry regions are becoming drier and flash floods are more frequent.
During the United Nations negotiations, hundreds of youth activists from more than 10 Arab countries marched – chanting "It’s Time To Lead," and "We Want Change." They are part of a group called the Arab Youth Climate Movement, which emerged as part of the Arab Spring.
This was the first public demonstration in Qatar’s history.
"The fact that this movement has only recently gained momentum is highly significant," says Katherine Shabb of Conservation International who is involved in the movement. "In the wake of the Arab Spring sweeping the region and creating a new space for change, incorporating climate change into political conversations is crucial. It’s time for Arabs to prove that they can commit to larger goals and embrace change on all levels, including environmental ones."
By the end of the UN climate change conference, Shabb’s home country of Lebanon committed to reduce emissions 12% – the only Arab country to end the conference with a formal pledge.
The particular challenge, of course, is that the Middle East is home to OPEC oil producing nations, where establishing the need to address climate change on a regional and global basis is a thorny political challenge.
Given this conflict, there’s has been notable progress in recent months.
Saudi Arabia is aiming for 100% renewable energy, after adopting a target of 41 gigawatts of solar by 2032. Its first utility-scale solar plant is under construction, as is a solar polysilicon manufacturing facility.
Qatar announced a solar target of 1.8 gigawatts by 2014 and Iraq announced it will invest in 400 megawatts of solar and wind over the next three years to the tune of $1.6 billion.
Rather than consuming all their oil and gas resources, they see renewables as a way to supply domestic demand, leaving fossil fuels for export.
Watch the Arab Youth Climate Movement protest video below:
Here’s their Facebook page: