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UN Climate Change Conference to Center on Middle East

FILE - Fishermen navigate on the Shatt al-Arab waterway during a sandstorm in Basra, Iraq, May 23, 2022. This year's annual U.N. climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November, throwing a spotlight on the region. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)
UN Climate Change Conference to Center on Middle East
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This year’s United Nations climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November.

Because of this, the conference will pay special attention to climate problems of the Middle East. The U.N. wants to talk about the damage that climate problems have already caused Middle Eastern economies.

Financing for climate change adaptation – the process of dealing with the effects of climate change - will be an important issue.

In Iraq, sandstorms have hit cities often this year. The wind storms shut down businesses and sent thousands of people to hospitals.

In Egypt’s Nile River Delta, rising soil salt levels are eating away farmland. And in Afghanistan, drought has helped fuel the movement of young people from their homes to cities in search of work.

Average temperatures in the Middle East have risen far faster than the world’s average in the past 30 years. That information comes from the International Monetary Fund. And in recent weeks, temperatures in some parts of the region have reached 50 degrees Celsius.

Lama El Hatow is an expert on environmental climate change.

“More and more states are starting to understand that it’s necessary” to act, she said.

Egypt, Morocco and other countries in the region have been increasing programs for clean energy production, like solar energy.

Countries meeting at COP-27 want to push for more international financing to help Middle Eastern countries deal with climate change problems.

The U.N. has warned that the Middle East’s crop production could drop 30 percent by 2025. The region is expected to lose 6 to 14 percent of its GDP by 2050. The World Bank says the reason for the lost economic activity is water scarcity. In Egypt, rain levels have fallen 22 percent in the past 30 years.

Droughts are expected to take place more often and to be more severe. The U.S. space agency NASA says the Eastern Mediterranean area has had its worst drought in 900 years. That is bad news for countries like Syria and Lebanon where agriculture depends on rainfall.

The climate damage could also have bad social effects.

Karim Elgendy is with Chatham House, a policy group based in London.

Elgendy said many people in the Middle East who lose jobs in agriculture or tourism will move to cities looking for work. Such changes, Elgendy said, will likely increase unemployment in cities and could raise social problems and affect security.

Changing infrastructure and economies to deal with the damage will be costly. The IMF estimates that all these changes will cost 3.3 percent of the region’s GDP every year for the next 10 years.

The spending has to go toward many needs. These include better water use systems and new agricultural methods. Other costs include increasing social programs and public information campaigns.

One of the top issues for developing nations at this year’s meeting will be to press rich nations to provide billions of dollars in promised climate financing.

So far, most of the money provided has gone to helping poorer countries pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — a process known as “mitigation."

Developing nations also want richer countries to show how they will carry out a promise from the last climate meeting to provide $500 billion in financing over the next five years. The idea is to ensure at least half the financing is for adaptation, not mitigation.

However, inflation and a possible economic recession could make big nations slow to act.

International officials often pay attention to emissions reductions, El Hatow said. She said the countries of Africa, the Middle East and other places in the developing world are not the biggest causes of climate change. But, many of these countries will deal with the worst effects of it.

“We need to talk about financing for adaptation,” she said, “to adapt to a problem they [developing countries] did not cause.”

I’m John Russell.

Lee Keath reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

drought – n. a long period of time during which there is very little or no rain

region – n. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) --n. The total value of all goods and services produced in a country in one year

scarcity – n. a very small supply : the state of being scarce

tourism —n. the business of providing hotels, restaurants, entertainment, etc., for people who are traveling

infrastructure –n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly