France is playing a leading role in creating international awareness to ensure major commitments by countries participating in the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), which will take place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015.
For the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, COP21, or Paris 2015 as it is called, will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
The conference, which is slated to be one of the largest climate events ever organized in Paris and the largest diplomatic event ever held, is expected to bring together around 50,000 participants, including over 25,000 official delegates from the 195 UNFCC countries, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.
As a precursor to COP21, the Embassy of France in Kuwait launched ‘Acting from Kuwait for Climate’, an initiative aimed at increasing awareness about climate change and related issues in Kuwait. Over the weeks leading up to COP21, the embassy is organizing debates, exhibitions and workshops to create a solidarity movement with Kuwaiti citizens, including students, politicians and members of the civil society.
As part of this awareness drive, the embassy in association with Gulf University of Science and Technology (GUST), organized a climate talk at the university premises on 6 October.
Launching the climate debate at GUST, Issam Taleb, representing His Excellency Christian Nakhle, the Ambassador of France to Kuwait, said, "This yearly conference is a crucial international meeting and a top priority on France’s diplomatic agenda. The aim is to reach a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change and preservation of the planet."
Lending her weight to the discussions, Dima Al-Khatib, Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program in Kuwait noted, “In terms of greenhouse emissions in Kuwait, we have 30.33 Giga-grams of emissions out of which a huge proportion comes from energy – 98 percent of this is associated with the combustion of fossil fuels.” She added that unless remedial measures are implemented urgently, “the average temperature in Kuwait will increase by 1.6 degrees Celsius by 2035, rainfall will decrease, and we will see a sea level rise that will affect approximately 170,000 people."
Speaking on the occasion, H.H. Sheikha Fatima Mubarak Jaber Al-Sabah, Vice Chairperson and Executive Director of Kuwait Society for Protection of Animals and Their Habitat (K’S PATH), revealed that while France is targeting an ambitious goal of reducing GHG emissions by 40 percent by 2030, His Highness the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has committed to a 15 percent reduction of GHG in the country by 2030.
The gathering at GUST brought together several renowned and specialized speakers from national groups and international institutions, who helped raise awareness on climate change and shed light on some of the topics and debates that would be taking place during COP21.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Taoufik Souami from the Urban Planning School of Paris, elaborated on ways to change human behavior to conserve environmental resources, while Dr. Eric Verdeil, from Paris East University, talked about the emerging policies for sustainable transition in Mediterranean countries. Citing the example of Jordan, Dr. Verdeil noted how the Kingdom was coping with its geopolitical energy crisis through building alternative energy resources. He went on to add, "We are looking forward to research collaborations in Kuwait with several institutions that have substantial capacity for conducting environmental activities."
Other speakers at the climate talk included, Dr. Khaled Al-Enzi, the Head of Public Relations at Kuwait Environment Protection Authority (EPA), who talked on Kuwait's attempts at consolidating environmental approaches, GUST's Dr. Mohamad Yassine who reflected on climate change and its implication on food, water, and energy. Jenan Behzad, from the Kuwait Environment Protection Society (KEPS), who shed light on the story of climate change in Kuwait’s green schools, and Eng. Salem Al-Ajmi, from the Kuwait Society of Engineers (KSE), who talked about e-waste plants and e-waste management in Kuwait and its benefits for the country and its environment.
It is worth noting that although a few of the Environmental Research Projects (ERPs) in Kuwait do touch upon climate change impacts in the country, the advanced research facilities and highly qualified expertise, particularly at KU and Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), have great potential for examining the short- and long-term impacts of climate change on people and biota of Kuwait.
For instance, evaluations of four specific GHG mitigation options – district cooling, green buildings, fuel switching, and solar and wind power development – indicate that the implementation of these GHG mitigation options in Kuwait would lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions by 2020.
In addition to creating awareness on climate change among the Kuwaiti public, the French embassy’s initiative also extended a chance to members of civil society to present a project at COP21. The public are being encouraged to design a research project around an innovative technology solution, a social practice, or a national environmental policy which can be implemented in Kuwait and encourages people to be more environment-friendly.
Since the overarching goal of COP21 is to reduce GHG emissions, the intended project should address one or more solutions that lowers consumption of natural or economic resources; uses less energy – for heating, cooling, lighting – in buildings; lowers consumption of freshwater; lowers consumption of fossil fuel; lowers production of domestic pollution from GHG emissions, non-biodegradable solid waste, and wastewater or suggests more sustainable practices for waste handling and treatment.