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Qatar: ‘Climate change issue demands COVID-19 like measures’

Ecological issues like increase in sea level, temperature, ocean acidification, intensity of sand storms pose serious risk

Burak Bir  | 18.04.2020 - Update : 19.04.2020
Qatar: ‘Climate change issue demands COVID-19 like measures’


Despite committing to hold an environment-friendly grand football World Cup in 2022, experts believe that in absence of drastic preventive measures climate change is posing a challenge to human survival in Qatar and other Gulf nations.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Neeshad Shafi, the founder of the Qatar-based Arab Youth Climate Movement, said that the Gulf countries could face an unlivable situation if the governments do not take drastic steps like the ones they are taking currently to stem the spread of coronavirus of COVID-19 pandemic. 

The region is already experiencing environmental hazards like an increase in sea level, high temperature, ocean acidification, the intensity of sand storms and increased desertification, besides the growing rate of emissions. 

"The global scenario also looks gloomy as beyond the emission reductions registered in 2015, no further efforts were made to control emissions...There is no chance of stopping the runaway warming of our planet and no doubt we are slowly but surely heading towards some kind of collapse," he said.

Shafi said since the emission trend is increasing in the country, Qatar's role in global climate change is important and the growing rate of emission will impact the country severely.

"Qatar’s ecosystem is fragile and exposed to acute water stress. Excessive withdrawal of groundwater for irrigation is contributing to seawater intrusion and deteriorating water quality making the water unfit for irrigation," he said.

The environmentalist added that this excessive withdrawal, compounded by higher temperatures and erratic annual rainfall, has affected the groundwater recharge as well as adding severe limitations to food production.

He claimed despite urgency demanded by the issue, there are limited studies available, thereby making it more difficult to document the impact of climate change on different fields.

He said that since studies are mostly conducted at the macro level encircling a large geographical area such as the entire Middle East, there is a key information gap in the country like Qatar.

"Assessing the severity of risks and dealing with anticipated changes will require mobilizing resources, coordinating efforts and putting appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks in place," he added.

Qatar committed to green FIFA

On the official response by Qatar to tackle climate change both locally and globally, Shafi said there are some positive developments related to FIFA World Cup 2022.

"Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani has committed to organizing an environment-friendly FIFA World Cup 2022. It will be the first carbon-neutral tournament using solar-powered stadiums. Water and energy will be saved in cooling and lighting technology, “he said.

Apart from that, the country has announced a contribution of $100 million for the support of small developing island states and the least developed nations to deal with climate change and other environmental problems.

"Qatar has signed an agreement with French energy giant Total and Japan's Marubeni to build a solar power plant capable of producing 800 megawatts of electricity, a tenth of country's peak energy demand, according to the country's energy minister," said the environmentalist.

He said that Al Kharsaah solar plant, expected to be operational by 2022, will reduce 26 million tons of carbon footprints. The Doha metro projects are also estimated to lead the decline of carbon emissions by 30%.

A movement to save the environment

On the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar (AYCMQ), Shafi said it seeks to become a voice on climate and ecological crisis as well as to co-create cost-effective solutions.

Founded in 2015, AYCMQ, which is the first and only registered youth lead environmental NGO in the country, aims to build a generation-wide movement to understand, contemplate and reflect the essence of nature and its attributes.

"Our objective is to push the boundaries of mainstream environmentalism and to ask fundamental questions and assumptions about the environment and the way we live and interact with nature. We aspire to raise the ecological consciousness of the community through grassroots programs that will build and nurture sustainable communities in Qatar," he noted.

To achieve this, he added, the grassroots education and awareness, capacity building and community development, policy and advocacy were chosen as the three main elements to be pursued by this organization.

In 2012, Doha, the capital of Qatar hosted the 18th Conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which entered into force in March 1994 to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere by setting non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries.

The conference while reaching an agreement to extend the life of the Kyoto Protocol until 2020, also agreed in principle that richer nations could be financially responsible to other nations for their failure to reduce carbon emissions.

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