Arabs in Copenhagen fear becoming scapegoat for US

Copenhagen–As soon as the Copenhagen summit on climate change started on Monday, the conference agenda was packed with the programs of representatives from 192 states, joined eventually by Iraq and Somalia. Early signs of regional dispute over the issue of global warming emerged with friction between Arab, African and oil-producing states, which together represented the greater sector of developing countries.

One member of the Arab delegations, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed a concern felt by those countries that they might become a "scapegoat" for the United States if it manages to impose its influence on states such as China and Pakistan, which, as countries shifting towards becoming developed countries, the US has attempted to burden with part of the responsibility for greenhouse emissions, thus relieving itself from responsibility for the problem.

The source said that the battle of negotiations currently taking place at the conference, expected to continue for another eleven days, involves three main parties: the US, the EU, and developing countries – in the sense that the divide is not limited to that between North and South. Since the Kyoto conference, European states feel that they have been carrying the most responsibility for the negative consequences of the industrial revolution, causing them to be eager now to abdicate their obligations, especially in light of the US insisting on not agreeing to any commitments that have not signed on to by developing countries, given that fact that oil-rich states are in no need of financial aid, said the source.

When speaking about oil-exporting and importing countries, some Arab delegations criticized Saudi Arabia for focusing narrowly on the idea of compensation which, according to Saudi Arabia, should be paid by the European side on behalf of developing countries which will bear the brunt of the climate problems.

Concerning the form of the final agreement, Arab sources gave predictions that contradicted the air of optimism accompanying the US president’s declaration that he will be present at the concluding session of the summit. They expect that the final resolution will not go beyond a "non-binding decision," and expressed doubts about the possibility of achieving a protocol as serious as that of Kyoto, given US stubbornness.

Industrial countries were awarded "the fossil of the day," a prize given by environment activists to countries that most lag behind with respect to counter-climate change efforts.

Despite fears of rising greenhouse emissions, former US president Bill Clinton said that reaching a new deal on climate change requires countries to view efforts to counter climate change as an economic opportunity and not as a "dose of castor oil you have to swallow." He expressed concern that the current impetus might be lost if participants do not reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Speaking about Egypt’s position on the climate map, Mohamed el-Raey, professor of marine science and an international climate change expert, warned that Egypt ranks third on the list of countries most affected by the problem. World Bank reports support these fears, stating that Egypt will face disastrous consequences.

El-Raey added that categorizing climate change challenges as a national security issue relates to the fact that the dangers are linked to many vital aspects of life, such as food, air and water. When the sea level rises higher than that of the land, he explained, saltwater will submerge agricultural areas, salt the soil and render it uncultivatable, in addition to causing the salination of groundwater.

The Egyptian delegation to the summit is comprised of seven ministries, six of which are technical: the environment, petroleum, electricity and energy, water resources, agriculture, civil aviation, plus the Foreign Ministry which coordinates the process of negotiations with other delegations.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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