Arab Spring the new Climate in Doha

Doha+December+1+2012Climate change is the new target of the Arab Spring, as the aftershocks of the revolt have now spilled over into the UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar.

Throughout the Doha climate negotiations so far there has been a real push by Arabs, in particular Arab youths, to campaign against their leaders to do more to combat climate change.

This is the result of both their newfound confidence in criticising authority thanks to recent uprisings within the Arab world and the continued indifference to the climate of their wealthy, oil-exporting leaders.

No more was this apparent than at Saturday’s march through the streets of Doha. It was the first organised demonstration in Qatar and it was fitting that it concerned climate change.

Climate change is the new challenge faced by many young people across the Arab world and it has shown throughout the conference in Doha.

Arab countries, in particular the Gulf States, have been notorious for their dependence on fossil fuels and obstinate intention to perpetuate this.

Qatar, for example, is itself one of the world’s most pollutant countries, with the largest carbon footprint per capita.

But now that it is the first Arab nation to host the UN’s annual climate conference, it is the first time its environmental impunity across the region has gone under the spotlight.

And it has been this, along with the newly inspired confidence of Arabs to speak out against the perceived injustices perpetrated by their leaders, that has caused people from all across the Arab world to mobilise at the Doha negotiations and protest for climate justice.

It has largely been Arab youth leading the charge. The Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) has been extremely blunt in voicing the concerns of Arab youths, who have the most to lose from their governments’ flagrant exploitation of fossil fuels.

Its members have been calling on their governments to show leadership in these negotiations and not wait for increased action from developed countries, who have consistently failed to live up to their own commitments, let alone what’s expected of them.

This is especially pertinent since many developed nations have pulled out of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

Now there’s even talk of Arab countries making pledges to commit to emissions reductions for the first time.

This is all much more than what Qatar bargained for when it submitted to host the climate negotiations this year. It wanted to chair the conference in its quest for rivalling the UAE in being the regional hub of conferences and conventions.

It was only until after its application was successful that Qatar realised that hosting the conference would be more than just about hosting multilateral negotiation talks.

Now, it is under significant scrutiny to improve its domestic standing on climate change and has effectively given its citizens a global platform to voice their apprehensions about it.

But it’s hard to imagine this collective remonstration from Arab youths being so deafening had it not been for the uprisings within the region over the last year or so leading up to now.

In fact, Arabs have largely taken the lead in voicing their frustrations over the last week and more of talks.

While the usually repressive Qatari regime has opened itself up to criticism and scrutiny – something which it should be commended for, even if it lasts a limited time only – the increased confidence in speaking out is definitely manifest in all the corridors of the conference venue.

This is something which the Qatari authorities – and those elsewhere throughout the region – should continue to promote.

It has also been heartening to see young people from places like Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon and even Palestine, among other Arab nations which have recently experienced turmoil, all enthusiastically involved in the process.

It is an inspiration for others who have flown in from across the globe to demand more action from their largely indifferent politicians and negotiators.

Moreover, it has highlighted that climate change is a global problem, and it requires a global revolution to solve.

Although we can demand more from our governments, it is ultimately us – the voters and the consumers – who have just as big of a role to play in combating climate change.

So let’s use the shining example of our Arab friends and the plights they’ve had to undergo to catalyse change and action in our own homelands.

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