DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Middle East is the world’s most water-scarce region, but participants at the upcoming climate summit in Dubai will be ensconced in a resort with one of the world’s largest water parks. , complete with artificial water. lagoons, dolphin encounters and a fascinating aquarium with sharks, rays and schools of fish.
It’s a stunning backdrop for a climate summit aimed at tackling water shortages and other pressing problems facing the region due in part to rising global temperatures due to fossil fuels produced by Gulf states and others. The Arabian Peninsula, where Dubai sits, is dealing with threatening sandstorms, rising temperatures and dangerous humidity levels.
As major world powers promise to switch to greener forms of energy, oil producers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates say they, too, will cut emissions. within their borders, even as they promise to keep pumping oil and gas exports to boost their economies.
Greenpeace MENA’s Dania Cherry said it will not be easy for oil producers to move off fossil fuels.
“We understand that it will take time, but we need to be more ambitious and we really need to take bigger steps on this,” Cherry said.
Throughout the Middle East, people are living with the impacts of climate change. Farmers in rural Egypt face severe water shortages along the Nile River. Millions of people in Syria and Iraq are at risk of losing access to water, electricity and food amid rising temperatures and record low water levels due to drought.
From Western Sahara in Morocco to the eastern reaches of the Persian Gulf in Iran, The drought has sparked anger and street protests against the government. The World Bank has identified 11 countries in the region among the most water-stressed countries in the world, including the six energy-producing states of the Persian Gulf.
To discuss these challenges, the United Arab Emirates will host a United Nations-backed climate summit next week. When people gather for MENA Climate Week, they’ll exchange business cards and ideas in the underwater-themed lounges of Dubai’s iconic Atlantis hotel, a $1.5 billion resort that features a massive water park with aquariums and lagoons that house about 65,000 marine animals.
The impressive complex, which requires huge amounts of fresh and desalinated water to maintain its operations, is built on an artificial island so large it can be seen from space. To build Dubai’s palm-shaped island, more than 100 cubic meters (3,500 cubic feet) of sand were dredged from the bottom of the Persian Gulf and millions of tons of rock were extracted from the mountains. Environmentalists say the buildup of so much shoreline has exacerbated erosion of Dubai’s main coastline and destroyed turtle nesting sites in the area.
While Atlantis on The Palm has numerous projects that support conservation efforts, including the breeding and release of sharks and rays program, the water-soaked backdrop of the climate action summit is jarring. The Atlantis Dubai declined to share information about its water use with The Associated Press, referring instead to its marine conservation programs.
The opulence and luxury of Atlantis, which is a major tourist draw for Dubai, also fits with the UAE ethos that a sustainable future does not mean a return to the past.but it requires innovation to support economic growth and human prosperity.
The country hosts the climate summit under its Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, a government body with the brand and task of ensuring the UAE remains ambitious and on track in its energy transition.
Still, the Persian Gulf states have pledged to continue extracting oil and gas, arguing in global forums that fossil fuels are a integral part of the energy transition and cannot be removed quickly. They have asked for hundreds of billions of dollars in annual investment in the oil and gas industry to keep up with global demand.
On the same day the climate summit opens, Dubai will host an energy forum elsewhere in the city with energy ministers and global oil executives to discuss energy demand and how the climate crisis is affecting energy markets.
Given the pace of climate change, said Mohammed Mahmoud, director of the Climate and Water Program at the Middle East Institute. “I think it’s kicking the can down the road as they try to figure things out, but we may not have the luxury of time.”
This week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued another dire warning, writing on Twitter: “We are sleepwalking towards climate catastrophe.”
Greenpeace’s Cherry said hosting the climate meeting in Dubai raises awareness of the effects of climate change in the region and puts the issue front and center. However, she cautioned that it is important that the meetings are not “spreading propaganda” and are actually addressing serious issues, as well as engaging youth from the region.
According to World Bank data, the world’s four largest carbon dioxide polluters per capita are in the Persian Gulf: Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. These countries not only face scorching summers, but amplified heat with no nighttime respite due to higher humidity levels. Heat stress is amplified when people don’t have a chance to cool down at night. Warmer seas could also affect the intensity of cyclones and affect fish and marine life.
While the UN-backed climate week is far from the first time the region has hosted a summit to tackle global warming, it marks another step toward broadening the global conversation about climate change and its impact. The UN says similar weeks are planned for Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific and Africa this year.
The Middle East will attract even more attention as the host of the next two UN summits to assess progress on the Paris climate agreement, intended to prevent global temperatures from reaching catastrophic levels.
That COP27 global meeting will take place in November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on the Red Sea coast, where rising temperatures have bleached coral reefs., threatening the local ecosystem and tourism industry on which millions of Egyptians depend. The event will be held in Dubai in 2023.
The region has not hosted a COP meeting since 2012, when Qatar became the first Middle Eastern country to host the event.