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From Athens Declaration to Sharm Al Sheik Summit–Lessons from Summer in Flames

Not often there are such high expectations at another Mediterranean summer season, which is accustomed in recent years to crowns as the “hottest months” and similar superlatives about the climate to be broken again historic record. This year the hopes won’t disappointing.  Towards end of July 2022, following the last preliminary meeting of the UN climate preparatory teams that was held in mid- June in Bonn, a gathering that not only revealed the deep rift between the parties, but also exposed the long path need to go to bridge the gaps between the parties, to reach wide understandings on the core issues on the ‘post-Paris’ climate era, so the eyes are focused to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, that in coming November, the annual climate conference COP27 will be opened there. The timing, 8 years before the target year 2030, where it will be possible to examine in practice the worth of commitments made 15 years ago at the COP21 Paris Conference, were aimed to reducing the GHG emissions, on state level.

But this timing marks also the 1st year to ‘Athens Declaration’ was signed by 9 heads of states in the northern Mediterranean, all are member states of the European Union. The article is therefore aimed to those who signed, and to the heads of countries that were not included in the important statement from September a year ago, especially in the southern Mediterranean, and outlines new framework for Mediterranean region, as will detailed below.

Although it is still early to evaluate the results of the coming conference COP27, it is already fair to determine that the doubt whether states would meet these COP21 committed objectives, is not negligible – and yet, we seek to shed international attention as to the focus of the climate discourse on the social weight and socio-political climate governance, which are the basis for a safe road since Paris, and especially all the way to Sharm el-Sheikh.

The unique location of the Sharm Summit  – both geo-physically, the Sinai Peninsula on the shores of the Red Sea, the two world natural resources – desert and sea – that are dramatically affected by climate change,  and geopolitically, at the seam zone between Africa and the Emirates to the south, and the Mediterranean and Europe to the north – requires examining the climate outline of countries in regional prism, when the Mediterranean countries play a significant role, not only in achieving the objectives of the renewable energy transition, but in setting a goal of reducing socio-economic and governance gaps between neighboring countries in climate preparedness, and making the social-democrat values into a key engine in shaping implementable regional climate policy.

This can be illustrated by the following analysis by Oxford group, published Our World Data. The state of readiness of each country for the ultimate target of “Net Zero emissions” is divided according to defined categories, and ranges from ‘lack of data’, ‘discussion’, ‘policy documents’ to ‘legislation’. An examination of the latest data (2021) shows that there is a clear profile of gaps between Western and Northern European countries and Mediterranean countries. An even greater gap in socio-political deployment is found between the Northern and Southern Mediterranean countries.

In Israel, Jordan, Egypt and all North African countries including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Western Sahara – countries that are a transit site for illegal migrants through the Mediterranean, in all do not have data regarding the state program on the subject, as well as not in Albania in the North. Few Mediterranean countries as Malta, Greece and Croatia, are categorized under ‘Target under discussion (2050)’, While in Italy, Portugal and Turkey the issue is defined ‘In policy document (2050)’. In France, Spain and United Kingdom, the subject is already anchored in legislation.

And if someone needs to be convinced that the governmental efforts so far have not been much effective, the 2021 summer season in Med region provided visual approval that seemed like a ‘promo’ to a nightmare scenario of climate policy that is escaping decision-makers, and the recognition that the climate crisis is far more severe than previous estimates, and indeed that led the Greek Prime Minister Mr. Mitsotakis to host Athens’ emergency meeting last year. But the severe situation requires not only to break the “business as usual” routine of Paris version and ‘watchful waiting’ to 2030, but to challenge now the basic assumptions in coping with the climate crisis, specifically in the Mediterranean.

The article therefore addresses the steps declared in Northern Mediterranean countries (September 2021), and outlines new framework based on three points, that internalization and adoption of which will actively assist stabilize the climatic emergency in the Mediterranean region, with social and economic climate horizon.  The 3 points are:

  1. The internalization of climate inequality as part of state-level climate policy, and as part of defined regional collaborations, such as the North-South Mediterranean geo-political climate zones.
  2. Outlining of a long-term climate emergency policy, based on principles of climatic justice and reducing gaps in regional scale in the implementation of low carbon economy policy, focusing on renewable sources. This policy should be applied in wider geographical circles than state level that was agreed in the Paris protocol and in geographical circles that interface with of climate induced migration. For example, North Africa as transit stations for migration to Euro-Med, or more continental areas as the Sahel and Lake of Chad which became climatic zones of forced displacement for millions of people. The Middle East should be accounted due to the link to climate migration, being source for waves of refugees partly due to climate risks and large-scale economic displacement.
  3. The need to create Agenda for climate democracy, which will formulate a core social program and to focus on educational learning programs both for shaping awareness and for building climate resilience of community and civic engagement in climate governance.

Targeting the  above-mentioned regional climate plan by us as ‘Mitigation of socio-economic gaps and adaptation to social-democracy climate governance’ – in Euro-Med where interlinked climate justice in the immediate zone (state level) together with wider geographical region with similar vulnerability for climate change and potentiality to be source for cross continental migration, is aimed to   spotlight on the centrality of democracy and governance values and mainstreaming it as an instrument for the long term that shape climate strategy on the international level and among  Euro-Med decision-makers.

This outline highlights not only the fact that “the environment does not recognize political boundaries”, certainly when repeated occurrences of wildfires as attested in Med summers, but mainly highlights the need for cooperation between North-South Mediterranean countries, and not only among the Northern Med countries, when targeting action plan for climate emergency strategy.

As part of a new initiative of ‘Tahadhari Center for Climate and Migration in Euro-Med region’ registered in Brussels, we will act that South Med countries be part of a regional climate agreement for collaboration, where climate justice and economic development frame the solution. For example, Jordan, which faced the ‘forced absorption’ of millions of Syrians on its land, refugees were housed in an arid region in north-east of the Hashemite kingdom, with low carrying capacity of natural resources,  so without sustainable climate management, such mass scale absorption will be an accelerator factor in economic deterioration of Jordan and as multiplier threat for sustainability of the region, including as fuel for ignite conflicts between local population groups compete on poor resources.  Israel as well, although having the technological advantage over its neighbors which provide capacity to deal with climate change’ consequences, specifically in arid region, this should be targeted for regional sustainability and not only as economic profitable considerations that deepening the gaps in Med region. And surely low-income South Mediterranean countries that are dealing with difficulties and lack of skilled programs in adopting the Green Deal program, and in long term strategy of each state in adopting low carbon economy. We anticipate that the model for global forecasts based on IPCC as literally defined “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” is probably outdated and Mediterranean region should adopt the IPCCRC in the meaning of the “International Platform for Climate Change Regional Collaborations”.

It is not only that the European Green Deal program must develop new mechanisms to help combat energy poverty and targeting gaps in climate regional objectives, and to facilitate the transition to renewable energy in weakened countries and anchor plans for climate resilience, as well as for climate governance in which citizens and various stakeholders are able to influence, part of shared efforts for long term regional sustainability. Neighboring countries, the9 EU state members signed Athene Declaration, together with heads of Euro-Med countries in Northern Mediterranean (as Albania) and especially in the Southern Mediterranean, need to be vigilant and cooperate.

Authors:

Carmit Lubanov (Israel) and Mark Causon (Malta) are the Co-Founders of new regional initiative ‘Tahadhari Center for Climate and Migration in Euro-Med’, registered in Brussels. A think tank for climate policy aimed to reduce gaps between neighboring states based on strengthening climate governance and regional cooperation.

About the Author
Executive Director of Association of Environmental Justice in Israel (AEJI), has expertise on Environmental Justice and Social Theory, as well as long time engaged on field projects among weak links of the society. The focus of Carmit work is the inter linkages between the social, Environmental and political policy, environmental poverty, inequity and discrimination. Carmit has specialized on research, policy advocacy, and mobilizing processes for long term change.
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