The conference “Consultations on Adaptation to a Changing Climate in Arab Countries” was hosted by the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, the World Bank, the League of Arab States (LAS), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Issam Fares Institute of AUB (IFI-AUB), on October 26, in College Hall, with above 50 professionals attending. The agenda consisted of two sessions, the presentation and the discussion, separated by a coffee break and followed by a lunch.
The purpose of the conference was to present and review the World Bank Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region climate change flagship report draft entitled “Adaptation to a Changing Climate in the Arab Countries.” The report is being prepared by the World Bank and the LAS. When finished in early 2012, it will offer valuable information regarding climate change in the MENA region and its impacts, as well as present policy recommendations for the adaptation to the imminent climate change. This consultation was part of a series of consultations in the Arab region, targeting the ministries, private sectors and civil societies for their feedback and input in the flagship report.
Dr. Nadim Farajalla, climate change faculty research director in the IFI-AUB commented on the involvement of the IFI-AUB in the flagship report: “Two of the contributors to the report and two advisors to the group putting together the report are from AUB. Furthermore, the World Bank and the League of Arab States asked us to host the consultation in recognition of our standing role over the past four years. The Climate Change and Environment in the Arab World Program has been heavily involved in climate change studies and activities in the region. We feel it is important that our role continues and that we are always on top of things that involve climate change.”
The conference started with opening remarks by Dr. Nadim Farajalla, Mr. Shombi Sharp, Mr. Sateh Arnaout and Mr. Vahakn Kabakian, who represented the IFI-AUB, UNDP, the World Bank, and the Ministry of Environment respectively and who stressed that the do nothing scenario was no longer an option for the Arab countries when facing climate change, and that the combined efforts of the various organizations represented at the conference was needed to make a change.
The first session was chaired by Mr. Arnaout, and featured three speakers. Mr. Charbel Rizk, project advisor of the Sustainable Land Management Program discussed the issue flood risk management in Lebanon, especially with the increasing frequency of flash floods. He presented the solutions being implemented today such as the construction of water reservoirs and of walls, and reforestation. Mr. Ziad Khayat from the Lebanese Center for Water Management and Conservation talked about water management awareness and habits, rainwater storage, a fading tradition being reinstated in the rural communities, and artificial groundwater recharge currently under investigation. Dr. Nadim Farajalla expressed the need to account for climate change in agriculture since with the increase in temperature and the decrease in moisture the droughts will increase in frequency, increasing the demand on water for irrigation.
After the three speeches, Mr. Ian Noble, climate change specialist form the World Bank emphasized the need for adaptation and building climate resilient communities in contrast with mitigation. Then Ms. Dorte Verner, climate change coordinator form the World Bank presented the draft of the flagship report to the attendees.
The draft was then discussed and reviewed, as the stakeholders split into groups and commented and reported back on the policy options. Dr. Farajalla stated: “The workshop included some of the most active and productive scientists in the country. The quality of presentations made on Lebanon was excellent and the consultation team was very happy with the output of the workshop and with the issues raised and guidance provided by the participants. The enthusiasm and commitment showed by the participants was highly appreciated by the World bank team.”