As a show of solidarity in the lead up to Cancun, a Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative (MCCI) was launched in the coastal town of Vouliagmeni, near Athens this past week. Fifteen member countries signed a declaration that binds them to work together on climate change. To take this initiative forward, an expert group is to meet in Malta in the coming months─it will be followed by a second MCCI event in Turkey.
Such solidarity is important. While not among the worse polluters in the world, the Mediterranean countries face an increase of four degrees in average temperature, and a 70% drop in precipitation in the coming years.
I participated in this event and shared the World Bank’s position and perspective. I was struck by the high level of commitment and the cooperative spirit of the host of the meeting; Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, was joined by the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, Malta’s Premier Lawrence Gonzi, and other representatives of the Mediterranean countries.
This initiative , in some sense, is an historic event. Abandoning political differences, the Prime Ministerial commitments and the time devoted to provide national and regional perspectives, is commendable.
Delegates echoed the broad consensus regarding the magnitude and severity of the climate change problem and the cross border implications of the environmental degradation it will cause. A recent World Bank study has shown that warming in the Middle East region is about 50% higher than average global warming. Many of the largest cities in the region are located on the coast and are vulnerable to both sea-level rise and increases in extreme weather events─particularly Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, and the UAE.