Kuwait Times‘ Shakir Reshamwala tells us that Many in Kuwait are willing to pay a fee for single-use plastic bags whilst others call for a complete ban on plastic or switch to paper bags
Many in Kuwait willing to pay a fee for single-use plastic bags
KUWAIT: Plastic bags seem to be everywhere – in parks, sewers, deserts, forests, oceans, and lately, in the news, after authorities in Dubai announced they are ending the free distribution of single-use plastic bags in a drive towards more sustainable practices. “In line with enhancing environmental sustainability and encouraging individuals to reduce the excessive use of plastics, the Executive Council of Dubai has approved the policy to limit single-use bags by imposing a tariff of 25 fils (about $0.07) on single-use bags,” the authorities said. The decision will come into force at the start of July in shops, restaurants, pharmacies and for home deliveries.
In Kuwait, there are no restrictions on single-use plastic bags, and despite attempts by supermarkets to promote reusable bags, there aren’t many takers due to their relatively high cost and the freely available plastic bags. It is common for baggers at supermarkets to place each item in separate bags, and it is not uncommon to see shoppers shamelessly grab a bunch of extra bags at checkout counters.
Nevertheless, people are waking up to the threat these plastic bags pose to the environment. In an online survey conducted by Kuwait Times whether Kuwait should also charge for single-use plastic bags, a majority of respondents voted in favor of such a move. Many however pointed out they do reuse them as garbage bags. Others called on authorities to go a step further and ban plastic bags altogether, expressing skepticism whether a token charge will deter their usage.
“There is a charge on plastic bags worldwide. Why not in Kuwait too?” one user responded. “Sell reusable canvas bags at checkouts. I’m tired of seeing a sea of plastic everywhere I go,” said another. Other respondents to the survey called for using paper bags instead, while some pointed out that waste in Kuwait needs to be segregated to make recycling easier.
Those against charging for plastic bags had their own reasons. “Ban plastic bags but use recyclable alternatives. Everything here is already expensive and overpriced. We consumers are suffering, so adding even a little more to the equation makes no sense,” commented a user. “We use those bags for the trash, so let them be free,” wrote another.
Explaining their decision, the authorities in Dubai vowed that this is the first step of a strategy planned over several stages, aimed at completely banning single-use plastic bags within two years. “With sustainability becoming a global priority, changing the behavior of the community to reduce the environmental footprint of individuals is crucial to preserve natural resources and environmental habitats,” the authorities said. In March 2020, Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced its “new environmental policy” aiming to eliminate single-use plastics by 2021 – but regulations have yet to be applied.
A report by wildlife group WWF last week warned plastic has infiltrated all parts of the ocean and is now found “in the smallest plankton up to the largest whale”, calling for urgent efforts to create an international treaty on plastics. According to some estimates, between 19 and 23 million tons of plastic waste is washed into the world’s waterways every year, the WWF report said. In one 2021 study, 386 fish species were found to have ingested plastic, out of 555 tested. Separate research, looking at the major commercially fished species, found up to 30 percent of cod in a sample caught in the North Sea had microplastics in their stomach.
To be fair, authorities in Kuwait are not totally oblivious to the plastic problem. In a first step, the Environment Public Authority last year distributed one million ecofriendly bags to cooperative societies in all the governorates, part of a campaign to raise public awareness about environment protection and minimize the use of plastic bags. The ecobags are made of organic materials that disintegrate in hot water without any harmful effects on the air, soil or water. Each ecobag is strong enough to carry up to 10 kg – although the weight of expectations over this move is seemingly a lot higher.
Critics claim Qatar’s sustainable 2022 stadium is just ‘PR’ by Nikolaus J. Kurmayer of EURACTIV.de would not be a slightly out of control criticism but a serious snapshot of our life of today. This can be summarised in a few words such as: should we build more and more of these sports infrastructure.
As Football comes under pressure to go carbon neutral, one major source of emissions remains the stadiums that need to be built for every world cup, something Qatar seeks to address. But critics remain unconvinced that supposedly sustainable stadiums are enough to tackle the issue.
A big part of the 3.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas equivalent emissions associated with the 2022 Qatar world cup counted by FIFA stems from what the report describes as “permanent construction of venues”.
Some 639,482 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions would be emitted during the preparatory phase of the world cup during venue construction, FIFA notes.
As a result, Qatar proudly presented stadium 974 to the world on 26 November. Made from recycled shipping containers, the stadium is named after the number of containers used and its Qatari area code.
The design, based on prefabricated modular elements, reduced the waste generated during production and on-site during construction, say the owners.
The use of modular elements also reduced the venue’s construction duration, they added.
Considering the 6,500 deaths of migrant workers in Qatar since the country won its bid to host the world championship in 2010, as reported by the Guardian in February 2021, speeding up construction may be conducive to preventing more deaths.
According to the organiser, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), 34 migrant workers died on World Cup construction sites during the aforementioned period.
The committee says it is transparent about these figures and doubts other “misleading” reports on the number of deaths.
The greenwashing issue
Aside from the human rights concerns and the deaths of primarily Pakistani migrant workers, environmental activists are also concerned that the new stadium may be one big greenwashing exercise.
The stadium, built from recycled materials and will be dismantled at the end of the world cup, boasts a modular design, allowing it to be disassembled and turned into multiple smaller stadiums or scraped easily.
“If you look at all the criticism for all of the big stadiums created around the world — and nobody uses them later on — this is, well, it’s useful,” Zeina Khalil Hajj, of 350, a global climate protection NGO, told Deutsche Welle.
Yet, the innovative sea-side stadium, which can forego cooling due to its construction and location, is just one of eight massive stadiums Qatar built for the 2022 world cup.
“It doesn’t mean they are the biggest culprit in the world. It just means that they have a duty,” Hajj told DW. “They have a responsibility as a rich nation. They have to contribute. And that means they have to change their domestic consumption pattern.”
Residents of Qatar have some of the largest per capita carbon footprints due to their oil-based economy in a relatively inhospitable environment necessitating artificial cooling.
Instead of tackling the systemic challenges to their society, “What they’re doing instead is all this ‘PR machine’,” added Haji.
Despite all the smart design the Qatari SC employs to cut emissions and make the world cup as carbon-neutral as possible, critics are worried about their reliance on carbon offsets.
To achieve the SC’s pledge “to measure, mitigate and offset all FIFA World Cup 2022 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions” will ultimately require a massive amount of so-called carbon offsets, as a majority of emissions from air travel and venue construction are challenging to abate.
Offsetting “unavoidable emissions” by planting a million trees, as Qatar has pledged, rather than using solar power or wind energy to cool stadiums is not what Phillip Sommer, of environmental action Germany, would call sustainable, he told DW.
Neither organisers like the SC nor “FIFA should therefore not rely on offsets, but on direct investments in solar or wind power, and tie conditions for venues to the climate footprint of member countries,” Michael Bloss, Greens EU lawmaker, told EURACTIV.
ZAWYA informs that 42% of UAE CEOs are non-nationals, and 5% are women, compared to global averages of 24% and 6%, therefore CEO appointments in the UAE surpass pre-pandemic highs per a recent report. Would this statement of fact have any meaning other than those consequent to the pandemic?
The appointment of new CEOs has surpassed pre-pandemic highs as companies demonstrate confidence about their prospects and their ability to find the right leader, according to a new report.
The Route to the Top 2021 by Heidrick & Struggles showed that the number of CEOs appointed across 14 countries was up 22.6 percent in the first half of 2021 when compared with the first half of 2018, and up 181 percent compared with the second half of 2020.
The report showed that 42 percent of CEOs in the UAE are non-nationals, compared with a global average of 24 percent, and five percent are women, compared with a global average of six percent. Of the 14 countries surveyed, Ireland had the highest proportion of female CEOs at 14 percent, while Hong Kong had the highest proportion of non-national CEOs at 76 percent.
More than a third of UAE CEOs (35 percent) had previous CEO experience in their last two roles.
Globally, newly appointed CEOs are more likely to be women (11 percent) and to be from countries other than where the company is headquartered (30 percent) and to have cross-border experience 46 percent.
In the UAE, 42 percent of new CEOs have advanced degrees, 16 percent have cross-border experience, and 23 percent have less than one year of experience as CEOs.
Other findings are that 42 percent of UAE CEOs were appointed before the age of 45 but the average age is 55, 30 percent were formerly heads of divisions but only two percent had previous COO experience, compared to 14 percent globally.
“Looking ahead, COVID 19 has raised expectations on the role of businesses in addressing concerns such as climate, equality, cybersecurity and other external realities; boards are rethinking the process of the CEO succession to cope with these changes, said Alain Deniau, head of CEO and board of directors practice, Heidrick & Struggles, MENA.
“This means that companies will open up to new perspectives and ideas. In addition, we expect more attention to shift towards leadership skills rather than specific skills.”
(Writing by Imogen Lillywhite; Editing by Seban Scaria)
It should not be any surprise to witness first-hand that the good destiny of the planet appears to be postponed from COP to COP because of the obvious preponderance of petrodollars over any agreement, even at the now well-proven cost of jeopardising the planet’s Climate. The UAE must learn from UK’s COP26 when it takes climate leadership by Jonathan Gornall who rightfully forehears “voices will be raised protesting that handing control of COP28 to the UAE is akin to asking a fox to beef up the security of a chicken coop”.
One of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels will be in charge of negotiations to wean the world from its addiction to fossil fuels
With hindsight, it seems incredible that, until now, ever since COP1 in 1995 the words “coal” and “fossil fuel” have failed to make the cut in the final reports of any of the Conferences of the Parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.
That would be like a report by the World Health Organization on the global response to Covid-19 failing to mention the SARS-CoV-2 virus – unthinkable.
As every schoolchild in the world surely knows, the climate-change catastrophe looming over the planet has been generated by the unfettered burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – since the dawn of the coal-powered Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.
The annual failure of COP delegates to acknowledge the fossilized elephant in the room has, of course, been the product not of ignorance, but of the myriad social and economic pressures, experienced by multiple countries at different stages of development.
Forget elephants, the animal present at every COP for the past quarter of a century has been a giant ostrich, with its head buried deep in the ground. At Glasgow, the ostrich was finally allowed to raise its head, albeit only for a brief peak at reality. Even then, attempts to overthrow King Coal were watered down by last-minute interventions from its loyal subjects, China and India.
What the world needs now, more than anything else, is compelling leadership.
One announcement to come out of Glasgow was that COP28 in 2023 would be staged in the United Arab Emirates, home to the UN-created International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This isn’t the first time the COP roadshow has traveled to the Middle East – in 2012 COP18 was held in Doha – but a decade on the climate-change landscape has changed utterly.
Doha was not insignificant. It was one of a series of dull but necessary COPs that paved the way toward the Paris Agreement in 2015, and it was the first time that developing countries signed up to a legal obligation to reduce their emissions.
The Paris Agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To achieve that, the world needs to cut global greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 26 billion metric tons every year between now and 2030. To say that the total emission-reduction pledges scraped together in Glasgow of just over 6 billion tons fell short is to understate the huge gap between ambition and commitment.
It highlights the monumental scale of the challenge for the country presiding over these conferences. That the UK’s COP26 president Alok Sharma was almost in tears as he announced the watered-down deal goes some way to illustrate the personal and institutional commitments required by the host.
The kind of leadership needed to rally the world’s nations and their disparate interests to commit to an agreement often appears beyond possibility. Then there is the task of making sure the outcomes and expectations of any COP event are stuck to.
The UK had to draw deep on its resources and global leadership experience just to make Glasgow happen. With more than 25,000 delegates descending on the city, the policing bill alone was estimated at the equivalent of more than US$300 million.
The pandemic brought big challenges to hosting the event, but it also gave Sharma’s team an extra year to prepare after COP26 was pushed back from 2020. The UK won the bid to host the event in September 2019, but Sharma was only appointed president in January 2020 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson fired his predecessor Claire Perry O’Neill.
The jostling showed the escalating importance placed on the herculean task of cajoling global powers into alignment on saving the planet.
While many have called the COP26 outcomes a failure, Sharma won praise for his balanced leadership that involved building relations with small island states most at risk from rising sea levels while handling tricky meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.
It is some of these skillsets that the UAE will have to draw upon as it prepares to take the reins in 2023. The Emirates has been entrusted to host the event based on its existing commitments toward the environment and renewable energy, including investing heavily in the new sciences of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), and nuclear energy.
Yet the UAE has more to lose than many countries from the inevitable transition to sustainable fuels, but much more to gain than most in shaping the elements of tomorrow’s energy market – and, thanks to its oil and gas revenues, it has the necessary funds to invest in the future today.
But forging its own path is very different to consensus-building between nations with conflicting interests. What lessons can be learned from previous COP hosts and how the UAE can build on their efforts yet bring its own style of leadership is yet to be seen.
Doubtless many voices will be raised protesting that handing control of COP28 to the UAE is akin to asking a fox to beef up the security of a chicken coop. Fingers will also be pointed at comments this week from the group chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) that “the oil and gas industry will have to invest over $600 billion every year … until 2030 … just to keep up with expected demand.”
But to express alarm at this is to misunderstand the nature of a global energy system undergoing dramatic change.
None of the world’s countries can “simply unplug” abruptly from fossil fuels. The world is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and demand for oil and gas is rocketing – in the process creating the essential wealth in the Persian Gulf region necessary to fund and drive the transition to renewables.
For the UAE and countries such as Saudi Arabia, much of the profit being drawn out of the earth now is being plowed directly into the type of research and development that ultimately will save the planet.
The UAE is working hard to curb its own domestic consumption of fossil fuels. Last month, it announced it was aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – an ambitious target on a par with those of the UK, the US and the European Union.
How? Well, it turns out that oil was not the only economic blessing bestowed on the fossil-fuel-producing countries of the Middle East.
Sunlight is the resource that gives on giving and, in the Gulf, is available for the greatest part of the year. The UAE is already leading the way with domestic solar power plants and investing in solar technology.
COP28 in 2023 will put one of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels in charge of negotiations to wean the world from its addiction to fossil fuels. It will put the UAE under a global spotlight that will require an exemplary level of leadership and diplomacy if the climate negotiations will continue to move forward.
And as the outcome of the UK meeting demonstrated, progress is incremental.
Jonathan Gornall is a British journalist, formerly with The Times, who has lived and worked in the Middle East and is now based in the UK.
Politicians Subsidise Fossil Fuel with Six Trillion Dollars in Just One Year By Baher Kamal is an eye-opener to the sad reality of the world prior to the COP26. Would this recent and very hyped up event have any bearing on this state of affairs?
The image above is of an offshore oil rig drilling platform. Globally, fossil fuel subsidies amounted to 5.9 trillion US dollars in 2020, according to an IMF report. Credit: Bigstock
MADRID, Nov 16 2021 (IPS) – It sounds incredible: while politicians have been cackling about the climate emergency and profiling in empty promises to halt it, they have spent six trillion US dollars from taxpayers’ money to subsidise fossil fuels in just one year: 2020. And they are set to increase the figure to nearly seven trillion by 2025.
According to the study, 8 percent of the 2020 subsidy reflects undercharging for supply costs (explicit subsidies) and 92 percent for undercharging for environmental costs and foregone consumption taxes (implicit subsidies).
Efficient fuel pricing in 2025 would reduce global carbon dioxide emissions 36 percent below baseline levels, which is in line with keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees, while raising revenues worth 3.8 percent of global GDP and preventing 0.9 million local air pollution deaths. Accompanying spreadsheets provide detailed results for 191 countries, IMF adds.
Commenting on this fact, António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, said that “… promises ring hollow when the fossil fuels industry still receives trillions in subsidies, as measured by the IMF. Or when countries are still building coal plants…”
Every country, city, company and financial institution must “radically, credibly and verifiably” reduce their emissions and decarbonise their portfolios, starting now, said Guterres.
Time running out for oil and gas?
Hard to believe when just 11 countries presented the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance at November’s UN Climate Conference in Glasgow.
Ireland, France, Denmark, and Costa Rica. among others, as well as some subnational governments, launched a first of its kind alliance to set an end date for national oil and gas exploration and extraction.
One of the Alliance members’ representative, Andrea Meza, Minister of Environment and Energy for Costa Rica commented: “Every dollar that we invest in fossil fuel projects is one less dollar for renewables and for the conservation of nature…” she added.
By 2050, 1.6 billion people living in cities will be regularly exposed to extremely high temperatures and over 800 million people living in cities across the world will be vulnerable to sea level rises and coastal flooding.
According to UN Habitat, which deals with human settlements and sustainable urban development, cities consume 78 percent of the world’s energy and produce over 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions – while accounting for less than two per cent of the Earth’s surface.
Inger Andersen, the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that “We build the equivalent of new buildings the size of Paris every week, and if that is the way we are expected to expand we need to think about how we do it because of climate, biodiversity, livability, quality of life. We need to build better.”,
According to Andersen, building and construction are responsible for 37 percent of CO2 emissions with construction materials like cement, accounting for 10 percent of global emissions.
She also pointed out that over half of the buildings that will be standing in 2060 haven’t been constructed yet. According to UNEP, only 19 countries have added codes regarding energy efficiency for buildings, and put them in place, and most of future construction will occur in countries without these measures.
“For every dollar invested in energy efficient buildings, we see 37 going into conventional buildings that are energy inefficient. We need to move from these incremental changes because they are way too slow, we need a real sector transformation. We need to build better,” Andersen said, calling for more ambition for governments if they are to fill the promise of net-zero.
Cars, buses, trucks, ships…
The transport sector is responsible for approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC).
The sector’s emissions have more than doubled since 1970, with around 80 percent of the increase caused by road vehicles. The United Nations environment programme UNEP calculates that the world’s transport sector is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels.
“A world where every car, bus and truck sold is electric and affordable, where shipping vessels use only sustainable fuels, and where planes can run on green hydrogen may sound like a sci-fi movie.”
This is how governments spend trillions of taxpayers’ pockets to subsidise fossil fuels that can only aggravate the ongoing climate emergency.
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