Climate Change Takes Center Stage

Climate Change Takes Center Stage
Climate Change Takes Center Stage

In a rare public show of commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Iran’s top energy and environmental officials convened at the weekend to discuss the country’s climate action plan called the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Attended by the ministers of energy, oil and industries, as well as Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Department of Environment, a portion of plans to slash carbon emissions was revealed without going into detail.

“It’s now clear that the gradual warming of the planet has environmental, social, health and economic implications,” ISNA quoted Ebtekar as saying.  “It is therefore crucial to protect the environment.”

She said Iran, which produces 712 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, is responsible for 1.8% of global emissions. Iran is the 11th biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world.

“Iran’s cooperation with the international community to address the growing problem of climate change is in line with our sustainable development policies and it benefits the world,” Ebtekar, who doubles as vice president, said.

  Need for New Policy

Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian echoed her concerns, but noted that Iran needs “the latest available technology” to be able to effectively control its high emission levels.

“Economic sanctions have made it difficult for us to acquire the technology needed to curb the emissions,” he said.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Majid Shafipour, Iran’s lead climate negotiator at the UN, said the country could as much as quadruple its efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions if the sanctions are ended.

In addition to up-to-date tech, Chitchian said Iran’s energy policy needs an overhaul to help reduce consumption. “We need to adopt an energy-efficient lifestyle, and that requires acculturation.”

Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh agreed with Chitchian. “The plan that we’re going to submit to the UN has to show that we can only fulfill our obligations if the sanctions are lifted and we have access to the technology we need,” he told the meeting.

On Iran’s high unacceptably high energy use, the official said it is essential to inform public opinion about the fallouts of failures to address climate change, promote energy conservation and review policies in relevant sectors.

However, Zanganeh warned against “exerting ourselves” and said “Iran’s capacities” have to be taken into consideration when reviewing policies.

  Missed Opportunity

Saeed Motessadi, deputy for human habitats at the DOE, pointed to the Kyoto Protocol and said the international treaty was a “missed opportunity” for Iran to address its woefully high emission levels.

Signed in 1997 in Japan, the Kyoto Protocol was the first agreement between nations to mandate country-by-country reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The treaty obliged the industrialized nations to reduce their carbon emissions while it provided schemes to help developing countries meet their emission targets without substantial economic loss.

Developing nations, such as Iran, could sell their Certified Emission Reduction units to developed nations under the Clean Development Mechanism initiative, which could help industrial countries meet their emission targets and assist developing states in achieving sustainable development by investing the money from the sale of CERs in renewable energy programs.

“Unfortunately, we did not take advantage of the opportunity,” Motessadi said.

So far, 157 countries have submitted their emission pledges to the UN, including the top 10 emitters, making Iran the largest carbon dioxide producer that has yet to submit its climate action plan.

Earlier this month, the UN said the submitted plans were not enough to limit a rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, a threshold seen by scientists as avoiding the most devastating effects of climate change.

The plans, or INDCs, will be the building blocks for a UN deal expected at a summit in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 to fight global warming in the years from 2020.

Poorer nations, which might be the most vulnerable to climate change, have said negotiators should not abandon hope of limiting temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees even if targets on the table in Paris are less ambitious.