Ebtekar: World Oblivious to Carbon Footprint of Wars

Ebtekar: World Oblivious to Carbon Footprint of Wars Ebtekar: World Oblivious to Carbon Footprint of Wars

Iran’s top environment official has called on world leaders and the United Nations to seriously consider the impact of wars on climate change and the environment at large.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 21st UN Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris on Monday, Massoumeh Ebtekar said Iran will formally appeal to the UN at the climate summit to “review the cost of wars on the environment,” Iranian media reported.

Paris is hosting more than 140 world leaders and negotiators from 196 countries for crucial climate talks aimed at securing a long-term deal to slow man-made global warming.

Negotiators at COP21 (November 30 – December 11) are aiming to forge a deal to cap the rate of global warming at 2 degrees Celsius — compared to the current 2.5 to 3.76 degrees Celsius.

Iran has pledged to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 4% relative to the business-as-usual scenario by 2030, while its conditional pledge, i.e. subject to international assistance, targets a 12% reduction.

“The impacts of war have always been a topic of discussion, but we’ve never really talked about the environmental costs of conflicts,” said Ebtekar, who is also a vice president. “It’s high time we looked into the carbon footprint of wars.”

While examples of environmental costs of war are plenty, most Iranians may still recall the devastating impacts of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) on the environment.

During the war, Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein’s army frequently used napalm bombs, each of which completely destroyed 10 square meters of soil. Furthermore, hundreds of hectares of forests were wiped out and rivers were severely polluted.

Nowruz oilfield in the Persian Gulf was also the site of several oil spills in 1983, and the armed conflict between the two states, especially the presences of Iraqi helicopters which had attacked the platform in the first place, prevented technicians capping the well for months.

Around 80 million gallons of oil were spilled in the Persian Gulf.

The conflict inflicted tens of billions of dollars in damages on Iran’s natural environment.

In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War - which led to the liberation of Kuwait - retreating Iraqi troops opened the valves on oil rigs and pipelines, causing 9 million barrels of oil to enter the Persian Gulf.

The spill — one of the worst in history, and seemingly worse than the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 according to CNN — devastated marine wildlife and coastal habitats in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

  Fair Share

While the world’s governments have already committed to reducing emissions, they have yet to agree on how to meet their goals.

Every year since 1992 the Conference of the Parties has taken place with negotiators trying to put together a practical plan of action. This year’s COP21 in Paris is the last chance for this process. Negotiators agreed in 2011 that a deal had to be done by the end of 2015.

Developing countries say they want the right to use fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, to help take their people out of poverty. Rich nations have had unrestricted use of these for 200 years, now it is their turn, they argue.

For the conference to result in a lasting and effective deal, “everyone needs to do their fair share,” Ebtekar said.

“Industrialized countries have played a more prominent role in accelerating climate change, which means they have to own up and take on more responsibilities.”

The vice president pointed to developed nations’ past failures to uphold international agreements, namely the Kyoto Protocol, and said developing countries “are worried that rich nations may once again fail to follow through on their pledges.”

Reaching a deal is imperative, and while most experts are of the opinion that the Paris summit will not lead to a comprehensive deal, they believe it will pave the way for the world to be able to meet the 2° C target further down the line.

On average 335 weather-related disasters were recorded every year over the past two decades, which doubles that of the previous 10.

Last week, the UN released a new report that shows weather-related disasters in the past two decades have killed over 600,000 people and caused an estimated trillion dollars in inflicted economic losses.