In a rustic long defined by its two rivers, the traditional marshlands of Iraq now bear harrowing testimony to the ravages of climate change. As temperatures have risen over successive years, rainfall and water flow have correspondingly depleted, and the livelihoods of its farmers have steadily vanished.
On a recent visit, I spoke to buffalo farmers who’re desperately attempting to cling to this vital source of life. For 1000’s of years, the marshlands served as a lifeline to the people of the world. Now, the rivers are reduced to mere trickles.
Norwegian Refugee Council research has shown that consecutive years of record low rainfall and drought in Iraq have led to farmers losing their incomes and livelihoods, and increasingly having to depend on food assistance. Communities are cruelly being forced to depart the one homes they’ve known for generations and seek for a technique to reclaim their dignity elsewhere.
Climate change also risks amplifying already endemic food insecurity in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, particularly. In a region that’s already overwhelmed by a series of displacement crises, the ruinous effects of climate change will push thousands and thousands more to flee as incomes are wiped away and hunger sweeps in.
In North Africa, an estimated 19 million people might be driven out of their homes over the subsequent 30 years. The devastation wrought by climate change is unfolding in a context where war has scarred these and lots of other countries within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) over several years.
The water and agricultural infrastructure have in lots of cases been partially or completely destroyed, rendering these countries more vulnerable to climate change impacts. But scaling up climate adaptation funding to fragile and conflict-affected countries, and efforts to handle climate impacts on displacement have been mostly ignored in past UN climate change conferences and agreements.
That needs to vary: The continued COP27 conference in Egypt and the subsequent edition within the United Arab Emirates in 2023 could offer a much-belated rallying call for fragile states within the region.
There’s an urgent must set more ambitious plans to tackle the results of climate change on displaced people – and to demand stronger motion from international donors and decision-makers. The MENA region is considered one of the smallest recipients of climate finance on the earth. Inside the region, conflict-affected nations like Yemen, Iraq and Syria receive a number of the lowest amounts from the regional pot.
Countries which are the toughest hit are among the many lowest emitters of greenhouse gases. The big-scale destruction they’ve suffered due to conflict has at times been attributable to international military coalitions. And yet the vulnerable populations in these countries often receive little support from international donors.
COP27 and COP28 give the Middle East and North Africa a likelihood to pressure the Global North to finish this neglect. They’ll achieve this by ensuring that climate-related displacement and climate adaptation funding for conflict-affected states feature higher on the agenda at these conferences and within the follow-up implementation of plans.
There’s also a compelling case for states within the region to advocate for significant increases in loss and damage funding. At previous climate conferences, the world’s wealthiest countries have tried to maintain loss and damage funding off their agendas. They’ve been willing to see climate change as a collective problem but have shirked from assuming the responsibilities that lie at their door.
There’s growing momentum to handle critical financing for loss and damage through the current COP 27 negotiations – global calls are only growing louder, championed by civil society and reinforced by a growing coalition of states across the Global South.
They have to be heard, for the implications of inaction are real – and devastating.
In Syria, cholera has now spread throughout the country because of combined effects of climate change, and poor water and sanitation infrastructure. Droughts in Syria have turn into a daily occurrence. Vulnerable families are forced to spend more of their incomes on water and food, which pushes them into debt. Without water, and without enough to eat, even those conflicts that might be settled as a substitute risk being worsened. Jobs have been worn out because the agricultural sector is creaking towards collapse. Across the Middle East, the World Bank estimates that water scarcity could see the region’s economies lose between 6 and 14 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050.
MENA countries have essentially the most to lose from climate impacts. Equally, they’ve essentially the most to achieve from ramping up their negotiations in support of stronger climate financing for loss and damage, and adaptation for the world’s most vulnerable regions.
The UN’s climate conferences this 12 months and the subsequent are a possibility to forge rare unity and drive forward an agenda that puts the region’s interests front and centre by standing in solidarity with other vulnerable and fragile countries to demand climate justice and equitable financing. MENA countries must press for decisive motion on the region’s adaptation needs and the displacement crises it otherwise faces in the approaching years.
The stakes are too high to sit down back or accept well-meaning rhetoric that isn’t backed up by motion. The communities which are suffering cannot afford to attend for guarantees to materialise in the long run. With every record-breaking summer, with every drought, with every desolate field, there are a lot of more within the region who’re being pushed towards the plight of the people of Iraq’s increasingly dry marshlands.
The views expressed in this text are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.