Green movement seeps into oil-rich Middle East region


Extinction Rebellion is now gaining ground in the Middle East. The grassroots green movement has been known to block city roads, nursed babies outside corporate headquarters and put climate change firmly on the political map in capitals from London to Madrid.

Off-shoots of the group that advocates peaceful protest as a way to pile on pressure to curb global warming are sprouting from Beirut to Doha, as activists in the oil-rich region want governments to ditch fossil fuels for renewable energy sources.

“Governments are not going to do anything unless they see that people themselves want that change – that’s how any movement starts,” said Iman, a member of the newly formed Extinction Rebellion (XR) group in Qatar who declined to give her full name for security reasons.

The gas-rich Gulf State, with a population of about 2.7 million, emits more carbon dioxide per person than any other nation globally, according to World Bank data, while across the region, countries suffer blistering heat and water shortages.

As host of the 2022 football World Cup, Qatar is looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions linked to the event and execute a 2030 national plan to curb its carbon footprint.

Extinction Rebellion was launched in London in 2018, inspiring waves of disruptive action around the world pushing for rapid cuts in carbon emissions, with the protests leading to thousands of arrests.

Governments across the Middle East are grappling with how to slow down climate change and cope with its impacts.

Officials are eager to demonstrate their countries can be effective stewards of the environment, despite their heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

Dubai, Muscat and Doha, for example, are developing low-carbon residential areas that aim to reduce emissions and serve as green living models.

Yet while all countries in the region are signatories to the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle global warming, six states – Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Turkey and Yemen – have yet to ratify the international accord, meaning they are not legally bound by it. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)