"Iraq Takes Center Stage and Makes its Mark at the UN Climate Change Conference"
03 December 2023
Dubai, UAE – Yesterday, the President of the Republic of Iraq, H.E. Abdul Latif Rashid, inaugurated Iraq’s first ever pavilion at this year’s global climate event, COP 28. The inauguration was attended by Dr. Abdallah Al Dardari, the United Nations Development Programme Regional Director for Arab States. This opening marks the start of a high-level discussion entitled “Climate Security for Sustainable Development in Iraq”. The discussion highlighted comprehensive strategies for addressing climate security in Iraq, emphasizing the integration of water, food and energy security. The pavilion is set to host over 30 sessions, organized by various Iraqi ministries and UN agencies.
Ghulam Isaczai, the United Nations Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (DSRSG/RC/HC) in Iraq, will lead pivotal discussions at the summit, focusing on youth involvement in climate action and other vital environmental discussions. “Iraq stands at the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change, which has severely impacted the Mesopotamia marshlands, threatening biodiversity and ecosystems," he emphasized.
Iraqi Negotiators, Trained and Ready for Action
A delegation of over 300 Iraqis, comprising civil society members, government officials, and youth are participating in the 28th United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Dubai, UAE. A significant number of the delegation are negotiators, underscoring Iraq's commitment to tackling issues such as gas flaring, and emissions reduction, and investing in infrastructure to utilize associated gas. The delegation will engage in negotiations and side events, with support from UN agencies.
During the inauguration, Dr. Abdallah Al Dardari highlighted, “By raising awareness, offering economic incentives, and collaborating with international partners, Iraq can create a culture of environmental responsibility and sustainability. We need to access funding, receive technical assistance, and learn from best practices."
Iraqi negotiators, trained and ready
Iraq’s willingness to take a leadership role in advocating for comprehensive solutions for the water-food-energy-security nexus is evidenced by their commitment to this year’s UN climate summit. A delegation of over 300 Iraqis comprised of civil society, government and youth are currently in Dubai at the 28th annual United Nations Conference on Climate Change, organized by the United Nations at Dubai’s Expo City in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.).
A majority of those in the delegation are negotiators, as the country recognizes the importance of taking significant steps to address the pressing issue of gas flaring and reduce emissions, investing in the necessary infrastructure to capture and utilize associated gas and working with partners to make use of advanced technologies and expertise – all of which will be discussed during negotiations as well as the planned side events, supported by UN agencies in Iraq.
"By raising awareness, offering economic incentives, and collaborating with international partners, Iraq can create a culture of environmental responsibility and sustainability. We need to access funding, receive technical assistance, and learn from best practices," said Dr. Abdallah Dardari, Regional Director for Arab States of the UNDP, during the inauguration.
The U.N. continues to work in partnership with the Government of Iraq (GoI), ensuring that their climate commitment remains action-oriented, resulting in tangible solutions. UN agencies in Iraq are currently laser-focused on implementing environmentally friendly and sustainable programmes, that serve the most vulnerable communities, including women, persons with disabilities, children and young people.
UN agencies’ support to Iraq
UNICEF commended the GoI for signing the Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action on 19 November, ahead of COP28. The declaration demonstrates Iraq’s commitment to placing children at the heart of climate action, protecting them from the effects of climate change, reiterating the call to operationalize the declaration to ensure transformative efforts for children’s rights and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. This year, UNICEF with the GoI developed two sessions centered on Youth Inclusive Climate Activism and Climate Change Mainstreaming in the Education Sector.
UNDP together with the GoI collaborated in developing its first pavilion, and along with the Ministry of Environment (MoEN) trained Iraqi negotiators through a series of intensive workshops led by national and international experts, supporting the development of 3 major documents, NAMA, National Environmental Strategy (NES) and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). UNDP and the GoI through a team of volunteers, also created the “Handbook for Iraq’s Delegation to COP”, a standing resource for delegates for this and future COPs.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is assisting Iraq in developing and implementing the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) to address climate change challenges effectively. The planning process includes analyzing institutional capacities, consulting stakeholders, and identifying prioritized adaptation actions. It also focuses on enhancing national capacities at individual and institutional levels to meet reporting requirements of the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement in a sustainable and systematic manner. Iraq prioritizes climate change adaptation due to vulnerabilities in key sectors like water, agriculture, health, and natural resources. Adequate planning is crucial for achieving climate resilience.
The FAO is taking a central role in addressing climate change and environmental degradation in southern Iraq. Through initiatives like Climate-Wise-Women, FAO empowers women as agents of change in climate adaptation. FAO promotes climate resilience in vulnerable agricultural households through smart water management and good agricultural practices. They strengthen rural development by enhancing solar energy applications and introducing resilient fodder crops and smart irrigation. FAO also provides remote sensing data, addresses food loss and waste, and supports sustainable agricultural practices for responsible resource use in the face of climate challenges.
The WHO in Iraq supports resilient health systems with a climate change focus. They collaborate with the Ministry of Health to join the Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate Change and Health (ATACH). Adopting the One Health approach, WHO coordinates human, animal, and environmental health for improved preparedness and response. They also assist in establishing climate change units within health directorates to integrate resilience measures into policies and programs.
WFP collaborates with the Government of Iraq to combat climate change effects. Their projects enhance agro-met capacity, water irrigation systems, desertification countermeasures, and water regulator rehabilitation. They introduce nature-based solutions like wetlands, hydroponics, aquaponics, and beekeeping. WFP funds reforestation, mangrove planting, and marshland conservation for climate change mitigation and adaptation. These projects support smallholder farmers and empower vulnerable communities through sustainable agricultural practices.
As the global climate emergency intensifies and climate financing continues to fall short of protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights, UNFPA continues to bring to bear the rights of women and girls, and has advocated publicly that upcoming climate talks in Dubai prioritize the needs of women and girls, supporting this significant financing to strengthen health systems and ensure that the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls are met during the global climate emergency.
To support climate change action in Iraq, IOM implements initiatives such as addressing climate-induced displacement and mobility, providing assistance to affected individuals, collaborating on resilience and adaptation strategies, promoting sustainability in vulnerable communities, and facilitating capacity-building on climate change and migration for local stakeholders.
Through these concerted efforts, the UN alongside the Government of Iraq at this year’s COP will underscore its commitment to the COP28 process, in collaboration with international partners, to craft practical solutions for a sustainable and resilient future for Iraq. The UN will support the implementation of Iraq's Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA), National Adaptation Plan (NAP), Environmental Strategy, and Green Growth Strategy, all of which are guides that will steer Iraq towards robust adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development.
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