Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) said in a statement that the transition to carbon-free economy seems to be faster than expected, in light of the strong climate agreement sealed in Paris. AFED Secretary General, Najib Saab, urged Arab countries to “immediately start diversifying their economies, and revisit their current growth targets, in order to secure a sustainable future.” He said that Arab countries “can become world leaders in renewable energy, as much as oil.”

The statement said that “AFED community was proud to have been part of the process, as its flagship report on the Impact of Climate Change on Arab Countries (2009) provided solid argument for negotiators that Arabs gain from a strong climate deal.” High-level delegations from AFED participated in all climate summits as observers, and provided assistance to governments to help reach a balanced conclusion.

The agreement is meant to halt dreadful consequences of climate change, by reducing carbon emissions in the short term, with commitment to decarbonize the economy by 2070. This sends strong signal to planners, markets, investors and inventors to accelerate the shift to a zero-carbon energy sector.

The statement stressed that “while the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, not to halt the use of fossil fuels, dissociating the two cannot be achieved until a proven technology to burn fossil fuels without releasing carbon in the atmosphere becomes operational.” Therefore, “the message from Paris is to get ready for phasing out fossil fuels in few decades.”

Saab explained that “alongside renewable energy, the transitional period will witness stronger drive towards enhancing energy efficiency and a shift to gas-fired plants to replace coal and oil for electricity generation, as paramount measures to achieve immediate carbon reduction.”

What made the deal possible was a new alliance, announced three days before the end of negotiations, between African, Pacific and Caribbean countries, along with European Union, USA and Canada, calling for a strong and binding agreement. This broke the traditional lines between rich and poor countries, which prompted China and India to join after hard negotiations.

Saab pointed out that “AFED had always called for a 3-way track, by which countries with fast growing economies are dissociated in responsibility from slower-growth developing countries.”

Saab expected the agreement to have “big impact on oil exporting countries, as the shift far from fossil fuels is likely to be faster than expected. They will have to diversify immediately, and revisit the nature and size of their current development targets. As consecutive AFED reports showed, this goal is feasible. Combined with regional cooperation, Arab countries can transform their economies in a sustainable manner, by using income of oil in the coming decades to further education, technology advancement, and build diversified productive economy, based on products and services, not on liquidating assets.”

The message from Paris, Saab said, is to “diversify investments, and give appropriate weight to renewable and clean energy, which secures a soft transition to a carbon-free economy.”