BAGHDAD: Iraq’s most senior energy official called for coordinated Arab action on climate change while Egypt’s environment minister proposed a regional green fund at a conference in Baghdad on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussein al-Shahristani warned of the risk of flooding, and also pointed to desertification and sandstorms affecting Iraq in his call for regional efforts to combat climate change.

The two-day conference comes after the World Bank warned in a report this month that global warming will have dire consequences for the Middle East and north Africa, with even hotter and drier conditions devastating everything from agriculture to tourism.

“All Arab countries must work under the Arab League to confront climate change,” Shahristani said in opening remarks to the conference in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.

“The danger now is the threat of flooding in many areas, in addition to the phenomena of desertification and sandstorms that we suffer from here in Iraq.”

Iraq’s environment ministry estimated in 2009 that 39 percent of the country’s surface was affected by desertification, while a further 54 percent was under threat.

It also estimated that Iraq loses around 250 square kilometres (96 square miles) of arable land annually due to degradation of various kinds.

Also at the conference, Egypt’s Minister of State for the Environment Mostapha Hussein Kamel called for the establishment of an Arab fund to back environmental projects in the region.

Of the Arab League’s 22 members, 18 sent representatives to the conference — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Tunisia and Syria were absent.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::