“Climate change is THE greatest collective challenge facing humankind – and facing Iran.”
This is how the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran opened his remarks in a speech to mark the first conference on Climate Change, towards Sustainable Future. The event was held on 10 June in Tehran. The audience of 400 from government, academia and civil society, were attending the very first event of this kind co-convened by an NGO (Earth Supporters Association (ESA) and government (Ministry of Energy).
Mr. Lewis then urged that the threat from climate change should be turned into the greatest opportunity for common progress toward sustainable development. He noted that all hopes for eradicating poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) rest on tackling the climate challenge now.
Iran, he said, is on target for achieving five of the MDGs – those of poverty, education, child mortality, maternal mortality, and the three great diseases facing mankind today (HIV, malaria and tuberculosis). This will be accomplished by the year 2015.
Nonetheless, he said, “unfortunately on one of the 8 MDGs goals - the environment – it does not look likely that we will meet that target”, arguing that efforts should be redoubled in order to attain the goal.
Iran, he said, had undertaken a development path which had effectively overburdened non-renewable resources and underinvested in renewable resources. But with all the climate science pointing to a hotter – drier – future, “the environment could no longer be simply just another item on the national agenda.
Mr. Lewis listed water, deforestation and desertification, efficient use of renewable energies, emission of greenhouse gases, and air/water pollution and sandstorms, and biodiversity as the five key challenges he has recognized during the one year he has been based in Iran.
The UNDP Resident Representative recognized the important statements in support of addressing environmental challenges and climate change by President Rouhani, Minister of Energy Chitchian and Vice-President Madame Ebtekar.
Prior to Mr. Lewis’ statement, the gathering was addressed by Mr. Alireza Da’emi, Deputy Minister of Energy, Mr. Saeed Motasedi, Planning and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister of Energy.
Other issues raised in Mr. Lewis’ speech:
- The desperate situation of Lake Uromiyeh
- The alarming situation of the inhabitants in the Hamouns in Sistan
- The declining water table in spiritually-important city of Mashhad
- The increasing salinity of water for agriculture around Shiraz
- The declining per capita water availability in Iran
- The impact on Iran’s bread-basket areas
- Potential solutions to all the above