It’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The status of Iran’s response to climate change depends, on the one hand, on a conservative government that prioritises its economy over the environment, and on the other hand an international community that treats the country like a pariah with crippling sanctions imposed by the United States for its core program is set. State.
With a succession of world leaders heading to Glasgow, Scotland, for the crucial UN climate talks COP26, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that President Ebrahim Raisi would not attend the conference, with the interests of the country represented by ‘ a group of climatologists.
While the Iranian government officially recognizes climate change as an existential threat, combating it does not seem to be high on its to-do list.
Speaking volumes is the fact that the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization (IEPO) was one of the last officials appointed by the president.
The world’s sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter, Iran, faces many environmental challenges.
Ali Mirchi, Assistant Professor of Water Resource Engineering at Oklahoma State University, told Al Jazeera that “due to its location and chronic mismanagement issues, Iran must prepare to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on water resources, environmental systems, food security out of proportion. and rural existence, among others, compared to many other regions of the world. ”
Despite these realities, analysts have said the Iranian government will refrain from taking any significant climate action unless the sanctions that have devastated the country’s economy are completely removed.
Failure to act
Iran’s mitigation efforts rated “critically inadequate”By the Climate Action Tracker, which points to total non-compliance with the Paris Agreement, an internationally binding treaty aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to pre- industrial levels, a goal that COP26 also strives to keep within reach.
With more than 90 percent of its energy mix consisting of fossil fuels, Iran’s transition to clean energy is crucial to reducing the amount of emissions into the atmosphere.
If the planet heats up any higher than 1.5C, the damage to the environment will be catastrophic and irreversible, a fact confirmed in the cold report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in August.
To show that they take the IPCC’s warning seriously, and in preparation for COP26, all developed countries have submitted ambitious National Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are plans that contain targets on how much a nation commits to reducing its emissions at a reduce certain date, usually around 2030, to make a net-zero 2050 scenario feasible.
For nations classified as developed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), providing NDCs is more difficult given the extra costs that mitigation would entail for their economies.
In addition, such countries, including Iran, said the rich industrialized countries should help finance their energy transition, as they are responsible for about 80 percent of the world’s emissions.
The last time Iran made any mitigation promises was back in 2015 as part of its Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs), “but the targets are vague and subject to international support, including financial support and clean technology transfer,” Manal Shehabi, senior research fellow at Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and director at SHEER Research & Advisory, told Al Jazeera.
INDCs are voluntary targets and are usually converted to NDCs when the issuing country formally joins the Paris Agreement, a task that Iran has yet to complete. Iran is one of the few countries that has signed the Paris Agreement but has not ratified it, meaning it has no legal obligation to commit to global mitigation claims.
According to its INDCs, Iran plans to reduce emissions by 12 percent by 2030 compared to the so-called “Business As Usual” model, a baseline that the IPCC defines as the point at which countries will function when emission cuts are no longer needed.
However, eight percent of Iran’s cuts depend on the end of US sanctions and the availability of international resources.
Any binding climate promises at the moment will lead to extra spending and “the government is reluctant to sign international agreements that will cost him,” said Kaveh Madani, a research professor at New York City College and former deputy chief of Iran’s environment department. .
Iran is working on a highly sensitive agreement with world powers over its nuclear program, which could lead to the easing of sanctions on its economy if reached. In return, Tehran is expected to provide assurances that its nuclear capability will be used for energy purposes and not for weapons development.
Nuclear energy has been identified as a key player in the global transition to clean energy by the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s 2050 just-zero plan.
Finally, “every country in the world that chooses to use nuclear energy safely and peacefully and that works with the international community should have access to this amazing technology,” said Sama Bilbao y Leon, Director-General of the World Nuclear Association. Al Jazeera said.
“Does not have the bandwidth”
Several of Iran’s neighbors, which emit high greenhouse gases, have recently made significant progress in their efforts to tackle climate change.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey emerge as dark horses at COP26 by submitting net-zero plans to show, at least on paper, they are willing to reduce their energy dependence on fossil fuels. However, Iran remained nonchalant despite global pressure to switch to a greener economy.
Tehran’s messages on climate action have remained the same throughout. At COP23 in 2017 in Bonn, Germany, the country said it would ratify the Paris Agreement only in the event of the full implementation of its nuclear power agreement with world powers and financial support.
Even if Iran decides to implement the promised 12 percent emission cuts, its cost will be too much to bear at about $ 70 billion.
The country is expected to have a budget deficit of $ 10.2 billion this fiscal year, according to the Majlis Research Center, the research division of the Iranian parliament.
Meanwhile, US sanctions have also prevented Iran from accessing the funds allocated to it by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), an organization responsible for helping countries with their environmental problems.
“You can not expect a country that has serious socio-economic and political issues to focus on climate change,” Madani said.
For the Iranian government, the threat of climate change is not one that it can handle under so much economic pressure at this stage.
“Even though they (Iran’s leaders) consider it important, they do not have the will and bandwidth to address it. Ultimately, it’s the rich [nations] who have to help pay if they want the world to exist, ”Madani said.