Environmental issues affecting the Arab world include widespread desertification, water scarcities, soil degradation and declining land productivity. Despite the fact that environmental factors have already contributed to political unrest in places like Sudan, Arab countries lack coherent policies on climate change. A survey of 56 countries last year placed Saudi Arabia dead last in dealing with climate change.
Secretary General Amr Moussa told the gathering in Cairo:
The Arab region is one of the worst-affected regions in the world by climate change, [which] endangers the existence of whole countries.
Moussa urged those assembled to reach a coordinated position on the various issues ahead of the UN climate change conference in Bali this month.
Arab civil society has recently begun to apply pressure on governments in the region to begin dealing with the issue. In October, a group called the League of Independent Activists (IndyACT) held a conference in Beirut, in which they called on Arab governments and populations to engage the international community on climate change. The conference saw the launch of a new "Arab Climate Campaign," and produced a position paper, which, among other things, recognizes the responsibility of oil producing countries for climate change and calls on developed and developing countries to find solutions to the crisis.
IndyACT Executive Director Wael Hmaidan told the Beirut conference, "We can not isolate ourselves from what is happening to this planet; all our political and economical problems in the region dwarf in comparison to the threat of climate change."