Every year, June 5, is celebrated as World Environment Day which is the UN's initiative for creating global awareness. When it comes to protecting the environment, Qatar is on a par with global organisations, and one of the groups that has taken the lead in this is Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar (AYCM-Q).
AYCM-Q was formed following the UN climate summit 18th Conference of Parties (COP18) that was held in Qatar in 2012, the first in the Gulf region. The summit called upon the Arab youth to lend voice to and take the lead in creating awareness about climate change in the MENA region. This led to the formation of AYCM, an independent, non-profit voluntary body.
The Qatar chapter of AYCM was founded by two Qatar-based environmentalists Qatari Maha Khamis al Sulaiti and Indian Neeshad V Shafi in 2015. AYCM-Q is represented by an executive board comprising six members who make decisions and lead the chapter here. There are currently 35 active members in the group which comprise both Qataris and expatriates.
Shafi, who holds a Master's degree in Environmental Engineering, and has been working in Qatar for two years, has been instrumental in getting the organisation off the ground and is also involved with numerous other environmental groups in Qatar. A youth educator, speaker and activist, he was also invited to represent AYCM-Q at the historic Paris Agreement signing.
"I believe that environmental issues like climate change are one of the greatest threats facing humanity. As young people, we are the inheritors of this planet and the key stakeholders in humanity's response to this crisis," he said.
When Shafi came to Qatar, he realised that there was a lack of awareness about these issues among the youth. He felt that a serious problem like global warming cannot be tackled unless young people are made aware of the problem. This drove him to adopt the cause and take up the issue of spreading awareness.
"I have been into a number of environmental advocacy groups to support campaigns, have been working as a youth policy advisor and have written numerous articles on various online and offline platforms," said Shafi.
Shafi says Qatar's ecosystem is fragile and it faces environmental issues in various key areas like water scarcity, climate change, desertification, recurring sandstorms, biodiversity and increasing air pollution.
"Furthermore, on the impact of climate change, Qatar acknowledges the fact that the country is extremely vulnerable to the rising sea-level as it is liable to flooding of 18.2 percent of its land area with just a five metre rise in sea-level. This will have an adverse impact on the population as 96 percent of people live in the coastal areas. Also, on a global scale, climate change would cause the extinction of species such as whales, dolphins and turtles in addition to causing coral bleaching and impact the migration of marine species and sea birds," he added.
In the last two years, AYCM-Q has worked with various local stakeholders in organising and supporting events on awareness, advocacy and action on various environmental issues.
Members of the group have also participated in closed-door discussions and have actively engaged in workshops at various local, regional and international conferences including UNEA2, COP18, COP21, COP22 and the Unesco NGO Summit. One of their main agendas is to educate people with scientific evidence that climate change is a fundamental threat to the ecosystem and human health. The issue is no longer idealistic but is a practical need to save and protect the next generation.
"AYCM has a simple vision," said Shafi."We want to be able to enjoy a stable climate similar to that which our parents and grandparents enjoyed. We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors we have merely borrowed it from our children. We aim to train young Qataris and non-Qataris on environmental negotiations and treaties. We want to spread and popularise positive traditional practices in conserving the environment and consumptive behaviour among the current generation."
Shafi believes that the challenges in the coming years will be urgent and massive but if we act together, we can make a difference. As individuals, he suggests that we can make a difference by avoiding overconsumption and wastage of resources. We should also get involved in community activities and help spread awareness and educate people on leading a sustainable lifestyle.
"Creating a sustainable world takes a lot of time, effort and patience. Peaceful and environmentally aware societies are possible only if people work together to make it that way," he said.
As part of World Environment Day 2017, AYCM-Q has been working in partnership with their local stakeholders to develop innovative and creative videos, and infographics on environmental and climate change issues not only limited to water/energy consumption but focus on broader ecological and interrelated social issues. The programme will develop short, crisp and fact-filled videos on each theme and spread the videos through digital platforms. They are also using online platforms to spread the word on going green this Ramadan and reduce food wastage.
Climate change is no longer just a threat, but very real and we glimpse a sample of it every time there is a natural disaster. So, if you are passionate about addressing the climate change crisis in Qatar, AYCM-Q is looking for volunteers to be a part of the many projects they are working on. For more details email [email protected] or Instagram @AYCMQA and do your bit for the Earth you live on.