Meeting the challenge of climate change in Yemen
In addition to significant development challenges, Yemen is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Apart from frequent flash-floods and droughts, climate change is impacting already scarce water supplies – making them even scarcer. Urban centers are under severe water constraints, and livelihoods of the large rural population, heavily dependent on agriculture, are also under threat.
In view of the challenge it faces from climate change, Yemen was selected as one of nine single-pilot countries around the world to participate in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR). Supported by the Climate Investment Funds, the program aims to help countries manage the risks and opportunities posed by climate variability and change, particularly taking into account those most vulnerable to such risks.
The PPCR is a complicated but thorough process that proceeds from strategy to implementation through a two-year stakeholder consultation process.
Yemen has seized the opportunity and embraced the program. An Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change was formed, and they are pushing ahead with implementation.
The PPCR will support three major areas of investment in Yemen: establishing a robust climate information system and guaranteeing the coordination of all agencies involved in the PPCR; integrated coastal zone management; and building the resilience of rural communities.
Action on the first investment is underway, moved along by a five-day consultation in Cairo this past July. The meeting was held overseas to avoid any potential delays due to the restrictions on travel to Yemen that existed at the time. In a sign of their enthusiasm and dedication, an extensive cross section of Yemeni government representatives attended. The delegation was led by the Environment Protection Authority and included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the Agricultural Research and Extension Authority, the Civil Aviation and Meteorological Authority and the National Water Resources Authority. The head of the Yemen Meteorological Service said it was the first time he had left the country in five years, despite numerous invitations.
Each will have a unique role to play in implementing the investment, and its success will depend on their ongoing cooperation and joint commitment.
The meeting was a chance to work with international experts from the World Bank and the World Meteorological Organization, to further fine-tune which capacities needed strengthening and what activities would deliver the best results. The head of the Yemen Meteorological Service testified to the importance of effective climate monitoring, and the ability to forecast extreme events. There was universal agreement that it was a vital capacity, allowing both the government and citizens to prepare for adverse consequences, as well as a critical public resource for industries such as agriculture. The group pledged to work together to ensure the best available weather and climate models were used, and to strengthen the ability to forecast and measure critical, climatic changes.
There was also a lively discussion on the roles of each institution in both fine tuning and implementing the investment. The level of cooperation among the various agencies was a novel experience, and a further pledge was made to continue and deepen it. Climate change will affect multiple social and economic spheres and it has to be met with a united front. The Environment Protection Authority will guide overall implementation, with the Meteorological Service overseeing the development of technical tools and resources, in close partnership with all the institutions present, and in close cooperation with civil society and the international community.
More recently, I was part of a mission that travelled to Yemen for an on-the-ground assessment of the capacity of Yemen Meteorological Service. It was also another opportunity to reach out to other stakeholders. Meetings were held with civil society organizations, which will have an equally crucial role to play. There was unanimous recognition of the need for action, and enthusiasm for an inclusive plan that embraced all levels of society.
Similar levels of enthusiasm were expressed at a follow up meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change. They were as determined as ever to move forward with the next phases of the PCPR.The Minister of Water and Environment, Abdo Razzaz Saleh Khaled accepted an invitation to attend the launch this week of the World Bank’s report on climate change in the Arab World at the UN Climate Conference in Doha, Qatar. He added Yemen’s voice to the critical, global debate on the way forward, and showed what is possible with ongoing commitment and cooperation.
By making the environment a national priority and factoring it into the multiple challenges they face, Yemen is demonstrating that development and action on climate change are not mutually exclusive. They each require inclusive policies and share the same goal of promoting the wellbeing of all citizens.