Supreme Council for Environment, Kingdom of Bahrain

The Scientific Basis

Climate change brought about by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases has been identified as the greatest challenge facing human society at the beginning of the twenty first century. It affects all aspects of our communities, from economic growth to healthcare, to job creation and disaster risk reduction. Without concerted global efforts to address climate change, climate impacts are likely to undermine the success of future global development.

The world’s the leading body for the assessment of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released its latest report, known as the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), in November 2014 and is by far the most comprehensive assessment of all aspects of climate change, which is guiding current climate policy. It provides an update of knowledge on the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of climate change, and clearly establishes that the human influence on the climate system is clear and recent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the highest in history . To limit impacts of climate change, temperatures under the Convention are aimed to be kept below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

History of International Negotiations

At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Convention set out to cooperatively consider ways to achieve the ultimate objective of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC entered into force in 1994 and now has a near-universal membership of 195 parties. Importantly, the Convention stated that developed countries were responsible to lead the way, and funds were directed from developed countries in order to support the developing country’s climate change activities. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the international climate change negotiations, particularly the annual Conference of the Parties (COP), the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties (CMP) and the subsidiary bodies.

In 1995, countries realized that emission reductions provisions in the Convention were inadequate. They launched negotiations to strengthen the global response to climate change, and, two years later, adopted the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets. The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The second commitment period began on 1 January 2013 and will end in 2020.

The question of what happens beyond 2020 was answered by Parties in Durban in 2011. This was a turning point in the climate change negotiations. In Durban, as per decision 1/CP.17 on the Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action , governments clearly recognized the need to draw up the blueprint for a new universal, legal agreement to deal with climate change beyond 2020, which will include developed and developing countries to adopt mitigation and adaptations actions on climate change. This launched a new platform of negotiations under the Convention to deliver a new and universal greenhouse gas reduction protocol, legal instrument or other outcome with legal force by 2015 in COP21 for the period beyond 2020.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement was adopted in COP21 in Paris on December 12, 2015 and established clear aims for climate action with respect to mitigation and adaptation, grounded in sustainable development. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.

The Paris Agreements sets a Long term goal to keep increase in global average temperature to below 2°C, with global emissions to peak as soon as possible. The Paris Agreement also established global goal on adaptation to strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, financial flows, new technology framework and enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place. Under the Agreement, each Party is to submit Nationally Determined Contributions every five years that it intends to achieve.

Bahrain’s Vulnerability to Climate Change

Bahrain is an archipelago of low-laying islands in addition to numerous islets, shoals and patches of reefs situated off the central southern coast of the Arabian Gulf. Bahrain falls in the subtropical region within the desert belt. The climate is arid with an extremely hot summer and mild winter. It is characterized by a high mean annual temperature and low mean annual rainfall.

Bahrain, being a small island, is particularly vulnerable to the threats of climate change, especially when considering sea-level rise. Increased sea level will lead to potentially major impacts on the population and the country’s economy. As cited in the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Second National Communication Report to the UNFCCC, Bahrain faces the prospect of severe land loss in the long and near term. This is of particular importance considering the intensive pressure from pollution, urbanization and high population density concentrated along coastal zones. 

Over the last four decades, rapid population growth and urbanization, coupled with the expansion of irrigated agriculture and industrialization have led to very high water demand and increasing vulnerability of water supply. With sea level rise, there will be additional pressure placed on already stressed groundwater resources due to seawater intrusion into groundwater. 

Climate change is also understood to pose a potentially significant threat to public health through increased exposures to thermal extremes, changing disease vector dynamics, an increased incidence of food-related and waterborne infections likely to be experienced throughout the Bahraini population, with the elderly, patients with pre-existing medical conditions, and children, likely among those hit the hardest. 

Climate change impacts on biodiversity can also lead to impacts on fish-stock levels, coral reefs, mangroves, date plantations, and migratory birds. In the case for marine life, sixteen different marine habitats in Bahrain. Of these, there are six for which a strong consensus exists within Bahrain scientific community to be considered as priority systems for any subsequent climate change adaptation action planning, namely algae beds, coral reefs, seagrass beds, oyster beds, mangrove forests, mudflats, and salt marshes/coastal dunes.