Iran says it can curb greenhouse gas emission by 12 percent over the coming years if economic sanctions imposed by the U.S., United Nations and European Union are ended.
In an interview with BBC News, Iran’s vice-president in charge of the environment, Masoumeh Ebtekar, told that her country could quadruple its cuts of greenhouse gas emissions with new technologies once there is a complete lifting of sanctions under the landmark nuclear deal signed with world powers in July.
Ebtekar said that Iran intends to curb greenhouse gas emission in 2030 by four percent. Assuming sanctions will be lifted as part of the nuclear deal, she said, the country could cut emissions by an additional eight percent with enough investment, transfer of clean technologies from abroad and carbon credits.
“To improve the quality of our air, we need new technologies,” Ebtekar told BBC soon after she arrived in Paris for the COP21 climate change talks.
Iran’s emissions account for about 1.5 percent of the global total, according to World Resources Institute data, making it the planet’s 11th biggest emitter.
Ebtekar’s adviser Majid Shafiepour, who heads Iran’s delegation to the COP21 talks, has drawn a graph showing what Iran can achieve its goal if it is “business as usual” – and a more ambitious plan boosted by sanctions relief.
“There’s been a lot of willingness among European countries like France and Italy as well as the private sector to come to invest in green technologies,” Mrs Ebtekar said.
She also cited a long list of sectors from solar and wind power, to irrigation and waste management.
According to BBC News, Iran is already working on its own programme to enhance the quality of fuel used by vehicles in all major cities but Ebtekar points out that “if sanctions are lifted, Iran can move ahead more quickly”.
In the capital Tehran, air quality in the sprawling city of 12 million is said to be improving but suffocating smog occasionally shuts offices and schools and in past years caused thousands of deaths, the report added.
In the run up to this major round of climate talks, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei set out an ambitious 15-point environment plan calling for greater engagement and awareness from every level of government and society.
“We need a total U-turn in agricultural policy,” is how Mrs Ebtekar summarises the challenge.
What experts describe as Iran’s self-inflicted water shortage stems from exploiting 97% of its surface water – in contrast to an international standard of 40%. A change would mean educating farmers and providing incentives for a more efficient use of water.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani recently warned that water shortages were now a national security issue.
Of 32 provinces, 13 face a “critical water situation”.
Water mismanagement and drought have also brought Lake Urmia, once the Middle East’s largest salt water lake, to the brink of disappearance.
Dust storms are another scourge. In February, daily life came to standstill across Khuzestan province in the south-west because dust pollution reached 66 times permissible levels.
Former Agriculture Minister Issa Kalantari, who still serves as an adviser, famously sounded a dire warning that if Iran did not change course, large parts of the country would be uninhabitable in two decades.
Image: French President Francois Hollande (L) welcomes Iranian Vice-President Masoumeh Ebtekar upon her arrival, for the opening of the United Nations conference on climate change COP21, on November 30, 2015 at Le Bourget, on the outskirts of the French capital Paris. More than 150 world leaders are meeting under heightened security, for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), also known as Paris 2015 from November 30 to December 11.