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Toxic gas putting millions at risk in Middle East: BBC

29-11-2023

DUBAI: Toxic pollutants released during gas flaring are endangering millions more people than previously feared, a BBC investigation suggests.

Flaring, the burning of waste gas during oil drilling is taking place across the Gulf, including by COP28 hosts the United Arab Emirates.

New research suggests pollution is spreading hundreds of miles, worsening air quality across the entire region.

It comes as the UAE hosts the UN’s COP28 climate summit on Thursday.

The UAE banned routine flaring 20 years ago, but satellite images show it is continuing, despite the potential health consequences for its inhabitants and those in neighboring countries.

Analysis for BBC Arabic shows gasses are now spreading hundreds of kilometres across the region.

Pollution from wells in Iraq, Iran and Kuwait were also analysed as part of the study. All of the countries involved either declined to comment or did not respond.

Oil companies managing the sites, including BP and Shell, where flaring took place said they were working to reduce the practice.

On Monday, BBC News revealed leaked documents showed how the UAE had planned to use its role as the host of UN climate talks as an opportunity to strike oil and gas deals.

David R. Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment said the BBC’s findings were: “Very disturbing. Big oil companies and states in the Middle East are violating the human rights of millions of people by failing to tackle air pollution from fossil fuels.

“Despite the massive human suffering, Big Oil and petrostates carry on with business as usual with total impunity and zero accountability.”

The United Arab Emirates planned to use its role as the host of UN climate talks as an opportunity to strike oil and gas deals, the BBC has learned.

Leaked briefing documents reveal plans to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 nations.

The UN body responsible for the COP28 summit told the BBC hosts were expected to act without bias or self-interest.

The UAE team did not deny using COP28 meetings for business talks, and said “private meetings are private”.

It declined to comment on what was discussed in the meetings and said its work has been focused on “meaningful climate action”.

The documents obtained by independent journalists at the Centre for Climate Reporting working alongside the BBC were prepared by the UAE’s COP28 team for meetings with at least 27 foreign governments ahead of the COP28 summit, which starts on 30 November. (BBC)

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