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Middle East  

COP21 agreement and the Middle East

With the COP21 agreement made this month in Paris, Guy Mercer, Technical Director at WSP l Parsons Brinckerhoff looks at what it means for the Middle East.


The Middle East is an interesting part of the world to be in when discussing and thinking about environmental impact. Just like other parts of the world, the Middle East is a victim of complex environmental change; it is one of the world’s most water-scarce and dry regions with a high dependency on climate-sensitive agriculture and a large share of its population and economic activity in flood-prone urban coastal zones.

In fact according to Nasser Saidi, former Chief Economist at the Dubai International Finance Center, the macroeconomic risk and instability that climate change is generating in the Middle East is one of the biggest emerging operational risks for regional financial firms. 

In equal measure, the Middle East has a tremendous capacity to act and is making huge strides in diversifying its economies, spurring opportunities for the development of clean technologies – despite a common (mis)perception that it isn’t as committed as it could be when compared to other signatories of the COP 21 agreement in Paris.

My question is: does every nation need prescriptive GHG emissions reduction targets in order to work credibly towards keeping the rise in average global temperatures below 2oC?

The Middle East is not turning a blind eye to the issue – we all know that to combat the growing threat of climate change the GCC countries and their private-sector partners will have to make large-scale investments in sustainable infrastructure. This investment will increase the region’s resilience to climate change, while also providing long-term economic benefits.

And action is already being taken. On a national level, governments are planning for the impacts of climate change by creating the conditions necessary for energy diversification and the development of new ‘cleaner’ technologies like the solar desalination plants in Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, the 100MW Shams 1 solar CSP plant in Abu Dhabi, the 300MW Tarfaya wind farm in Morocco and the 1GW Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park in Dubai.  These are examples of projects that are planned or coming on stream as part of the ME’s ambitions for diversifying its energy mix.  This is just the tip of the iceberg. Saudi Arabia plans to install a staggering 54GW of 54GW of renewable energy by 2032, comprising 25GW of solar CSP, 16GW of solar PV, 9GW of wind, 3GW of waste-to-energy and 1GW of geothermal.

These projects, along with others in Qatar, Oman and Jordan themselves demonstrate that the oil-rich region is beginning to challenge some of the long-standing assumptions about its energy resources.

Many of these projects were put in place well before the negotiations commenced in Paris and formed an already ambitious programme of energy mix diversification in the economies within the region.  Despite oil price challenges and variations to specific GHG emissions reductions agreed among some of signatories in Paris, there remains tremendous capacity to act here in the Middle East.  

So for me the answer to my previous question is,’ not necessarily’ and the Middle East is a good example of why. 



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