Arab states' net-zero hopes staked on Cop28 climate targets

Regional participants raise the profile of their energy transition efforts at the UN-led climate summit

Hamed Al Mamari, from Oman, at his country's pavilion at the Cop28 climate conference at Expo City in Dubai.  Pawan Singh / The National
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Inside the Oman pavilion at Expo 2020 is an arch of video screens that show the impact of cyclones on the country's green ravines. As the chocolate-coloured floods cascade down landslips, rocks smash into roads and the military puts helicopters in the air.

The effect of climate change on the sultanate is just one element of the messages the Omani delegation is bringing to the Cop28 summit.

Hamed Al Mamari, a representative of an Omani gas company, pointed to the display with the trained eye of an engineer who knows the challenges of global warming as well as the opportunities, constantly laid out from the Sultan down the chain.

“We have life experience of how to deal with the impact of climate change and the number of cyclones and hurricanes we get,” he said.

“The government has invested in a an early warning scheme and with this system we manage to save a lot of lives. We know early now that the cyclones are coming and can prepare for them.”

Oman's journey to net zero by 2050

The country’s ruler, Sultan Haitham, has said it can reach the net-zero emissions goal by 2050. The regional agenda address at Cop28 in Dubai has been eagerly anticipated as a chance to showcase that work. “Every speech his majesty makes stresses the necessity to move to Net Zero by 2050. ”

Ahmed Al Naumani, an Omani delegate to Cop28, said the country sees itself as a supplier of materials that boost renewables or store energy and are in increasing demand in the push to net zero.

“Essentially, we brand ourselves as enabling transition,” Mr Al Naumani said. “How we enable the transition is delivering net positive energy as we can also decarbonise the output that we have because net zero means all emissions that are unabated are offset somehow.”

Another display at the pavilion features hunks of stone and material such as silica that can be used in batteries for electric storage.

Another highlight of Oman’s ambitions to capitalise on climate change demand is green hydrogen, where the sultan has announced ambitious targets.

“The objective I think is one million tonnes of green hydrogen by the end of this decade or a bit earlier and more probably 10 times more in the decades to come,” he said. “The geopolitical position we have … I think we are definitely a net positive in terms of when you have more energy than we need.”

Regional efforts and challenges in addressing climate change

For GCC members, the Arab League and all the way over to the Atlantic seaboard there is an unprecedented effort to present tangible plans at Cop28 particularly for those states that have suffered setbacks, not least as a result of conflict.

Once such case is Iraq which has been punished by the changing climate at almost every turn. Its Environment Minister, Nizar Amedi, told The National that until recently Iraq had lacked a comprehensive plan to address climate change, largely as a result of conflict, including the ISIS threat.

“There is a shift as the government now includes environmental concerns in its plans,” Mr Amedi said as he presided over the Cop28 event to launch the country’s Green Bank for sustainable development.

Green financial solutions will be designed to be compatible with Sharia and support sustainable projects with a carbon return through global carbon trading.

“Iraq launched new projects such as a $4.5 million fund to the middle Euphrates area and we have budget for various environmental and agriculture projects,” he added.

Moroccans who have travelled to the Expo venue have a story to tell around the country’s potential as an energy exporter to Europe.

“The EU Commission has put forward proposals to decarbonise EU gas markets by facilitating uptake of renewable and low carbon gases, including hydrogen,” said researcher Ayoub Hirt. “However, Morocco faces significant challenges to upscale hydrogen production to meet the targets set by the European Union.”

Bahrain sees itself as a centre of business opportunities around the changing climate and new energy mix. “We have the infrastructure available for financing, logistics and education so that anyone who wants to go from pilot to scale in their project can come to Bahrain as the technology becomes more and more available,” said Hani Alkhenaizi, a Bahraini representative.

The urgency of climate action: Perspectives from the Arab League and Iraq

Muwaffaq Saqqar, who works for the Arab League and was bound for a meeting at the Tunisia office, said the meeting in Dubai brings home the stakes of climate change for the region.

“You see here climate change is real and serious,” he tells The National. “And it needs all the attention its getting here because of it's influence all over the world.”

Mr Saqqar worries that the momentum built up at Cop28 could dissipate because of other endemic issues. “The readiness of the countries to absorb what’s happening here could be very low because they have to accommodate climate change.”

Dead fish in southern Iraq - in pictures

Iraqi climate and environmental officials highlighted the long-standing impact of climate change on their country and attributed it to industrialised nations.

Dr Mukhtar Khamis, the head of the Green Climate organisation in Iraq, said that while Iraq contributes minimally to carbon emissions (0.02 per cent), it faces severe consequences from climate change.

“Iraq didn’t cause this climate change but Iraq is at the forefront of those countries that suffer the consequences of climate change,” Dr Khamis told The National.

He emphasised Iraq's proactive stance in combating climate change, implementing policies, and taking action.

“The threat has far-reaching implications beyond borders. But Iraq [is] working on policies and taking action to fight climate change,” he added.

“Iraq has already experienced adverse effects of climate change, including destructive flooding, droughts, and rising temperatures.

“These impacts have led to internal displacements, particularly in the marshlands in the southern part of the country.”

“Water pollution from the Tigris and Euphrates lead also to various diseases in southern cities.”

Updated: December 05, 2023, 6:16 PM