Paris climate agreement: what have Middle East countries done five years on?

Here is a look at how regional states have fared in implementing the agreement

The meeting of world leaders in Glasgow this week for Cop26 — which looks for unity on cutting greenhouse gas emissions — comes on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, drawn up to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Since it came into force on November 4, 2016, the deal agreed to in the French capital has been adopted by 197 countries, with formal approval from 191.

Talks in Glasgow have focused on new deals to build off the Paris accord and address methane emissions, deforestation, shifting to green agricultural practices and adopting new technology.

But the question remains — after five years, what progress have countries made to implement the 2015 agreement?

The Paris deal’s main goal is to limit global warming to well below 2°C — and aim for 1.5°C, compared with pre-industrial levels. That involves, among other things, reaching carbon net zero by the middle of the century.

One of the first major milestones in the Paris Agreement was the 2020 deadline for countries to hand in their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) — the blueprint for how they plan to cut emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.

All 191 signatories provided a first NDC, due to be updated in 2020 and then every five years. There are 18 Middle East countries on the list of signatories.

Here is a look at how some regional states have fared in implementing the Paris Agreement and updating their NDCs on the fifth anniversary of the deal coming into effect.

Egypt

In 2015, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly formed the National Council on Climate Change, which submitted the country’s NDCs to the UN. The top priority was the electricity sector, which produces around 43 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions. The sector has since made a marked shift towards introducing more renewables.

With the inauguration of the Benban Solar Park in 2019 and a number of wind farms in the Western Desert and Sinai, the percentage of the country’s power generated through renewables rose from one per cent to 11 per cent in 2019. Egypt intends to increase the supply of electricity generated from renewable sources to 20 per cent by 2022 and 42 per cent by 2035.

Iraq

Although Iraq signed the Paris Agreement in 2016, President Barham Salih only approved his country’s accession in January this year. In June, the concerned ministries approved the final draft of Iraq’s NDC document. Last month, the Iraqi Cabinet endorsed the NDC, which commits to a one to two per cent reduction of its emissions by 2030, focusing on renewable energies and clean mechanisms.

Since last year, the Iraqi government has attracted new investment in clear energy and developed associated gas instead of burning it. “Iraq is capable to overcome any climate change-related hardships given its abundant and varied resources,” Prof Ayad Mushin Ahmed of Al Mustansiriyah University’s College of Sciences told The National. “But mismanagement and the [unstable] political situation are among the main hurdles." He believes Iraq will deliver on its promises. “We are weak and we are going to be under international pressure in this regard,” he said.

Iran

Iran pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by four per cent compared with the business-as-usual scenario. Despite signing the Paris Agreement and having the support of the then-Rouhani administration, Iran's parliament never ratified the deal.

Israel

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has pledged Israel will reach a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050, but such a promise may seem far-fetched given the country’s track record.

In a strong critique of government policy, Israel’s state comptroller last month rolled off a list of failings in recent years. “Israel is one of the few countries in the world that does not act based on a national adaptation plan that is budgeted and approved,” the audit said. The analysis blamed disagreements among ministries for delaying action, while warning that Israel “has not yet internalised the risks posed by climate change to the economy and financial system”.

Jordan

Jordan is considered a non-Annex I party to the Paris Agreement. This means it is a developing country that is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Jordan imports more than 90 per cent of its energy needs, which account for eight per cent of the country’s GDP.

After the Paris Agreement, Jordan enacted a Climate Change Bylaw to set roles and responsibilities for the National Climate Change Committee and relevant ministries. It is also formulating a long-term, low-emission strategy and to achieve sustainable, long-term, low-carbon economic growth. In 2020, Jordan launched a 10-year National Energy Sector Strategy to improve its energy mix and reduce carbon emissions by 10 per cent in 2030, reducing its reliance on imports.

Lebanon

Lebanon signed up to the acclaimed Paris Agreement with an NDC of its own. Yet it faces a plethora of crisis – from economic collapse, to rampant inflation, the climate has slipped down the agenda.

In a recent panel discussion ahead of COP26, Lebanon’s environment minister, Nasser Yassin insisted that the country’s recovery must be green.

The country’s NDC “consists of inherent components in Lebanon’s economic recovery path, while reaffirming Lebanon’s commitment to the climate fight.” Under its NDC, updated in 2020, Lebanon aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2030 and provide 18 per cent of power demands from renewable energy sources.

Morocco

Morocco submitted its revised NDC last June to the UNFCCC secretariat, raising its NDC ambition to a 45.5 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 against the business-as-usual scenario and setting a conditional target of 27.2 per cent GHG reductions.

Since 2015, Morocco has undertaken considerable efforts to advance its climate policies. The country’s initial NDC adopted ambitious targets, which subsequent versions have increased further. In 2016, Morocco also started drawing up a National Adaptation Plan to support priority actions. While Morocco’s emissions remain comparatively low at 0.18 per cent, a 2017 report by the NewClimate Institute shows a considerable increase due to energy demand since 1990.

Oman

Since the Paris Agreement, Oman has developed a national strategy for adapting to climate change and response mechanisms to tropical cyclones, increasing temperatures and rising sea levels. Two years after the agreement, Oman established a framework to engage on climate change initiatives and priorities in the areas of water resources, agriculture, marine and fisheries, urban areas, health and energy efficiency. It also embarked on “serious structural reforms and transformative policies” towards a low-carbon economy and low-emission development, Oman said in its second NDC report in July.

Oman’s 2040 Vision aims to further diversify its economy by investing into tourism, financial services and port logistics and generating more electricity from renewable sources by 2030. In 2017, the oil sector contributed to 39 per cent of the country’s GDP. The country aims to reduce that share to 16 per cent in 2030 and 8.4 per cent by 2040.

Palestine

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attended Cop26 and promised action on climate change. But without the advantages of country status, such as access to international financial markets and border controls, Palestinian officials have little ability to enact lasting policy.

Saudi Arabia

Since signing the Paris Agreement, the kingdom has aimed to reduce up to 130 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Carbon dioxide emissions in the kingdom have decreased by 26 million tonnes, after a decline of about 4.4 per cent from last year.

The Saudi Green initiative aims to plant 10 billion trees — the same as rehabilitating 200 million hectares of degraded land. The target also represents four per cent of the global drive to reverse land degradation and one per cent of the global effort to plant one trillion trees. Studies have shown the kingdom is the third-fastest reducer of fuel-consumption emissions among G20 countries. During its G20 presidency last year, Saudi Arabia endorsed the Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) approach to manage emissions to mitigate the effects of climate challenges, to make energy systems cleaner and sustainable.

The kingdom remains committed to the four Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle and renew — of the circular economy.

Tunisia

Before the Paris climate talks in 2015, Tunisia submitted an ambitious set of goals to help combat climate change with aims to reduce its emission intensity — that is the amount of CO2 consumed per unit of GDP — by 41 per cent before 2030. To meet those aims, which will reduce its overall carbon footprint by 13 per cent, Tunisia will have to separate its emissions from its economic growth, and tackle major infrastructure challenges to ensure the country can reduce emissions in the energy sector.

Since ratifying the treaty in 2017, Tunisia has made minimal progress towards its goals, as the pandemic, an economic crisis and political turmoil have all drawn attention and resources elsewhere. As a developing nation, the country will rely heavily on green finance from more developed nations to fund its initiatives, particularly the retrofitting of its energy infrastructure away from fossil fuels towards green energy.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE was the first country in the GCC region to sign and ratify the Paris Agreement and the first in the Mena region to commit to an economy-wide reduction in emissions.

The UAE and US unveiled a joint initiative to drive rapid and transformative climate action in the agriculture sector at Cop26 on Tuesday, as they look to boost investment in science and innovation to ensure the sector contributes to solving the climate crisis.

The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) has mobilised $4 billion of increased investment to enhance resilience to climate change, including a $1bn contribution from the UAE. The UAE's strategy to reduce carbon emissions by 2050 was unveiled last month, with Dh600bn ($163.37) invested in clean and renewable energy sources in the next three decades.

Updated: November 4th 2021, 12:37 PM
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