With the Cop27 climate summit having kicked off this week in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the global spotlight is on the Mena region. The summit offers a sobering reminder of the devastating effects of climate change on the region – and presents an opportunity for governments, businesses and society to come together to reduce emissions and increase resilience.
The Mena region is among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and in most need of urgent mitigation and adaptation efforts. The region is warming at twice the global average and has experienced increased drying over recent years due to a rise in greenhouse gases and desert warming amplification phenomenon, whereby drying soil prevents natural cooling. It is especially at risk of drought as climate change makes extreme weather events more frequent and more severe.
At the same time, rising sea levels could make coastal areas uninhabitable as well as salinise water in coastal aquifers and wells. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, water-related catastrophes are projected to reduce the region’s Gross Domestic Product by a staggering 14 per cent by 2050.
Not only do these effects risk destroying lives and livelihoods, but they could also cause increased water stress and food insecurity, resulting in rising socioeconomic inequality and unrest. With climate disasters rising faster in the Middle East and Central Asia than anywhere in the world, there’s a strong case for climate action to help populations adapt to the climate realities of today and prepare for future shocks.
Cop26 saw countries commit to the Glasgow Climate Pact to prevent the planet from heating more than 1.5°C and pledge to strengthen their emissions targets. Cop27 must advance that momentum.
While some countries in the region have made positive climate commitments to net zero – including the UAE and Oman by 2050 and Saudi Arabia by 2060 – the region as a whole must do more. That means bringing together governments alongside of businesses and civil society to ensure concrete commitments, systemic strategies and inclusive collaboration.
The private sector cannot turn a blind eye to its role in these efforts. Businesses, too, have a responsibility to help the region achieve net zero and improve its ability to prepare for and adapt to climate change shocks.
According to a new Bain analysis of 200 companies in the region, many companies, including Majid Al Futtaim, Adnoc and Etihad, Agility, Saudi Aramco, Acwa Power and Sabic, are taking actions to reduce emissions, increase renewable energy sources and scale low-carbon technologies. But there is still much more to be done.
According to the Bain research, only half of the companies surveyed have started Environmental, Social and Governance reporting. At the same time, only 12 per cent have announced their commitments to becoming net zero, and only 6 per cent have defined a roadmap to do so. The data also shows a lack of transparent and consistent disclosures policies, reduction roadmaps and science-based target setting.
There’s a strong business case for action, according to a new World Economic Forum analysis in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers. By acting now to increase resilience along their supply chains, businesses can minimise risks to their operations and capitalise on new opportunities. One estimate found that investing $1.8 trillion into adaptation efforts globally could generate $7.1tn in total net benefits by 2030.
The impact of climate change does not stop at national borders and will affect the entire region. As such, regional collaboration is crucial to mount an effective response to this generational challenge. In this context, WEF has helped form the “Leaders for a Sustainable Mena”, a community of government and business leaders with the ambition to working together to accelerate climate action across the region.
The members of this group will seek to do this through a dual approach: ramping up their emissions disclosures and net-zero commitments over the next two years and launching or scaling “lighthouse projects” to inspire and catalyse collaboration with their peers.
A belief that unites the region’s residents, from Tehran to Tangiers and from Aden to Adana, is a deep commitment to toiling and sacrificing to endow the next generation in the family with as much of an advantage as possible. If we are collectively failing to make sure we can bequeath our children a liveable planet, it will matter less what we provide for them individually.
Hosting consecutive Cop summits in the Mena region (in Egypt and the UAE) is a unique opportunity to ensure that we shoulder our responsibility towards the next generation.