The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s vulnerability to extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, sandstorms, and flash floods, can exacerbate socioeconomic disparities and migrant crises.
A new report published Wednesday by the World Economic Forum (WEF) warns that climate change threatens the livelihoods of more than half a billion people in the region.
The report outlines how temperatures in MENA are rising at twice the global average, possibly becoming 4°C warmer by 2050 if it continues on the same trajectory. This could affect 575 million people, putting 70% of people in low-income countries at risk.
The report titled Closing the climate action gap: accelerating decarbonization and the energy transition in MENA also highlights the region’s vulnerability to shocks such as irregular rainfall, water scarcity, desertification, reduced levels of groundwater, and prolonged droughts.
The WEF report describes this as a “decisive moment” in the fight against climate change in MENA and warns that these shocks could knock on everything from agriculture to how people live to increase migration.
The report outlines how the region could become a “global leader” in these areas by scaling up solar and wind energy. “Endowed with abundant access to solar and wind energy, coupled with extensive expanses of untapped land, MENA boasts a largely untapped potential for renewable energy and emerging energy vectors such as green hydrogen,” says the report.
All of the region’s major economies are committed to the Paris Agreement. In the past two years, 60% of the region’s emissions and GDP have come under net-zero pledges.
The report highlights that while these initiatives are a strong start, corporate climate leadership in MENA still trails that of the region’s global peers.
The MENA region can potentially lead the world in the transition to clean energy, but this will require “visionary pragmatism,” according to the report. Policymakers and businesses need to work together to create new pathways and invest in strategic areas such as renewable energy, technology development, talent cultivation, and regional coordination.
WEF also suggests that upskilling workers in green jobs will be essential throughout the region and that greater collaboration on climate could boost diversification, exports, and employment.
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