Let’s Go Green in the Middle East and North Africa

November 1, 2016

Hafez Ghanem

An Urgent Call for Action on Climate Change

We could be at a turning point. Less than one year after it was signed, the historic Paris agreement to combat climate change has now been ratified by a sufficient number of countries to come into force in the next few days. The agreement commits the international community to a set of bold measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep the rise in global temperatures under 2˚C.  It is now time to turn that agreement into action and the next global meeting on climate change, COP 22, in Morocco will bring together all the parties working towards this collective goal.

Morocco has set a powerful example. Over the past few years, the country’s decision makers have geared up policy and investments toward increasing resilience and fostering a low carbon economy. The hosting of the COP 22 in Morocco is a testament to the role of middle income countries in tackling climate change, and their capacity to rally the international community around this critical task. 

This year’s COP in Marrakech will also focus on the challenges faced by the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as a whole. Climate change in MENA is already exacting a toll and could become a major driver of instability. With deserts covering large parts of the region, habitable land in MENA is precious.  In a 1.5˚C hotter world, our assessments indicate that even more  of the region may become un-inhabitable due to longer, more frequent and more severe droughts. This will increase migration to the region’s crowded cities. MENA’s pattern of economic and human concentration along its coasts already makes it particularly vulnerable to rises in sea level. The Mediterranean is expected to rise between 0.2 and 0.5 meters, which, in the absence of adaptation measures, could affect up to 25 million people between Algiers and Beirut. Along with displacing millions of people, the loss of land, property and valuable cultural assets would be in the billions of dollars. Dedicated financing and policies focused on building resilience are, more than ever, a critical priority to address these challenges.

The World Bank Group is committed to supporting countries both in the region and around the world map a path toward low carbon growth and greater resilience to the impacts of climate change. We have set ambitious global targets to be met by 2020. These include helping d increase climate-smart agriculture investments, add 30 gigawatts of renewable energy – enough to power 150 million homes – to the world’s energy generating capacity and to prepare for extreme weather with early warning systems for 100 million people. We will partner with MENA countries, supporting efforts to meet their respective international climate commitments with our knowledge and resources.  

Morocco and the United Arab Emirates are among those that have already ratified the Paris agreement and contributed to its coming into force. This is an encouraging step for the region, showing that the climate agenda is moving to the top of countries’ strategic priorities. But change will not happen overnight.  It will take each and every one of us, decision makers, institutions, private sector and citizens, to take full responsibility and adapt our actions and behaviors. Marrakech will be a COP for action; a COP marking a step toward the change needed to avoid the point of no return; the COP where major economies will pave the way towards going green.