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Call for Enhanced Regional Climate Governance in the Arab Region

The Arab region consists of 22 countries – 12 in West Asia and 10 in North Africa. It already suffers from aridity, recurrent drought and water scarcity, and is in many ways among the most vulnerable regions in the world to the potential impacts of climate change and natural disasters. Climate change may exacerbate existing social, environmental and economic pressures on various sectors, such as water, agriculture, infrastructure, aquaculture, health and tourism, and could significantly hinder efforts to achieve other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 

The Arab region – stretching across more than 13 million square kilometres of Africa and Asia – covers a variety of climate zones and natural ecosystems ranging from arid deserts to forests and rivers. Climate models project that temperatures in the region may increase by 1.2°C–1.9°C by 2046–2065 and 1.5°C–2.3°C by 2081-2100 under a moderate case scenario, and 1.7°C–2.6°C and 3.2°C–4.8°C, respectively, under the worst case scenario.a Such increases in temperature have implications on natural ecosystems, which are often borderless.
Thus, the impacts of climate change are likely to be felt across borders and shared resources. That is, climate impacts in one country could exacerbate risks in others, especially given the variance between Arab countries in terms of endowments of natural resources, and social and economic conditions. Examples of negative transboundary effects of climate change in the Arab region include:

  • Tension over water resources: Extreme climate conditions, such as increased heat and evaporation, present additional stresses on water resources. Given that 66% of freshwater resources in Arab states originate from outside national borders and 14 out of 22 Arab states share a surface-water body, there is a growing concern that climate change may act as a catalyst aggravating water scarcity and tensions within and between the nations sharing hydrological resources, and geographical or political boundaries.
  • Public health: In a region that already suffers from extreme temperatures even a small rise in temperature could expand the range of carriers of malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, and other vector-borne diseases.
  • Desertification: The expansion of the Empty Quarter desert (or Rub’ al Khali), which is part of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, and Yemen, along with increases in average temperatures, decreased annual precipitation, water stress and recurrent droughts, brings additional stress to agricultural areas and biodiversity. Similar impacts are expected from the expansion of the Sahara Desert which covers about 31% of Africa. 
  • Deforestation: Home to 12% of forests in the Arab region, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, and Djibouti are faced with the challenge of forest and biodiversity loss due to a combination of thermal and water stresses. 
  • Coastal ecosystems: Stretching along 22,105 km in the Arab region, they face high risk from projected sealevel rise, saltwater intrusion and loss of agricultural land and wetlands, which can in turn have a negative impact on tourism and fisheries, flooding and human displacement. 
  • Conflict and human security: Degradation of natural resources, especially stress on water resources, can in many ways contribute to conflict or insecurity. Climate change is particularly challenging for weak states and countries in conflict, as it can worsen conditions on the ground, leading to further instability, as well as forced migration.

This EDA Insight explores ways in which advancing regional governance and cooperation can play a role in helping Arab countries address the challenge of climate change, and progress towards the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. Read Climate Change and Governance in the Arab region

About:Emirates Diplomatic Academy EDA-led research project examines potential for improved environmental governance in the Arab region that supports the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by:

  • Providing an update of existing cooperation and governance efforts and exploring potential for further cooperation and improved governance in five critical areas for the Arab region: food security; water security; sustainable energy; climate change; and biodiversity conservation; and
  • Proposing possible ways for governments (particularly the United Arab Emirates) and other regional stakeholders to further support stronger environmental governance in the region, which is key not only to sustainable development but peace and stability as well.
  • In any part of the world, achieving sustainable development is no longer possible without addressing environmental sustainability. This has been recognised in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which brings together the global environmental and development agendas in 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a number of which are directly or indirectly related to the environment and natural resources. These include SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land).
  • Given the transboundary character of most environmental challenges, sustainability requires both strong governance frameworks and close cooperation. While there has been significant interest since the 1990s in global environmental governance, regional governance has received less analytical and academic attention. Regional governance, however, has various advantages, as it enables a more focused approach to shared challenges and opportunities. 

Further reading  about SDGs, climate change, energy, food security from EDA series and publications here

Sources: IISD and EDA

arab region climate change