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Carmit Lubanov

COP28: How poor is the performance of governments in the Middle East regarding climate goals?

As a paraphrase of the book ‘Is Paris Burning’? by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, that was telling the story of the Liberation of Paris during the Second World War, it seems that 50 years after the book was published, the global climate agreement was signed in Paris (2015) by all parties, is the one that rises in the flames of the Middle East since, and not only due to the war taking place on the southern and northern borders of Israel almost 2 months, which will influence on  any area of our lives here for decades to come,

But due to the state of climate preparedness of each of the Middle East countries which requires a different thinking by regional lens.

The article addresses the question of how bad the state of the countries is in the context of climate preparedness, and presents a regional vision, in the outlining developing by Tahadhari Center, (Brussels) aimed to focus the attention of climate politics on the Middle East and the South Mediterranean.

But first right to make zoom-out to our region. In the exchange of global estimates regarding the chances of success of the world climate conference that opened this week in Dubai, as every year at the end of November-early December, there were no recording of heavy bets on the option of a breakthrough in related to global coping with the climate crisis, in the parameters decided at the Paris conference 8 years ago, that is, the mitigation of GHG emissions and the rate of transition to renewable energy, at the state level, within the next 15 years until 2030.

In light of the climatic stagnation, the energy crisis, it is suggested to examine the goals agreed upon Paris in the terminology so familiar in the Middle East: Mitigation of the climate risk and adaptation for climate security, and to propose an outline that is no longer “business as usual”, but rather an examination of the goals in a regional prism.

Interesting to examining the scientific reports published in the last two months in preparation for COP28 to see if there is anything new under the Middle Eastern sun, in prism of the assessments of the countries in regards to achieving the goals they committed to under the Paris Agreement.

The Climate Action Tracker is an independent scientific project that tracks since 2009 government climate action and measures it against the globally agreed Paris Agreement aim of “holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.”

How close the neighboring countries in Middle East to this goal?

The group tracks 39 countries and the EU covering around 85% of global emissions and approximately 70% of global population. The actions they track are on national level includes: Effect of climate policies and action on emissions; Impact of pledges, targets and NDCs on national emissions over the time period to 2030, Comparability of effort against countries’ fair share and modeled domestic pathways: Whether a government is doing its “fair share” compared with others towards the global effort to limit warming consistent with the Paris Agreement , and whether its mitigation efforts on its own territory are in line with global least cost pathways.

Out of 39 countries were examined, 4 are with interest to us. The ‘Net Zero’ target for the EU countries was set for 2050. In comparison, Turkey is found to achieve slightly behind, 2053, while the host of the climate conference, the United Arab Emirates, needs 10 more years, 2060. Whereas in Egypt, the host of the previous world climate conference, COP27, there is no target year at all. In the parameter defined as “Comprehensiveness rated” the calculated score status is ‘POOR’.  While in EU countries, Great Britain the status is ‘Acceptable’. When considering the components of the overall assessment the situation is even more alarming.

Saudi Arabia relative to warming less than 4 degrees Celsius, in sub-category of Policies and actions against fair share are ‘Critically Insufficient’. The same situation is for ‘NDC target against modeled domestic pathways’, which also ‘Critically Insufficient’.  In Egypt, for the first category, in relation to a target of warming less than 3 degrees Celsius, the assessment indicates ‘Insufficient’, whereas for the second category, aimed of 4 degrees, ‘Highly Insufficient’, which is also the overall weighted rating. In the countries of the EU, in relation to 2 degrees Celsius, the rating is of ‘Almost Sufficient’, and as mentioned is projected to be achieved in a shorter period of time than the Middle East countries.

The preparation in Europe for a winter of energy poverty is in high gear, for 2nd successive year due to the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, and national energy transition plans already clear that won’t meet achieving the goals planned for 2030, in large parts of the continent and the climate discourse that includes the adoption of nuclear energy. These processes accelerate the need to formulate a regional climate strategy, not only in Europe and not only biased energy targets, but a policy of socio-economic fairness, a broad regional one that includes the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

​In research initiated last year by Tahadhari Center in Euro-Med region (Brussels), aimed to future assessment of mitigation of climate risks and adaptation towards climate security across the Mediterranean region, the linkages between climate change and National security are discussed vis-à-vis the current geopolitical landscape and associated transboundary challenges, in defined geopolitical regions, as Middle East, or Northern Mediterranean. and Winter 2023 seems to be the best fitted ground.

As for our region of South Mediterranean, prospective climate security risks include migratory pressures, climate refugees, water stress and food insecurity are reviewed.

The findings for the case of Israel, are correlating state’s potential role in climate-security politics to positive economic benefits. Given a scenario of regional Climate Change Leadership, that proposing an alternative pathway for regional cooperation and geopolitical stability through the promotion of old-new Middle Eastern-Mediterranean Alliances.

Foremost this vision should be designed to strengthen each country’s commitment towards a Climate Compatible Future.

What that it means regional collaboration towards a Climate compatible future:

The fundamental assumption is that it is that the self-interest of each country in Middle East region is to address the security implications of climate change by adopting a series of policy measures: at the national level, in bilateral regional relations, and at the multilateral level, and regional perspective in ways that advocate a climate leadership position in the Middle East, in conjunction to the region’s sensitive geopolitical dynamics.

Here are few of the understandings so fa re policy recommendations to promote geopolitical cooperation and regional transformation in response to the predicted socio-economic and environmental pressures of climate change.

In several ways, the region can leverage for geopolitical stability and new economic opportunities by developing its regional and global presence in the arena of climate change policy. One of the key factors the research was focused is ‘the move from stagnation to innovation’, and this should develop state actors and private agents committed to national targets, armed with a repertoire of climate change tools and composite awareness of the climate-security spectrum, but should be armed with a deep understanding of the importance of the regional dimension in the implementation of climate policy, not only for the benefit of economic profit, but as a strategy for achieving regional sustainability, aimed at economic and social prosperity that includes reducing gaps in the ability to deal with the consequences of climate change, between neighboring countries. The policymakers should seek to harness the transformative power of education by promoting climate justice and engaging the public in climate stewardship.

The degree to which the governments in the Middle East prepare and respond to the security risks of climate change will determine the impact levels of migratory pressures, water scarcity, food security and climate disaster events; and will establishing the overall resilience of the region’ states.

Climate contingency planning is a necessity in the burning Middle East and policymakers should strive to build a climate-resilient economy by integrating the diplomatic-security dimension of climate change into the national security agenda.

The prioritizing of a credible mitigation and adaptation plan, in conjunction to maneuvering for stronger geopolitical cooperation, will better situate the Middle East to deal with the security challenges posed by climate change. Through leadership and exchange, the countries can exercise the necessary tools for mitigating risks and capitalizing upon the emerging socio-economic and diplomatic opportunities presented by climate change era.

A climate adaptation mindset should steadily become the policy norm and bring with it fresh governance methods towards a New National Climate Plan in Israel and in the neighboring countries – Leveraging for Geopolitical Cooperation and Regional Transformation. One of the aspects we researched is aimed to strategizing for accountability and responsiveness, while targeting peacebuilding and peacekeeping efforts towards a climate-resilient economy and climate-protected society.

Our intermediate conclusion for addressing Climate Change Leadership is that this should be part of regional’ governments’ long-term objectives should include building interregional and intergenerational security and justice in each country in the Middle East by making climate change a top strategic priority.

Climate change can evolve into an opportunity for working towards geopolitical stability, as opposed to surrendering to regional instability. This critical shift is possible under a new fabric of governance that takes to heart the full set of risks at hand, whereby climate change mitigation, adaptation and protection meet their primacy. Once climate contingency planning starts to solidify, security mechanisms can develop through different avenues to create a more climate-protected society, in which security challenges and environmental values coalesce.

And despite the clichéd tone, it seems that there is no more appropriate time to build regional cooperation in the field of climate than at this time, not only for the sake of regional stability, but for the sake of regional justice and intergenerational climate justice in the Middle East.

Author: Carmit Lubanov (Israel), climate governance expert, member in international climate working group, Co-Founder with the diplomat and policy divisor Mark Causon (Malta), of Tahadhari Center for Climate and Migration in Euro-Med region (Brussels), a think tank for research and advocacy of regional climate policy in a social and economic prism.

About the Author
Co-Founder of Tahadhari Center for Climate and Migration in Euro-Med (TCCMEM, 2022) focusing on regional perspective of global processes. Founder and been executive director of Association of Environmental Justice in Israel (AEJI). Carmit has expertise on climate governance, climate and environmental justice , as well as long engaged on economically oriented field projects among weak links of the society, including cross-border Israel-Palestine. Among focuses of her work are policy advocacy, mobilizing processes for long term change in multi-threat space, politicaly, socially and economically.
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