COP28: Middle East countries face their inner demons

The Middle East is no stranger to challenges, and when it comes to climate change, the region faces a unique set of obstacles. As countries in the Middle East take part in the COP28, the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, they must confront the growing issues related to climate change and consider solutions for a more sustainable future.

COP28 fossile fuels
The Middle East now faces the challenge of transitioning away from fossil fuels to combat climate change effectively. ©Oliver Kornblihtt

Fossil fuels, water resources, effects of the climate change… The challenges faced by Middle East countries are vivid. With COP28 ongoing in Dubai, Middle East countries have the opportunity to present their perspectives and collaborate with other nations to find sustainable solutions. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is an annual event where countries gather to discuss and address global climate change issues. It serves as a platform for negotiations, agreements, and commitments towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. After Sharm el-Sheikh in 2022, Dubai holds the COP amid criticism over its legitimacy as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are among the top polluters in the world.

Water Resources: A Precious and Limited Asset

But let’s start with the blue gold: water. One of the most significant challenges for Middle East countries in the face of climate change is the scarcity of water resources. With arid and semi-arid climates dominating the region, water scarcity is already a pressing issue. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns further exacerbate this problem, making it crucial for countries to develop efficient water management strategies.

The UAE, known for its innovative spirit, has taken proactive measures to address water scarcity. Desalination plants play a critical role in the country’s water supply, providing freshwater from seawater. However, desalination requires huge amounts of energy, primarily derived from fossil fuels. As part of their commitment to sustainability, the UAE aims to reduce the carbon footprint associated with desalination through renewable energy integration and water conservation measures.

Mitigating Water Scarcity through Technology

Saudi Arabia, another nation grappling with water scarcity, has adopted technological advancements to optimize water usage. The country has invested in advanced irrigation systems and modern farming techniques to minimize water consumption in agriculture, a major consumer of water resources. Additionally, the use of treated wastewater for industrial purposes reduces the reliance on freshwater sources.

Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt face their own unique challenges related to water resources. Lebanon, known for its freshwater reserves, is susceptible to decreasing rainfall and increasing temperatures. This poses a threat to both agricultural practices and water availability for communities. Syria, still recovering from years of conflict, struggles to rebuild its water infrastructure to provide adequate and reliable water supplies. Egypt, heavily reliant on the Nile River, faces uncertainties as climate change affects the river’s flow, impacting the country’s agricultural and water security.

Fossil Fuels: The Dilemma of Economic Dependency

The Middle East is home to abundant fossil fuel reserves, and these resources have played a significant role in fueling economic growth. However, the region now faces the challenge of transitioning away from fossil fuels to combat climate change effectively.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are investing heavily in renewable energy to diversify their energy portfolios and reduce their carbon emissions. The UAE’s ambitious projects, such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, are driving the development of solar power. Saudi Arabia, too, has set ambitious targets for renewable energy production, aiming to generate significant portions of its power from wind and solar sources in the coming years.

Balancing Economic Interests and Environmental Sustainability

Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt face the challenge of striking a balance between their economic interests and environmental sustainability. These countries heavily rely on fossil fuels for energy generation, but they also recognize the importance of transitioning to cleaner energy sources. Policy frameworks, incentives for renewable energy investments, and international collaborations will play a crucial role in enabling these countries to navigate through this dilemma successfully.

As Middle East countries gear up for COP28, they must confront the challenges posed by climate change. From water scarcity to fossil fuel dependency, each nation faces a unique set of obstacles. However, through innovation, technological advancements, and a commitment to sustainability, there is hope for a greener and more prosperous future in the Middle East. By actively participating in international climate conferences like COP28, Middle East countries have the opportunity to showcase their expertise, share experiences, and build partnerships towards a more sustainable planet.