Middle East investment, innovation and technology to overcome climate change challenges

Continuing the theme this month of investment and innovation as the twin pillars of the world’s response to climate change, the Middle East has plenty of both the report. While we usually concentrate on how the Middle East is pursuing solutions to its own specific climate-related challenges, this month we are seeing how leading ME nations are looking to be instrumental in the global fight against climate change, by becoming change leaders and international collaborators on said issues.

2050 – A new and brutal climate norm is predicted

Dire predictions on climate change are nothing new. However, each new report does bring the reality of the situation into clearer and more worrying focus. A new study from a Crowther Lab team of researchers predicts that by 2050, a vast array of cities worldwide will be experiencing previously unheard of climate conditions. A whole 22% of major cities globally will have to endure novel conditions, with temperatures averaging 5 degrees Celsius hotter in summer, and up to 8-10% less annual rainfall. 

Accordingly, Tashkent in Uzbekistan would feel more like Mosul or Irbil, while Baghdad is expected to feel much more like Kuwait City by 2050. These comparisons highlight the already challenging climate conditions in the Middle East, with the understanding that they could become a lot worse if global efforts to address the crisis fail.

UAE and Saudi Arabia could be ‘trailblazers’ in renewables

UAE climate envoy Dr Adnan Amin recently highlighted the inherent potential of the UAE and Saudi Arabia – the Middle East’s frequent technological and economic leaders – to go beyond regional leadership on climate change response. His assessment of their future plans was that both countries could easily become global ‘trailblazers’ in everything from formulating green policies to delivering heightened renewable energy capacity, green hydrogen production leadership and the incubation of solar expertise.

A key factor, one repeatedly covered in our previous newsletters, is that both Middle East nations have repeatedly shown that when it comes to sustainability policies, they are willing to support monetary investment with an equally significant investment of political capital. This can be seen in the promotion of renewables-friendly legislation, to the government tendering of substantial new solar and hydrogen facilities.

A concrete example of government leadership leading to tangible action on climate change is the UAE President’s His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan recent announcement that his country will make a further commitment of $50 billion in clean energy solutions at home and abroad. Key among the planned uses of these funds will be projects in support of the UAE Hydrogen Leadership Roadmap, a far-reaching strategy to position the country as a leading producer and exporter of green and blue hydrogen.

Fostering food security for long-term solutions to climate change

While climate change poses all manner of risks to the world and individual countries, food and water security are currently two of the most prominent threats for the Middle East. However, the ongoing disruption of Ukrainian wheat supplies has led to a sharp spike in food security worries worldwide – a ‘hurricane of hunger’ as it was recently described by the UN. Lebanon is particularly vulnerable to the unfolding crisis, as it relies on Ukraine for 60% of its wheat supplies.

The UAE is rising to the challenge, however, with the creation of its newly launched Food Hub, in the Khalifa Industrial Zone, Abu Dhabi. AD Ports Group aims to have the hub ready for July 2023, where the finished facilities will cover a 3.3km2 area feature trading pavilions, logistics services, refrigerated warehouses to store food and vegetables, and waste recycling facilities and more. The plan is to go beyond boosting the UAE’s food security and provide safe, reliable and efficient food routes for other countries, alleviating future crises like the one the world is currently facing.

At a more localised level, the UAE also inaugurated the region’s first waste-to-feed project this month. Homegrown start-up Circa Biotech utilises masses of black soldier fly (BSF) larvae to feed on tonnes of collected food waste and turn it into animal proteins, organic fertilisers, and oils. Once fully scaled up, the project should be able to produce 22,000 tonnes of animal feed per year, completely sustainably. At the same time, this will sustainably treat 200 tonnes of food waste per day, upcycling it into the food value chain. 

Once again, innovation and investment are joining hands to provide viable long-term solutions to the global climate crisis.

Being prepared for the worst may be the only way to prevent it

The message on climate change has been made loud and clear for decades: we have to act fast and decisively. However, politics is often as much of a roadblock as an obstacle clearer. In the Middle East, increasingly we are seeing governments determined to act now to avoid the worst predictions around climate change coming to pass.

This, in turn, is leading to a wider range of innovative approaches gaining traction across the region, encouraging greater levels of investment. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are finding themselves more comfortable assuming the mantle of leadership in these areas, as both are becoming regional powerhouses of renewable energy generation and a further ‘marketplace of ideas’ when it comes to green innovation.

Indeed, the UAE is now thought to be one of the best-prepared countries to handle risks and challenges in the future, according to a new report released by The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation (MBRF) and the United Nations Development Program. Central to this overall state of readiness, the report says, is a country’s capacity to innovate and cooperate when investing in knowledge dimensions and its workforce. This is where both nations continue to gain ground, a factor that will doubtless prove decisive in the current decade and beyond.