Governments can offer subsidies or low-interest loans to help offset the initial costs associated with implementing smart farming technologies such as precision agriculture systems or automated irrigation methods.
Middle East: What future for agriculture?
Middle Eastern countries face many challenges, starting with feeding their growing populations. Solutions exist, both in terms of quality and quantity. But in the context of global warming, it is urgent to act.
How the Middle East countries can promote agritech
The Middle East countries have a tremendous opportunity to promote agritech and revolutionize their agricultural sector. One key aspect is the adoption of advanced technologies that can enhance productivity, conserve resources, and ensure food security in the face of mounting challenges.
An important step towards promoting agritech is investing in research and development. By allocating funds for scientific studies, governments can support innovation and encourage the creation of cutting-edge solutions tailored to the region’s specific needs. Collaboration between local universities, start-ups, and international experts can foster a culture of knowledge-sharing and accelerate technological advancements.
Furthermore, fostering partnerships between public institutions and private companies can play a crucial role in driving agritech forward. Encouraging joint ventures will not only attract foreign investment but also enable local businesses to tap into global expertise and access state-of-the-art technologies.
Another avenue for promoting agritech lies in providing financial incentives for farmers to adopt new practices. Governments can offer subsidies or low-interest loans to help offset the initial costs associated with implementing smart farming technologies such as precision agriculture systems or automated irrigation methods.
Moreover, establishing dedicated training programs is vital for ensuring successful integration of agritech solutions into farming practices across the region. Offering workshops, seminars, or online courses on agri-technology will equip farmers with the necessary skills to leverage these innovations effectively.
In conclusion (in this blog section), by prioritizing research and development efforts, fostering partnerships between public institutions and private enterprises while offering financial incentives along with comprehensive training programs; Middle East countries hold immense potential for promoting agritech at various levels – from small-scale farms up to large commercial operations. Embracing technology-driven approaches will undoubtedly pave the way towards sustainable agricultural production in this dynamic region.
Agricultural resources and technological constraints
When it comes to agriculture in the Middle East, there are both abundant resources and technological constraints that need to be considered. The region is blessed with fertile land and a favorable climate for growing a variety of crops. However, limited access to water resources poses a major challenge for agricultural production.
Countries like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have been heavily reliant on irrigation systems to sustain their agricultural activities. This has put immense pressure on already scarce water supplies. As global warming exacerbates drought conditions in the region, finding sustainable solutions becomes even more crucial.
To address these challenges, agritech innovations can play a significant role. Smart farming techniques that optimize water usage through precision irrigation systems can help conserve this precious resource while maximizing crop yields. Additionally, the use of advanced sensors and data analytics can provide valuable insights into soil health and nutrient management.
In recent years, several initiatives have emerged across the MENA region to promote agritech startups and research institutions focused on developing technologies tailored specifically for local conditions. These efforts aim not only to enhance agricultural productivity but also foster food security in an increasingly uncertain world.
By embracing sustainable farming practices and investing in technological advancements such as precision agriculture and hydroponics systems powered by renewable energy sources like solar power or wind turbines – countries in the Middle East can mitigate some of the challenges posed by limited resources while ensuring long-term food security for their populations.
It is clear that addressing the agricultural constraints requires collaboration between governments, private sector players,and research institutions.
The future of agriculture in the Middle East lies within innovative solutions that harness technology’s potential while respecting environmental limitations
Fighting the impact of global warming
Global warming is a pressing issue that affects agriculture in the Middle East. Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased frequency of extreme weather events pose significant challenges to agricultural production in the region.
One way to combat the impact of global warming on agriculture is through sustainable farming practices. By adopting techniques such as conservation tillage, crop rotation, and organic farming methods, farmers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change effects. Additionally, using precision agriculture technologies like remote sensing and GPS can optimize resource use and minimize environmental impact.
Water scarcity is another major concern for agricultural production in the Middle East. With limited freshwater resources, efficient irrigation systems are crucial. Drip irrigation techniques have proven effective in conserving water while maintaining crop yields. Investing in advanced water management systems and promoting responsible water usage can help alleviate the strain on water resources.
Furthermore, diversifying crops can enhance food security by reducing reliance on a single crop or limited range of cereals. Encouraging farmers to grow a variety of crops adapted to changing climatic conditions ensures resilience against potential losses due to climate-related impacts.
Collaboration between governments, research institutions, and private sector companies is vital for developing innovative agritech solutions tailored to local contexts. Supporting initiatives that promote smart farming technologies like vertical farming or hydroponics can increase agricultural productivity while minimizing land use.
It is now essential for countries in the Middle East to prioritize sustainable farming practices and invest in agritech advancements to combat the impact of global warming on agriculture effectively. By adapting strategies suited for their specific constraints – whether it be scarce water resources or increasing temperatures – these nations can ensure food security for their populations while preserving their natural environment.
Qatar seeks to increase LNG production by 63% by 2027 and commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors by 25 percent by 2030. Though the two goals may sound contradictory, the curious mind muses on how this could lead Qatar to fashion a dual role as both gas exporter and green-energy powerhouse. Further, the challenge in setting up Qatar’s dual energy role isn’t in the potential or commitment. After all, the region has witnessed multiple attempts of diversifying commodity-based economies to no avail.
How can Qatar square the circle, then? Put simply, by coming through with the finance and the mechanics of spending it.
Allow me to explain.
Since its discovery in 1972, Gas has propelled Qatar development into a wealthy and ambitious state. The kind of ambition that landed Qatar the FIFA World Cup and carved it a role as a regional problem solver. The time now has come to use that very same commodity to build a different economic future for generations to come.
Last year, Qatar has reported a budget surplus of $24billion. This cash excess is likely to swell further due to the increasing gas demand caused by the Ukraine-Russia Crisis, which has turned gas into the new oil. Qatar’s ministry of finance could use this surplus to beef up the Qatar Investment Authority to snap up some trophy assets. But it could also divert these proceeds toward building electric grids capable of handling the transition to clean energy. In the long run, the latter option translates to choosing action today and fewer tradeoffs ahead. It would mean spreading the cost of climate change by securing a more productive hydrocarbon-free economy for Qatar, fewer emissions, and lowering the risk of flooding and extreme heat. As such, Qatar could power its growth using renewable grids, which would replace the ones running on hydrocarbons. In this vein, Qatar’s high solar potential could be used to develop solar energy projects to create thousand megawatts of solar generation capacity.
As the country expands its domestic production capacity by $30billion to swell further gas revenues, pumping these surpluses into renewable grids would elevate Qatar to a much higher level of success toward reaching NetZero emissions. This necessitates a pledge to invest continuously in green development projects that can reduce emissions and spur carbon-free economic growth. Such an aim can be achieved via proper carbon pricing and international emissions trading to persuade the private sector to join forces for Qatar’s decarbonizing efforts. Government aids and loans can follow with green strings to incentivize the private sector to contribute to cutting emissions and converting hydrocarbon-powered consumption to a green one.
Becoming an even bigger player in gas production would mean Qatar can pour gas proceeds into clean manufacturing and diversifying local economies. As cash flows in, Qatar’s transition away from hydrocarbons speeds up and its competitiveness in the non-hydrocarbon economy rises. It is possible to imagine how such a virtuous cycle of hydrocarbon proceeds and clean-economy growth might lead to more investment and trade that lifts Qatar’s living standards and broadens prosperity for its population. The gas bonanza can be used to finance essential infrastructure and desalination projects that can help Qatar’s cities stay habitable amid rising temperatures. Environmental journalist Gaia Vince argues, in her book “Nomad Century, that regions populated by close to 3.5 billion people would become unsuitable for living if the world temperature grew by a mere 4 degrees.
Gas has been and continues to be a valuable source of foreign exchange for Qatar. With its revenues, the government can continue its social spending, school, healthcare, and public services funding, and direct what is left of its budget toward green economy maneuvers. These entail a series of projects such as waste-processing plants, a big sea wall, or even swapping to electric buses. At the global level, these moves will bring Qatar closer to the COP national climate targets. At the national level, they will shield Qatar from regional and global crises 10 to 20 years from now. And most importantly, on Qatar’s balance sheet, their cost can be afforded today.
By acting now, Qatar can avoid the tradeoff, lying ahead, between climate and development. As temperatures rise and world poverty presses, the tradeoff is imminent. Weird as it may sound, Qatar’s gas production expansion is its exit plan from a hydrocarbon-based economy toward a diversified economy aimed at lowering environmental risks and ecological scarcities and building infrastructure that promotes social and environmental sustainability.
Dr. Yassine Talaoui is Assistant Professor of Strategic Management at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Organizational Excellence, College of Business and Economics, Qatar University.
Because of its growing impact on society, global warming has taken centre stage in the public debate. While most of us have not read the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), heat waves, intensifying storms and the multiplication of extreme events remind us of the scale of climate disruption and the urgency of action.
Despite being documented by the Intergovernmental Sciences Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the equivalent of the IPCC for biodiversity, we know little about how biodiversity erosion might affect us and the rest of the planet. Its links and interactions with climate change are underestimated, and any policy to address either in isolation will miss the mark. It’s impossible to take effective action against global warming without addressing our impact on the rest of the living world, and vice versa.
Fossil carbon, living carbon
IPCC scientists have been explaining since their first assessment report (1990) that climate change is a stock problem. To halt global warming, it is not enough to slash greenhouse gas emissions. We need to stabilise their stock in the atmosphere. To achieve reach net zero we must reduce emissions – the inflow into the stock – to the level of the outflow, which is made up of CO2 absorption by carbon sinks (forests and oceans) and the elimination of non-CO2 greenhouse gases at the end of their life cycle.
This requires that we adopt a two-pronged plan, aimed both at cutting down our reliance on both fossil and living carbon. The former feeds the vast majority of the world’s pollution, with coal, oil and natural gas accounting for 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Tackling it will require that we take on the so-called energy transition.
On the other hand, a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions come from “living carbon”, mainly as a result of specific agricultural emissions (unrelated to fossil fuel use) and tropical deforestation and other land use changes that erode carbon sinks. There is no way to achieve carbon neutrality without a profound transformation in the use of living resources, to ensure the reflux of agricultural emissions and better protection of carbon sinks. This is the challenge of what we might call the agroclimatic transition.
One of the major difficulties of the ecological transition is to carry out these two transformations simultaneously, as they involve distinct economic mechanisms. For fossil carbon, we need to introduce scarcity by reducing the use of coal, oil and natural gas to the absolute minimum. For living carbon, we need to reinvest in the diversity of ecosystems to reduce agricultural emissions and protect carbon sinks as part of a bioeconomy.
From adding to subtracting
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, energy transitions have followed one another. They have all involved adding new energy sources to a system initially based on the use of biomass. The result has been a massive increase in the amount of energy used worldwide.
The climate is forcing us to break with this logic. Lowering emissions is not a matter of adding decarbonised sources to the energy system. It’s about removing fossil fuels. We need to switch from a logic of addition to one of subtraction.
From an economic viewpoint, this means massively reconverting brown assets linked to the production or use of fossil fuels, through a double movement of investment in green and disinvestment in brown. The heaviest cost for the economic system is not the hundreds of billions invested in wind or solar farms, battery gigafactories or hydrogen electrolysers. It’s the cost of disinvestment that forces us to downgrade or reconvert brown assets: financial assets, of course, but also physical assets and, above all, the human assets on which the energy transition depends.
Multiple instruments will have to be called upon to bring about such a transformation. Pricing carbon from fossil fuel use is a key way to reflect the increasing scarcity of the atmospheric capacity to store carbon. Whether obtained through taxation or emission trading schemes, such taxation raises the cost of using fossil fuels, without returning the resulting rents to producers, as happens, for example, when oil prices soar on energy markets. On the demand side, it is a powerful stimulus to energy efficiency and sufficiency; on the supply side, it encourages a shift away from carbon assets.
The main difficulty with fossil carbon taxation lies in controlling its distributive impact. As the “gilets jaunes” protests in France showed, fossil carbon taxation without redistribution to the most vulnerable poses more problems than it solves. Only a redistributive carbon tax will be socially acceptable. Similarly, if carbon pricing is to be extended on an international scale, the proceeds must be returned on a massive scale to the countries of the South.
The distributional impacts of regulated carbon markets should also not be underestimated. Within the European Union, the extension of the emission trading scheme to the transport and buildings sector will increase household energy bills. This is why the proceeds from allowances sales at auction must be redistributed to the most vulnerable households via a “social fund” which will be the pillar of the regulation to be put in place.
While fossil carbon taxation accelerates the energy transition, negative carbon taxes – in other words, fossil fuel subsidies – delay it. Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, these subsidies reached unprecedented levels in the European Union, with the multiplication of “tariff shields” erected as a matter of urgency to protect Europeans from the worst of the cost of living crisis.
Another pernicious form of subsidy to fossil fuels is the free allocation of CO2 allowances in the European trading scheme, which hampers the emergence of a green industry, a lever for the competitiveness of tomorrow’s Europe.
Investing in the diversity of living beings
Let’s imagine for a moment that the world has eradicated all use of fossil fuels in 2050. Would we automatically be in a situation of climate neutrality? Everything depends on what has been achieved on the second front of the transition, that of living carbon, the source of a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Pricing fossil carbon is hardly useful for the agroclimatic transition. Worse, it could even prove counterproductive: using a CO2 price based on energy criteria, it would become profitable to transform the Amazon rainforest (or the centuries-old oaks of the French Tronçay forest) into short rotation coppice to produce energy! The reason is simple. Agro-climatic transformation means finding ways to reinvest in biological diversity, in other words, in the abundance of living things. But the price of CO2 does not reflect the value of this diversity. We therefore need to use other instruments, which are more complex to implement.
On land, forests are the main carbon sink. Their capacity to soak up atmospheric CO2 is weakened by a combination of climatic and anthropogenic factors. In France, for example, the CO2 storage capacity of forests has been divided by three since 2005, mainly due to climatic factors. There is therefore an urgent need to adapt forest management methods in anticipation of the severity of tomorrow’s climates. Worldwide, the main anthropogenic impact on forests is tropical deforestation. Its main cause is the expansion of land for crops and livestock. This is why the key to halting deforestation lies in changing agricultural practices.
The key issues of agriculture and food
The impact of farming systems on the net balance of greenhouse gas emissions is not limited to deforestation. Depending on the techniques used, farming systems may themselves release carbon into the atmosphere (deep ploughing, draining of wet soils, etc.) or, on the contrary, store it in living soils (conservation agriculture, agroforestry, etc.). The former erode biodiversity by specialising farmers according to industrial-type logics. The latter use living diversity to intensify production and regenerate the natural environment.
These agroecological techniques also make it possible to better withstand tougher climatic conditions, while reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural sources. In economic terms, their promotion requires investment in innovation, research and development, the establishment of dedicated farm advisory networks and, above all, incentivisation to reward farmers for the ecosystem services they provide to society. This is not something that happens spontaneously on the market. It requires public intervention and dedicated funding.
As in the case of energy, the agroclimatic transition implies, on the demand side, that we consume smarter and less. The foods we eat have contrasting climate footprints. There can be no successful agroclimatic transition without finding ways to dramatically reduce emissions associated with the most polluting ingredients, including industrially processed foods and animal products, especially those from ruminant breeding. The use of food rations might be one way of achieving this, according to the recommendations of the world’s health authorities.
Remembering the ocean
Last but not least, the agroclimatic transition will have to take into account the management of the oceans and marine biodiversity, which are currently the blind spots of climate policies. Global warming and certain human practices (overfishing, pollutant runoff, etc.) are altering marine biodiversity, a crucial component in the storage of CO2 by the oceans. Protecting the ocean sink is vital to stabilise tomorrow’s climate: it is estimated that the continental biosphere contains four times more carbon than the atmosphere. For the oceans, it’s 47 times.
The authors thank Frank Convery for his insightful review
The Climate Economics Chair of Paris Dauphine-PSL University is organising, in partnership with the Toulouse School of Economics and the National Museum of Natural History, the 24th Global Conference on Environmental Taxation, which will take place from September 6 to 8, 2023 and will have as its theme “Climate & Biodiversity: Tackling global footprints”.
Swift action to improve capital access and reduced financing costs are crucial to boosting clean energy spending in Africa, a report has found.
Energy investment in the continent needs to more than double by 2030 to meet African development ambitions and climate goals, with nearly two thirds going to clean energy, the International Energy Agency and the African Development Bank Group said in a report on Wednesday.
“The African continent has huge clean energy potential, including a massive amount of high-quality renewable resources. But the difficult backdrop for financing means many transformative projects can’t get off the ground,” said Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director.
A range of “real and perceived” risks are affecting energy projects in Africa as well as higher borrowing costs following the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the report found.
The cost of capital for utility-scale clean energy projects in the region is at least “two to three times higher” than in advanced economies, preventing developers from pursuing commercially viable projects, it said.
“The current shortfall in clean energy investment in Africa puts at risk the achievement of a host of sustainable development goals and could open new dividing lines in energy and climate as clean energy transitions gather speed in advanced economies,” said AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina.
The agency and the AfDB said lowering capital costs and supporting investment-worthy projects would require scaling up several instruments, including early stage financing and the use of tools that can reduce perceived investment risks.
Delivering modern energy, which includes fossil fuels and renewable energy, to all Africans will require nearly $25 billion in spending per year until 2030, according to the agency.
“This is a small amount in the context of global energy spending – equivalent to the investment needed to build one new LNG [liquefied natural gas] terminal a year,” the report said.
“But it requires a very different type of finance, given the need for small-scale projects, often in rural areas and for consumers with limited ability to pay.”
Concessional finance – funding from development finance institutions and donors – of about $28 billion per year is required to mobilise $90 billion of private sector investment by the end of this decade, the report said.
To meet energy and climate goals, funding sourced from or distributed through local channels must nearly triple by 2030, it added.
“Urgent action is needed to dramatically increase clean energy investment in Africa, which has fallen short despite the immense opportunities,” Kenyan President William Ruto said in the report.
Africa’s installed renewable energy capacity is set to grow to more than 530 gigawatts by 2040, from about 54 gigawatts in 2020, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Developing countries require an investment of about $1.7 trillion per year in the clean energy sector but only managed to attract foreign direct investment worth $544 billion in 2022, Unctad, the UN intergovernmental organisation that promotes the interests of developing countries in world trade, said in its World Investment Report in July.
Oman has solidified its position as the frontrunner in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region concerning potential solar farm capacity, as per the latest data from the Global Solar Power Tracker.
This report, focusing on solar farm projects of 20 MW capacity and above, indicates that Oman ranks first in the MENA region and eleventh worldwide, boasting an impressive anticipated capacity of 18,349 megawatts (MW), equating to 1.55% of the global total capacity.
Oman’s robust dedication to renewable energy and its aspiration to diversify its energy mix is evident in the data provided by the Global Solar Power Tracker.
Capitalizing on its extensive desert landscapes and abundant sunlight, Oman has harnessed its solar potential, positioning itself at the forefront of the MENA region’s solar revolution.
The potential capacity encompasses the cumulative sum of solar farm projects in various phases, including those under construction, in the pre-construction stage, and those already announced. This indicates a substantial growth trajectory for Oman’s solar industry in the forthcoming years.
Beyond highlighting Oman’s commitment to renewable energy, the report also underscores the country’s remarkable progress in executing solar farm projects. Presently, Oman has four operational solar farms, three in the construction phase, twelve in the pre-construction stage, and two announced projects. These advancements signify a burgeoning and swiftly evolving solar sector within the nation.
Oman’s flagship renewable energy endeavor is the 500 MW Ibri Solar Power Complex, one of the largest solar installations in the region. Located in Al Dhahirah Governorate, the project supplies energy to around 33,000 homes and effectively offsets millions of tons of carbon emissions annually.
Additionally, the ongoing implementation of two Independent Power Projects (IPPs) at Manah is set to contribute 1,000 MW of new solar capacity when operational in 2025.
In recent developments, Nama Power & Water Procurement Company (Nama PWP), responsible for power and water procurement in Oman, has outlined plans to secure a new large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) Independent Power Project (IPP) by 2029. Tentatively named ‘Solar PV IPPs 2029,’ the project is slated to have a combined capacity of 1000 MW, consisting of two IPPs each with 500 MW.
The report also provides a broader view of the global solar farm landscape, revealing an astonishing total potential capacity of 1,184,296 MW. This underscores the escalating worldwide focus on renewable energy as countries endeavor to curtail carbon emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The top five nations on the list include China, the United States, Spain, Australia, and India. In the MENA region, Oman leads the list at the eleventh spot, followed by Egypt (12th with 17,094 WM), Morocco (15th with 13,538 MW), Saudi Arabia (17th with 9,051 MW), Iraq (18th with 8,385 MW), and Kuwait (19th with 7,970 MW).
Oman’s achievement of securing the eleventh global position is a significant milestone not only for the country but also for the broader MENA region. It showcases the region’s extensive potential for solar energy generation and its substantial contribution to global renewable energy targets.
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Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
Traditional construction methods were no match for the earthquake that rocked Morocco on Friday night, an engineering expert says, and the area will continue to see such devastation unless updated building techniques are adopted.
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