Climate Change and Desertification – A Global Problem


Climate Change and Desertification – A Global Problem that not only affects the surroundings of the Sahara but the world over.




The 21st session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 21) to the UNCCD kicked off at the Silk Road Samarkand Congress Center in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on 13 November 2023, UzA reports. –

It is attended by delegates from 196 countries, about 500 representatives of the European Union, civil societies, and academia.

At the plenary session, the Chairperson of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis Tanzila Narbayeva read out the address from President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the event participants.

As noted in the address, Uzbekistan and the entire Central Asian region are fully aware of the negative consequences of climate change in the form of social and environmental problems.

“Today, we are almost alone fighting the devastating consequences of the global catastrophe of the Aral Sea, which is disappearing before the eyes of one generation. All these threats and many other factors directly affect the well-being and health of the population not only in our region, but throughout the world, which requires even greater consolidation and strengthening of partnerships to achieve the key Sustainable Development Goals.

I count on the strong support of the international expert community for Uzbekistan’s initiative to adopt the Samarkand Declaration on Sand and Dust Storms following the current session”, said Shavkat Mirziyoyev in his welcoming address.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also sent a message to the forum participants. It was read out by the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UNCCD Ibrahim Thiaw.

The UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UNCCD Ibrahim Thiaw, the Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan Aziz Abdukhakimov, and representatives of various regions addressed the plenary session.

In the afternoon, the session continued its work in several directions. During these events, the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification was reviewed. The international forum continues.


Architecture: 4 universities walking the sustainability talk

Above image is Source: The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Today, the role of an architect extends far beyond creating aesthetically pleasing structures. They are at the forefront of the green building movement, integrating sustainable materials and energy-efficient designs into their projects. Rather than contributing to urban sprawl, they are repurposing existing structures for new functions, minimising the need for additional resources and energy. What’s more profound is that they are contributing to the development of sustainable cities — prioritising pedestrian-friendly designs, green spaces that boost well-being and ensuring efficient public transportation.

Hence why beyond the conventional confines of design and aesthetics, architecture degrees are fast becoming catalysts for change. These are more than just paper qualifications but a crucial means to solving complex problems that span everything from environmental sustainability to social inclusivity.

The architects these universities aim to produce go beyond the traditional boundaries of their profession, recognising the interconnectedness of the built environment with broader societal and environmental issues. Armed with a holistic understanding of the world’s challenges, graduates from these institutions are poised to revolutionise the way we build, live, and interact with our environment.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Situated in a globally influential Bi-city region, the School of Architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) offers students the chance to explore the socio-spatial challenges of a rapidly transforming urban landscape of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. From dense high-rise districts to tropical country parks, over 200 islands, and heritage sites, this is a vast living laboratory of diverse architectural contexts.

Architecture: 4 universities walking the sustainability talk

CUHK’s MArch is the second part of a two-degree sequence in professional architectural education. Source: The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Location aside, the school also stands out for its dedicated infrastructure. Housed within CUHK’s expansive, green 138.4-hectare campus, it is the only division of its kind in Hong Kong with a purpose-designed building solely devoted to the study of architecture — the 7,700-square metre facility provides students with unlimited access to state-of-the-art resources and a conducive environment for an impactful education. The school operates within the Faculty of Social Science and is uniquely positioned to address issues of Asian urbanism, drawing students passionate about driving social and environmental change.

For aspiring undergraduates, the Bachelor of Social Science (Architectural Studies) provides a solid foundation, instilling creative skills for crafting solutions that seamlessly blend cultural nuances, physical contexts, and cutting-edge environmental technologies. It’s an effective pathway to the School of Architecture’s accredited Master of Architecture (MArch), which prepares students for advanced research, design thinking and speculative spatial practices. Its aim is to evolve learners into leading architects at the heart of social, urban and rural innovation to create solutions for environmental challenges. The Master of Science in Urban Design is just as impactful, a gateway to mastering the art and science of creating vibrant, sustainable, and socially just cities.

All three programmes are accredited by local and international professional institutions. In true CUHK fashion, all three programmes emphasise small group settings, community engagement, and close ties to the booming industry of architecture, offering students unparalleled opportunities for professional and personal growth.

ETH Zürich

Students at the Department of Architecture in ETH Zürich  (D-ARCH) in Switzerland are designing for a different world. Guided by high-quality teaching and informed by research, they are exploring the issues of future cities, energy, climate change and sustainability – and putting their own stamp on them.

The Department of Architecture of ETH Zürich is currently home to 2,120 students. Source: ETH Zürich

Faculty here are diverse and highly skilled, with expertise ranging from the development of new construction systems to conservation, from the use of robotics to historiography and sociology. Working in close proximity with students and with the protection of academic freedom, they encourage students in both bachelor’s and master’s programmes to join the search for creative solutions in the field of tension between construction, the satisfaction of living and working needs and the preservation of a livable, designed environment.

The institutes of D-ARCH are: Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (GTA), the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA), the Institute of Historic Building Research and Conservation (IDB) and the Institute of Landscape and Urban Studies (LUS). Within each lies many opportunities to excel in teaching, learning and research.

Each is closely linked with the design studios through the interdisciplinary definition of task, with research findings funnelled into teaching. Further collaboration with other divisions of ETH Zurich – such as the humanities, social and political sciences, as well as the material, environmental and engineering sciences – complement this.

The University of Melbourne

Located in Australia, The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning is producing the next generation of architects through a multidisciplinary approach that allows them to become innovative leaders in the field.

The Faculty’s multidisciplinary approach prepares students to advance into the world as leading, adaptable professionals in their fields. Source: The University of Melbourne

For example, Bachelor of Design students are given the flexibility to combine in-depth study in a particular area with subjects from other disciplines in design. Master’s programmes equip students with knowledge across a wide range of disciplines and practical learning opportunities to apply real-world knowledge.

The faculty also has a strong international reputation for graduate research, where students and professors focus on the latest debates and engage with industry professionals, policy-makers and the community in analysing and solving complex problems in architecture.

Another unique and beneficial aspect of the faculty is the number of collaborative groups, research hubs, centres and institutes housed within the Faculty that bring together internationally recognised leading experts in the field. These include the Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage and Connected Cities Lab.

National University of Singapore

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is a leading global university based in Asia, powered by a mission “to transform the way people think and do things through education, research and service.”

In the QS World University Rankings 2023, the NUS Department of Built Environment is ranked seventh. Source: National University of Singapore/Facebook

Its School of Design and Environment (SDE) stands apart with its diverse offerings in two departments — Architecture and the Built Environment — and one division — Industrial Design. Since its inception, SDE has remained the sole faculty in Singapore to provide a comprehensive and integrated approach to teaching and research across various disciplines, including architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design, project and facilities management, building performance and sustainability, as well as industrial design.

“We provide world-class multi-disciplinary graduate-level courses and research programmes related to design and the built environment,” says Professor Wong Nyuk Hien, Vice Dean (Research), School of Design and Environment.

With nine graduates and three research programmes available at NUS, students can pursue a programme that is aligned with their goals. Among those transformative programmes offered are: Master of Science (Built Environment)Master of Arts (Industrial Design)Master of Science in Project ManagementMaster of Urban PlanningMaster of Landscape Architecture and more.

 *Some of the universities featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

Bridging the $18 Trillion Gap in Net Zero Capital


A $18 Trillion Capital Gap Is Threatening the Energy Transition because Bridging this $18 Trillion Gap in Net Zero Capital would require as eleborated on below.


Key Messages

The analysis by BCG’s Center for Energy Impact of global energy sector investment needed through 2030 to reach emissions reduction goals yielded the following key findings:

  • Capital Challenge. An $18 trillion capital gap exists between current commitments and the investments needed for alignment with net zero goals in 2030. Electricity and end-use sectors account for 90% of that shortfall.
  • Transition Barriers. Higher inflation and supply chain disruptions over the past 24 months have significantly hindered energy transition progress, stifling momentum and increasing costs.
  • Investor Behavior. Rising risks drive investors to seek higher returns, favoring businesses that prioritize capital discipline and cost efficiency even in high-growth renewables markets.
  • Sector Restructuring. Energy sector deals surpassed $320 billion in 2023, as companies optimize capital structures for energy transition investment. Oil and gas companies are leading with acquisitions, while utilities offload more assets to access capital and focus portfolios.
  • Strategic Adaptation. Companies should emphasize refining capital strategies, boosting efficiency, seeking innovative transactions and collaborations, bolstering financial foundations, and fortifying supply chains. These measures are essential to amplify investments, satisfy shareholders, and move toward net zero outcomes.
  • Government Role. Policy reforms, subsidies for low-carbon solutions, and expedited project approvals are essential for accelerating investment.

Navigating the path to a 2030 net-zero-aligned scenario reveals a staggering $18 trillion capital gap between current energy transition commitments and the required investment levels. Electricity and end-use sectors account for 90% of that shortfall. (See Exhibit 1.) With companies in the industry poised to drive 80% of planned energy transition investments through 2030, their strategies and execution plans are paramount.

However, their journey is riddled with hurdles. In the present climate, higher inflation, persistent supply chain pressures, and rising capital costs cause significant bottlenecks, slowing the pace of the energy transition. The setting is also reshaping investor behavior; companies face more demanding calls for higher returns, more disciplined capital management, and more efficient resource allocation, even within the high-growth renewables space.

The energy sector’s response has been proactive. A flurry of transaction activities signals a strategic push to fine-tune capital frameworks for the energy transition; so far in 2023, total energy sector deals exceed $320 billion. Oil and gas companies have emerged as dominant buyers, while utilities are using carve-outs to raise funds and recalibrate. As capital markets evolve, only projects that strike the right balance between risk and returns will receive sufficient funding. Regions where stakeholders effectively align policy directives and market mechanisms will be the prime recipients of future investments.

To flourish in the face of growing capital demands, energy companies must reassess portfolios, create innovative capital strategies and new partnerships, optimize their financial structures, and emphasize stringent cost and supply chain efficiencies. This report highlights the sector’s crucial capital allocation dynamics and the implications for competitive success in the energy transition.

Follow the Capital: Tracking the Investment Landscape of the Energy Transition

BCG’s Center for Energy Impact recently analyzed the investment plans of the world’s leading energy companies, governments, and private equity players, to compare real-world energy transition investments with net-zero scenario benchmarks.

The study reveals two major trends. One is that energy companies and governments aim to inject an impressive $19 trillion into the energy transition over the next seven years. This includes nearly $2 trillion in new government spending, spurred by US and European legislative initiatives. Company targets suggest a 15% increase in energy expenditures between 2023 and 2027, with an increasing share allocated to low-carbon investments. (See Exhibit 2.)

Yet the shadows of the war in Ukraine loom large. The repercussions of the conflict, marked by skyrocketing commodity prices in 2022 and 2023, have tightened capital availability, particularly for European utilities—the linchpins of European decarbonization efforts. These financial headwinds, coupled with higher inflation and capital costs, have curbed enthusiasm for new investments.

The Pivotal Role of Policymakers in Accelerating Transition Investment

There is an urgent need for global policymakers to address existing challenges and ensure a fair and efficient shift to low-carbon energy. Energy transition investments are most effective in regions where market structures and policy guidelines align to produce favorable risk-to-reward profiles for capital.

BCG’s Blueprint for the Energy Transition outlines six essential steps for public sector leaders to bridge the investment gap and support the flow of capital into transition projects. These steps include electricity market modifications to produce adequate pricing signals for new investments; faster approval processes for projects, particularly grid expansions; enlarged green investment subsidies through incentives and research grants; and revised liability guidelines to enhance investor confidence.

Strategic Imperatives: Shaping the Energy Transition Through Corporate Action

The energy sector stands out for its intense capital demands, marked by a capital intensity rate that is more than double that of other industries. Accounting for approximately one-third of the world’s yearly capex, it encompasses diverse peer groups, segments, and stakeholder interests. Yet organizations throughout the sector share a mission to amplify investments, satisfy shareholders, and navigate toward net zero outcomes.

To accelerate the energy transition, every company in this sector should treat six actions as mandatory:

  • Refine capital allocation. Evaluate and enhance current allocation processes to weigh trade-offs between traditional investments and low-carbon alternatives, ensuring a comprehensive approach to decision making. Look for processes that need revamping. In particular, low-carbon investments are much more sensitive to cost-of-capital increases than traditional energy sector investments. Improved cost-of-capital assessments across global portfolios would paint a more detailed picture of favorable assets.
  • Focus on efficiency. Emphasize cost and capital efficiency in energy transition investments. Such an approach may entail completely transforming the way a company runs major capital projects and operations. For example, companies are evaluating the factory model that has successfully reduced costs in the US shale sector for use in large-scale renewables and other low-carbon settings.
  • Explore strategic M&A and divestitures. Mergers and acquisitions may work for some companies, while others may benefit from divestments that enable them to concentrate their resources more effectively.
  • Forge new partnerships. Explore alternative deal structures such as minority shareholdings, joint ventures, strategic partnerships, and corporate venturing. These structures can be complex, but they offer strategic flexibility that is essential for navigating capital constraints in certain areas of the energy sector. They also promote specific collaborations to advance decarbonization efforts.
  • Strengthen the balance sheet. A volatile market forces companies to adopt robust financial strategies. The disparity in valuations between US oil and gas majors and their European counterparts highlights the importance of financial resilience, as does the surge in total shareholder returns by more debt-averse utilities in 2023.
  • Stress-test the supply chain. It is crucial to rigorously evaluate supply chains for cost efficiency, carbon intensity, and resilience. Reevaluating supplier relationships and identifying dependencies can cut costs and minimize risks.


The energy transition’s immense capital demands underscore the need for companies and policymakers to adopt robust and innovative approaches. As the world advances toward its net zero goal, harmonizing investment strategies with collaborative solutions is paramount. Although the energy sector is already making strides, consistent policy support and forward-thinking financial maneuvers are crucial to bridging the existing gaps and ensuring an ordered, equitable, and sustainable shift to a greener future.


MENA region has potential to become leading ‘green steel’ hub


MENA region has the potential to become the leading ‘green steel’ hub for reasons elaborated on by the authors.

Steelmakers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have a competitive edge in terms of “green” steel production and could easily replace Asian supplies to Europe, Fastmarkets understands

The MENA region is already well equipped to produce cheap, green hydrogen because of its extensive solar resources, but the fact that its steel industry is mainly focused on the use of direct-reduced iron (DRI) modules and electric-arc furnaces puts it in a unique position in terms of producing the low-carbon steel that is becoming increasingly popular in Europe as countries there strive to achieve their net-zero emissions targets.

According to a report by the US-based Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA) published on Thursday, November 16, while steelmakers in the MENA region currently account for 3% of global steel production, about 46% of their output is DRI-based.

So, being in a position to use its solar energy resources to produce green hydrogen for DRI-based steelmaking, means the MENA region is perfectly placed to supply the key steel growth market of India and service the green steel demands of countries in Europe, IEEFA said.

And, according to IEEFA and the Boston Consulting Group, the region may have invested $1 trillion in renewable energy sources by the end of 2023.

There is a strong focus on hydrogen – which is the ideal green fuel for DRI modules – in the region and MENA is expected to produce 18.15 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2030 and 28 million tonnes by 2040.

Hydrogen-compatible steel plants are being built in Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Algeria. And while those facilities will initially run on gas, they will eventually switch to running on hydrogen.

“Rather than trying to find a viable way to export green hydrogen, which looks inefficient and expensive to transport, the region should prioritize its domestic use, such as in its DRI plants,” IEEFA’s lead steel analyst Simon Nicholas said in the report.

Steelmakers around the world are already transitioning from blast furnace-based production towards DRI technology that can run on green hydrogen,” he said.

“MENA has an advantage given that its steel sector is already based on DRI, with established access to both direct reduction-grade (DR-grade) iron ore and the renewable energy resources that will allow it to produce cheap green hydrogen in the near future.”

Delivering to Europe

A low-carbon local steel industry would also give MENA a big advantage over other regions when Europe’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) comes into force.

The European Union’s CBAM entered the transition phase of its implementation on October 1 and the duties are scheduled to be applied from January 1, 2026.

Once CBAM is fully phased in, MENA-based steelmakers will have an opportunity to crowd out more carbon-intensive Asian steel producers in the European steel imports market.

In 2022, total carbon steel imports to the EU amounted to 27.07 million tonnes according to European Steel Association, Eurofer.

The main suppliers were Turkey (15.4%), South Korea (10.3%), India (9.13%) Taiwan (6.6%), Vietnam (5.4%) and Japan (5.33%), with Egypt (2.9%) the top performer from MENA.

But in 2023, Turkish deliveries to the EU have fallen because mills there have been unable to compete with Asian suppliers due to having higher production costs and being hit be anti-dumping duties. Total steel export volumes from Turkey to the EU in the first three quarters of the year amounted to just 1.50 million tonnes.

And Asian suppliers boosted their steel deliveries to the EU over the same period, with Vietnam supplying 1.50 million tonnes of carbon steel to the bloc, up from 1.46 million tonnes for the whole of 2022.

But market participants expect the implementation of CBAM to seriously limit interest in carbon-intensive steel from Asia.

And while steelmakers in South Korea and Japan are already planning to import hot-briquetted iron (HBI) from places such as the Middle East and are also planning projects that would initially use fossil gas before switching to green hydrogen as it gets cheaper, MENA steelmakers are already several steps ahead because they do not need to make substantial investments to replace their base technology, according to IEEAF.

Emphasizing the region’s focus on green initiatives, on Tuesday, Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA) published a draft consultation on how the carbon market will operate in the country.

Iron ore, HBI exports

The MENA region’s access to high-grade iron ore is already set to increase and the leading producer of DR-grade iron ore, Vale, is planning to set up green iron “mega hubs” in the Middle East to supply iron ore pellets to co-located DRI plants to produce HBI for local consumption and export.

Imported, green HBI will be crucial to the EU’s decarbonization drive, with a number of DRI modules expected to come online as early as 2026 and MENA is ideally placed geographically to supply those needs.

Along with global decarbonization efforts, iron-ore production is expected to dislocate from steel production and shift closer to renewable energy sources.

“More iron ore will be processed in places with excellent renewable energy resources that can produce cheap green hydrogen, with the resultant iron shipped to centers of steel demand. MENA can be a global leader in the emerging green iron trade, but it faces strong competition from Australia, Brazil and Canada,” IEEFA steel analyst Soroush Basirat said.



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Arab University Rankings 2023: a region of resilience and growth


This year’s Times Higher Education take the pulse of the research and teaching strengths of more than 200 universities in the MENA region to produce Arab University Rankings 2023: a region of resilience and growth.  



Even as many universities struggle to keep the lights on, others reap the rewards of strong investment and tumult elsewhere, writes Pola Lem
November 15, 2023
Source: Getty Images

Browse the full results of the Arab University Rankings 2023

“We’re becoming more creative, stretching the dollar as much as we can,” Lebanese American University leader Michel Mawad told me. “If something is not necessary, we just cut it.”

The statement encapsulates the resilience not just of a Lebanese institution grappling with record-high inflation, but also that of its peers in the wider Arab region, which has been especially hard hit by the global economic crisis. But while many universities have been struggling to keep the lights on – quite literally, in some cases – others have reaped the rewards of strong government investment and the flight of scholars from neighbouring nations.

This year’s Times Higher Education Arab University Rankings take the pulse of the research and teaching strengths of more than 200 universities across 15 countries. Together, our league table – which this year reflects an updated methodology – and our editorial content capture the complex dynamics in a region with starkly different realities.

Arab University Rankings 2023: results announced

In our analysis, we examine the factors motivating researchers to uproot from some parts of the region and settle in others. This “push and pull” dynamic weaves through a selection of interviews and opinion articles featured alongside THE’s third annual Arab rankings.

In these pages, we hear from Ahmad Dallal, president of the American University in Cairo, about his institution’s mission to equip graduates for 21st-century career demands and its work to provide more financial support to students amid the devaluation of the Egyptian pound.

In the United Arab Emirates, Timothy Baldwin, the head of the world’s first postgraduate university devoted to artificial intelligence, tells us about establishing a “clean-slate institution” in a prosperous young country keen to build its reputation as an investor in cutting-edge technology.

We also feature a contribution from Mariët Westermann, the vice-chancellor of New York University Abu Dhabi, who offers a sobering reflection on the difficulty and importance for the region’s universities in delivering on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“We have just experienced the hottest summer on record, with the highest temperatures, fastest rates of ice melt, most dramatic wildfires and highest incidence of extreme weather,” she writes. “Water shortages, crop failures and species extinction are news of the day, and with them come forced migrations that test our humanity.”

But her message, like that of Mawad in Lebanon, comes with a rallying cry – a call for action and grit in the face of great adversity: “The MENA region is severely affected, with its traditional warm climate, water shortages and desert landscapes, but this is no reason to throw up our hands in despair.”

Countries/regions represented in the Arab University Rankings 2023


Number of institutions in ranking

Top institution




Mansoura University




University of Sciences and Technology
Houari Boumediene




University of Baghdad


Saudi Arabia


King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)




The University of Jordan




Mohammed V University of Rabat




University of Tunis El Manar


United Arab Emirates


Khalifa University




Beirut Arab University




Sultan Qaboos University




An-Najah National University


Islamic University of Gaza




American University of the Middle East




University of Benghazi


University of Tripoli




Arabian Gulf University




Qatar University