Opportunities for developing a climate-resilient blue economy

Opportunities for developing a climate-resilient blue economy


The answer to whether blue is the new green would be in all those opportunities for developing a climate-resilient blue economy.  Let us see what in the Middle East Institute are the main insights . . . 



Is blue the new green? Opportunities for developing a climate-resilient blue economy in the MENA region

By Zeina Moneer


The World Bank defines the blue economy as “the sustainable use of maritime resources for economic growth, jobs, and improved livelihoods while preserving the marine ecosystem’s health.” The aim is to strike a balance between conservation and resource extraction when developing marine-based economies. The blue economy can offer huge potential in the area of climate change mitigation and resilience, given the fact that marine habitats, such as mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrass meadows, provide significant protection from erratic climate events, including cyclones and floods.

These key coastal systems sequester and store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. In the case of mangroves and coastal wetlands, they can store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests, making them one of the world’s most important natural “carbon sinks.” Despite representing less than 5% of the global land area and less than 2% of the ocean, they sequester carbon at a rate 10 times greater than terrestrial forests, and thereby represent an important nature-based solution for mitigating the effects of climate change. In addition, marine ecosystems provide nursery and breeding grounds for commercial fish, habitat for endangered species such as turtles, staging points for migratory birds, and filter water flowing into seas and oceans. Thus, they also play a key role in ensuring food security and sustaining coastal communities, as well as diversifying livelihoods, including fishing and tourism.

The Middle East and North Africa region boasts vast coastal zones on the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Gulf, and the Atlantic Ocean. These extended coastal environments are rich in marine ecosystems and serve as vital routes for international trade, alongside other economic activities. There are four crucial areas where MENA countries would benefit from developing the blue economy that would aid in reversing natural resource degradation, sustaining inclusive economic development, and building resilience to climate change. These areas include developing renewable energy sources, investing in sustainable aquaculture, decarbonizing maritime transportation, and developing resilient and carbon-neutral tourism.

Developing renewable maritime energy sources

There is enormous untapped potential for blue renewable energy sources in MENA, including well-established sources like offshore wind, as well as nascent technologies such as wave, tidal, current, ocean thermal, and biomass production from algae. All of these renewable sources could contribute to meeting rising energy and electricity demand at a lower cost, achieving energy independence, and helping the region to meet its carbon reduction commitments in a way that aligns with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

For example, wind energy potential is especially high in North African countries, and it is estimated that wind power potential in this region is 34 times greater than that of northern European countries. Morocco, for example, is estimated to have an offshore wind potential of 200 GW, benefiting from average wind speeds of 7.5-9.5 meters per second (m/s) in the south and 9.5-11.0 m/s in the north. Algeria also has tremendous technical wind energy potential estimated at 7,700 GW. To put this in perspective, the total wind capacity in Europe at the end of 2020 was only 216 GW.

Other potential locations for offshore wind farms (where annual wind speeds are greater than 5m/s at 80 meters above sea level) include coasts along the Gulf of Suez and Aqaba in Egypt, Jordan, north-west Saudi Arabia, the south-east coast of Oman, northern Libya, and southern Tunisia. Egypt is something of a regional leader when it comes to building wind farms, with the largest wind farm in the country being a 545-MW facility in Zafarana. In addition, Cairo has plans to expand its wind energy capacity through two memoranda of understanding, one with the Saudi renewable energy developer ACWA to build a 10-GW wind farm and another with the UAE’s Masdar to build a second 10-GW onshore wind farm. These would be the second-largest wind farms in the world behind the Gansu project in China, which has a projected capacity of 20 GW. It is expected that the Masdar onshore wind farm will generate about 48,000 GWh of clean energy a year, offsetting some 23.8 million tons of CO2 emissions — about 9% of the country’s total carbon emissions. Egypt’s plans to add 25 GW of wind power capacity represents a seven-fold increase in its total renewable-energy capacity, which was 3.4 GW at the end of 2021.

Read more on MEI‘s article

Sustainability: short-term gains will destroy us all


Today living in the century of regeneration means valuing Ecosystem Function higher than material things is the paradigm shift that determines whether we understand the meaning of our lives and survive or whether we remain ignorant and selfish and destroy our own habitat trying to gain more wealth or more power. 

Explanations :


Sustainability: short-term gains will destroy us all


If humans are to survive and thrive, organizations must learn to become regenerativea shift that will be nothing short of a rebirth for many, argues Carlos Álvarez Pereira of the Club of Rome. Here he offers advice on how to begin the transformation.


For more than three decades, governments, companies, institutions, and other organizations of all sizes and hues have talked about sustainability. Many have adopted targets based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. A growing number have pledged ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner. 

I am not alone in saying that none of this is enough to meet the challenges that confront us. If we wait for most organizations to recognize that we are on the wrong path, major emergencies will continue piling up and produce huge suffering, which the most vulnerable people are already enduring. 

If organizations around the world are serious about creating equitable well-being and restoring the health of the biosphere, they need to become regenerative. That means going much deeper and further. It means reconnecting with humanity. And, of course, it means reconnecting with nature. 

Becoming regenerative involves replacing the obsession with short-term market returns by the creation of long-term value for all parties, human and non-human. Companies have a pivotal role to play in this transformation. For most, it will require nothing short of their complete rebirth. 

In both Limits and Beyond, and Earth for All – A Survival Guide for Humanity, the Club of Rome proposes antidotes to the current malaise and suggests pathways to a better future. Building on the foundations of the Club’s seminal 1972 work The Limits to Growth, which showed how the combined exhaustion of natural resources and massive pollution were pushing humanity towards a cliff edge, Earth for All demonstrates that options exist to save us from self-destruction and create the conditions of decent lives for all in a healthy planet. Limits and Beyond shows that this requires a shift in the way we think and feel, and hence a total transformation of today’s approach to business. 

To understand why, it’s important to undertake a reality check of corporate sustainability efforts to date. ESG might sound good in principle, but all too often it ends up being a box-ticking exercise – a “nice to have” rather than a company-defining strategy. 

More than a box ticking exercise

One problem is that much of companies’ sustainability efforts have gone in the direction of technicalities and particularly designing metrics. While not entirely useless, this focus on metrics has turned the sustainability imperative into yet another compliance issue. It is something that companies now have to do, not something they have established as a core strategy and an existential purpose.

A second problem is that when sustainability issues get translated into rigid rules and standards instead of nurturing a cultural shift, they become a constraining framework, easily leading companies to continue ticking boxes and remaining compliant for the sake of the tax authorities as well as their shareholders. All of this creates an additional layer of bureaucracy. And if bureaucracy is what’s driving the business, we are all in deep trouble. 

“Wars grind on. The climate crisis burns on. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty rage on. The gulf between the haves and have-nots is cleaving societies, countries, and our wider world. Epic geopolitical divisions are undermining global solidarity and trust. This path is a dead end. We need a course correction”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the General Assembly

Half a century on since The Limits to Growth, humanity is still stumbling down the same path while the house burns. Global warming has accelerated to more than 0.3°C per decade, raising the specter that we will probably overshoot the 1.5°C warming limit that the world agreed to in Paris. Meanwhile, progress on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, now just seven years away from its deadline, remains woefully adrift.  

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the General Assembly this month: “Wars grind on. The climate crisis burns on. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty rage on. The gulf between the haves and have-nots is cleaving societies, countries, and our wider world. Epic geopolitical divisions are undermining global solidarity and trust. This path is a dead end. We need a course correction” 

Regenerative organizations offer that course correction. But what is it? And how do companies begin the transformation? 

Read more on IMD.org

The First Rule About ESG Is: You Don’t Talk About ESG

The ESG movement is unstoppable, whether or not anybody calls it ESG.  The First Rule About ESG Is: You Don’t Talk About ESG.  The author of such a CleanTechnica article seems to suggest that it is best to act on it.

The image above is about This software-enabled energy-efficient electric motor is just one example of ESG investing at work behind the scenes (photo courtesy of Turntide Technologies).



The First Rule About ESG Is: You Don’t Talk About ESG


What does ESG really mean for cities?


What does ESG really mean for cities?

Can cities that prioritise ESG considerations create more sustainable and resilient communities that are better equipped to address challenges like climate change, social inequality and economic instability?

By Silvia Pellegrino

According to the World Economic Forum, cities not only house 60% of the world’s population but are responsible for over 70% of total emissions, meaning that they are at the heart of the green transition.

Green transition: ESG frameworks for cities need to go beyond visual indicators into tangible urban policy. (Photo by Owlie Productions/Shutterstock)

ESG approaches can guide cities towards a more efficient social and environmental strategy as well as help to reach the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals since they make finding solutions to socio-environmental challenges easier.

But what does ESG mean for cities in a practical sense? And how can its principles be applied?

What is ESG?

ESG stands for environmental, social and governance framework. It refers to a set of standards that revolve around a company or city’s impact on the environment and its transparency around it.

An ESG strategy can be the key to proving that steps are being taken to become more environmentally and socially friendly. This type of framework can provide greater stability for overcoming and addressing today’s socio-environmental challenges.

This is particularly important because, as the latest UN Emissions Gap Report revealed, delays and policy failures mean that members are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement emissions reduction objectives to prevent global temperatures from exceeding 1.5°C.

What does an ESG approach mean for a city?

When a city includes an ESG-based approach, its government will focus on five primary factors:

  • Regulations: increased ESG regulation strengthens and speeds up the implementation of companies’ ESG strategies.
  • Strategic planning: city governments formulate strategic and overarching master plans for the city, following national objectives and directives.
  • Funding and financing: the efficient allocation of financial resources is a key step in an ESG-based approach since it promotes sustainable economic growth and addresses important urban issues.
  • Service provision: regional, local and city governments often set the rules for service providers in sectors responsible for emissions.
  • Monitoring: city governments have the power to monitor local service delivery, and to make sure that regulatory compliance is present.

Which cities are adopting ESG strategies?

Several cities around the world are already adopting ESG approaches, with the main objective being to reach a more sustainable and efficient society.

Here are a few examples of cities that have adopted ESG-friendly approaches.


One of the main focal points for Dubai is service provision to help the city achieve net-zero targets in a timely manner.

Indeed, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) announced the EV Green Charger initiative. This entails new charging solutions around the Emirate to not only augment the number of electric vehicles (EVs) in the city but also to procure EVs for the authorities.

By the end of 2022, the number of green chargers reached 350, with over 620 charging points across Dubai. In addition, the number of EVs went up to 15,100, while there now are around 13,500 hybrid vehicles. So far, 91% of this project has been completed, which is on track with the Dubai Carbon Abatement Strategy.


As the European Green Capital in 2019, Oslo is also the most sustainable city on Arcadis’s Sustainable Cities Index 2022.

The Norwegian capital aims to reduce emissions by 95% by 2030, in comparison with 1990 levels. Today, it produces the cleanest and most renewable energy in Europe partly thanks to its investment in hydroelectricity.

When it comes to infrastructure, Oslo also had the first zero-emissions construction site in the world, which only used electric machinery. In addition, electric cars are entitled to cheaper parking in the city and there are various low-emissions zones that can only be accessed for free with hybrid or electric vehicles.

New York

The Big Apple’s regulations to reduce building-related emissions are part of the Climate Mobilisation Act, which has the objective of reducing emissions by 40% by 2030.

These new regulations, called Local Law 97, mostly cover large buildings like skyscrapers and their energy efficiency.

This law focuses on making New York City reach net zero by 2050. Buildings are responsible for about two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions in the Big Apple, and this is one of the most ambitious plans for reducing emissions in the whole nation.

Under this plan, the majority of buildings over 25,000 square feet will have to undergo energy efficiency renovations and reduce their emissions by 2024, with tighter objectives in 2030. As a consequence, the emissions produced by the city’s largest buildings should be reduced by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

[Read more: Look to cities, but past their mayors, for new climate solutions]





Building a better world: Transforming with sustainability & innovation


Heather Polinsky, Global President, Resilience

Our world today is faced with significant challenges. Less urban spaces for growing populations. Energy supply disruptions and increasing energy bills. Hotter summers and harsher winters. Rising sea levels in coastal zones and heightened drought conditions in other areas. With so many shared challenges, there are opportunities to overcome them if we remove the constraints that are holding us back. Are we standing in our own way?

The last five years have seen the dawn of a new reality for the design, engineering and consultancy industry. While the pandemic slowed down projects, impacting budgets and forecasted work in some industries; our sector saw the decades-long traditional business operating model pushed to evolve, leading to new revenue streams and subsequently, the demand for an evolving, highly skilled talent base.

And with fast-approaching net-zero targets and new policies and regulations around environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations, our industry is faced with increasing pressure to adopt new technologies and sustainable practices at pace with the transformation ahead.

We are at a critical juncture, and there are also huge market opportunities to thrive in tomorrow’s world. To truly change, global collaboration and integrated projects are the way forward. Practically this would mean moving beyond ‘time and materials’ contracts to explore more agile and attractive business models. We can’t do it alone.

Our efforts as designers, engineers, scientists and consultants to action transformative progress can only be fruitful if clients too are willing to evolve and incentivize change. It makes business sense too. Over the last five years, stock funds that were weighted towards companies with positive ESG scores have outperformed across global markets1. Inaction today will not only hurt the world, but also our collective ability – clients and consultants alike – to benefit from investing in tomorrow.

An evolving industry landscape

There has been some progress. From the increased adoption of technology and automation in projects, to shifts in consumer preferences for sustainable and socially conscious businesses and purchase decisions. While all this has led to changing expectations around types of services, it hasn’t yet shifted the dial far enough on ‘delivery’ mechanisms, how we are contracted to work and business partnership and incentive models to meet these trends. Therein lies the biggest opportunity for us to move the needle.

Digitalization – reshaping processes and solutions

According to PwC2, by 2030, up to 45% engineering activities could be automated using advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), likely leading to significant productivity gains and cost savings. The Economist’s World Ahead 2023 analysis unpicked ‘Mixed Reality’ as an important trend. Advanced language models too, can be particularly beneficial in consultancy work in identifying data patterns, and generating insights for informed recommendations and decision making3. Are we ready to unlock the full potential of fast-evolving developments like this?

Data analytics and innovative technologies can improve project delivery, providing opportunities for improved decision making, collaboration, communication, and greater accuracy. In cities, for example, implementing AI systems will reduce water waste and predict demand more accurately, with smart meter installations expected to grow 28% by 20264. At Arcadis, we are already seeing promising pilots in the City of Canton, Ohio. By integrating data sources and running AI models, we have developed digital twins that create a virtual model of the utility company’s water distribution system, helping them reduce water loss by analyzing data to identify leaks in real-time, significantly earlier than could previously have been found.

ESG considerations

Sustainability and ESG considerations have been driving forces for the transformation of various sectors. For example, as the demand for renewable energy increases aligned with net zero goals, engineering and design firms are increasingly advising on decarbonization strategies and projects related to solar, wind, and other forms of clean energy. The automotive industry is also undergoing a significant transformation as electric and autonomous vehicles become more prevalent. And the built environment sector is seeing a trend towards green buildings, retrofitting existing buildings and livable urban spaces.

An integrated project approach

Mega trends like climate adaptation and rapid urbanization are pushing businesses to realize that solutions to these problems cannot be achieved in isolation. For example, to solve decarbonization and reduce energy use, we are seeing much greater collaboration and integration between energy users across all sectors, including buildings, transport, and industry, with power producers and utility providers. Projects too are moving in a similar trend, with fast-changing regulatory, societal and market environments adding pressure. Clients are looking for partners who can work shoulder-to-shoulder with them through all stages of a project, from co-creating strategies through to implementation, making sense of the evolving landscape and the business case for investment. In the UK, for example, we are supporting Transport for North which covers cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds with their decarbonization strategy, providing them with confidence that they are future proofed as they look to act on climate change.

Shifting mindsets

All this is also leading to a shift in mindset – from focusing purely on siloed projects to wider solutions that integrate responses to water, energy and climate challenges. There’s a huge benefit in this integrated, systems-thinking approach. By 2050, the integration of sectors such as energy, transport, and buildings could result in cost savings of up to €200 billion per year in the European Union5 alone. And, from a socio-economic perspective, the integration of services such as water, wastewater, and climate resilience is key to achieving sustainable resilience in cities, posing a strong future business opportunity6, as demonstrated by the Wuhan Sponge City program.

While we have certainly transformed over the last few years, the question remains: are we moving fast enough? What practical steps can we take to adapt today so that we can continue thriving in the future?

The biggest opportunities of our time

Let’s be honest, the biggest needle movers of our time are sustainable practices, powered by innovation and digital tools that build resilience into our cities. As an industry, we have a significant opportunity to help mitigate the impacts of climate change through a focus on sustainable development and operations. However, with the IPCC warning that we are already falling behind, urgent action is needed to accelerate efforts. Projects need to have a more holistic, integrated approach, also considering the impact on society, particularly as challenges like climate change, water scarcity and energy affordability disproportionately affect vulnerable communities. This urgency requires immediate action from all stakeholders to create a more sustainable future for all. Considering nature and biodiversity, carbon emissions, and social impact in the planning and implementation of projects should be a given. Planning resilient cities will be key.

There is no single solution or organization that has all the answers. But collective working and partnering with other like-minded organizations can help the industry progress. For instance, digital disruptors bring to the table new technologies and a unique understanding into consumer buying behaviors and preferences. These present data and pain point insights which, if used effectively, will not only bring value at various stages of the project, but also help create better, more inclusive solutions for all. And we need to be bolder about the risks we take. New solutions like ChatGPT may seem intimidating, but if used effectively, can enhance processes and free up time for value added work. Working together and putting aside differences to achieve these common goals, supported by modern technologies, can help truly accelerate our industry’s transformation.

Transforming our industry for the future

How are we creating the right environment, business models and opportunities for the transformation needed?

Building a strong talent pool, into the future: By 2028, one-third of skilled workforce will retire at a faster rate than younger workers enter the field to replace them, leaving more than 3 million skilled trade jobs unfilled7. Our industry and clients are seeing the greatest workforce transition of our time – with capability availability, early retirement and gig working being areas of concern that we need to anticipate and be ready for. These pose both a challenge, and a prospect. While there’s loss of institutional knowledge, there’s also an opportunity to drive ground-up change and new ways of thinking. Focusing on an agile workplace with space to develop and upskill will be key in creating employer attractiveness and ensuring we have the right people working on the right projects. We too are seeing this transformation and are taking steps to stay ahead. Arcadis’ Global Collaboration Policy, for instance, removes barriers to collaboration, cross teams and cross borders. And, through Arcadis programs like Digital Base Camp, Sustain Abilities, the Energy Transition Academy and Quest, powered by the Lovinklaan Foundation, we are investing in a learning platform for people to upskill in sustainability and digital, and also, expand their skillsets and learn-on-the-job from other teams through funded experiential project work.

But that’s not enough. We need to relook at how our industry operates, and get more hands-on-deck to help lead our industry’s transition. Consultants and clients alike need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, taking measured risks with new ways of working and business models. To create space for sustainable practices, innovation and development, our traditional business model needs to shift from purely billable hours towards recognizing the value provided by employees. And leverage partnerships to go further. Finding partners to co-create with us can provide access to complementary skills, shared resources, and help us expand our market reach. Together, we can spark new ideas and solutions that may not have been possible otherwise, like our eCATS team in the Netherlands did when developing an innovative solution to transform redundant natural gas infrastructure for renewable energy storage.

The challenge ahead may seem daunting, but the time to act is now. We must be open to taking risks and testing new pilots and technologies, bold in our commitments around sustainability and willing to try new partnerships to accelerate our industry’s transition. Thriving in tomorrow’s world requires action today – no one organization has all the answers, but collectively, we can create solutions for a sustainable future.

Looking ahead, we’ve taken the best ideas, innovations and examples of integrated projects to shape six strategic pillars that can be considered to thrive in carbon neutral and prosperous cities of the future: Explore our perspective: ‘Charged up for Change