ACT Alliance is a Global alliance of more than 145 churches and related organisations and in its Countdown to COP28: ACT in the Middle East and North Africa reiterates what is felt more and more throughout the region.
The above image is for illustration and is credit to Dubai92.com
Rachel Luce, ACT Regional Representative, MENA.
George Majaj, ACT Humanitarian Programme Advisor, MENA. PHOTO: Simon Chambers.
As the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region prepares to host COP28, we reproduce here our 2022 Annual Report interview with Rachel Luce, ACT Alliance Regional Representative for the MENA region and George Majaj, ACT’s MENA Humanitarian Programme Advisor. The interview will give you some insight into MENA issues and how ACT and its members address these issues during peacetime.
What are some of the key issues facing the region?
Rachel: There are several protracted crises in the region. Linked to that is mass migration. Educated people are leaving, as is the Christian minority. The Christian migration is really on the hearts and minds of our local members, as this is where the historic churches are located. We also see big changes in the social fabric, and you lose the value of diversity. Migration is a big concern for all the members, along with the conflicts and ongoing wars.
George: Most of the crises are becoming protracted. There are fewer political ways to end these issues – for example in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine. There’s a lack of interest from funders and media. The political will at home and abroad is not there to solve the protracted crises in most of the countries in MENA, and that has a negative effect on communities.
How do members in the region work together?
In the Middle East, national forums meet monthly to discuss what they’re working on, joint areas of action such as training, what they’re hearing from other platforms they’re involved in, and how they might coordinate advocacy. The forums consist of country directors or their deputies. Iraq and Jerusalem have extended their forums so that faith-based agencies can join.
The MENA Communities of Practice (CoPs), such as Gender Justice and Climate Justice, are connected to the forums. Each national forum sends at least one delegate to a MENA CoP. These are usually the thematic experts. MENA CoPs meet monthly and discuss aspects of the work they want to do together. They go to in-person events, such as trainings, and then report back to their Forum.
What are the opportunities you see in the region?
The MENA Gender Justice CoP wants to influence change in Christian family law in the Middle East. For Christians, family law is governed by their church, and it covers inheritances, marriage, divorce, custody, and similar issues. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) changed their church’s family law a few years ago. The MENA Gender Justice CoP wants to see similar change across the region. They started with a study on Jordan’s church family laws. After hearing the consultant’s questions, the churches they interviewed decided to look into changing their laws. No one knew their own laws until they went to court to find out.
One of the MENA Gender Justice CoP’s goals is to ensure family inheritances are divided equally between men and women and that women aren’t pressured into signing away their inheritance rights. They also want family laws to be transparent and accessible. Changing these laws makes real, true change in the lives of people.
MENA’s Climate Justice CoP is growing every year. Season of Creation is on fire in the Middle East right now, which is amazing. ACT MENA members also invested a lot in Egypt’s COP27. Now they’re talking about how to engage after Dubai’s COP28 in 2023. They’re showing a commitment to global negotiations in the long term.
In MENA, we started by training members in country-specific multi-stakeholder dialogues where specialists reviewed adaptation, climate financing and mitigation. Once they understood climate justice at a country level, members engaged regionally because they could see the intersections. Now they’re making the link to the global level. They see how the fight at one UN COP can lead to additional financing and how they can push for climate ambition.
Here is COP28: inside the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the oil giant hosting 2023 climate change summit. Two days before its opening in Dubai, its president Sultan al-Jaber has just been caught red-handed with a conflict of interest. According to the BBC, on the sidelines of the conference where leaving fossil fuels is top on the agenda, he is preparing meetings to promote the oil interests of the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the world’s seventh largest oil producer, will host the 28th UN climate change summit (COP28) in Dubai from November 30 to December 12. Presiding over the conference will be the chief executive of the UAE state-owned oil company Adnoc, Sultan al-Jaber.
Given fossil fuels account for nearly 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions driving climate change, many have argued that there is a clear conflict of interest in having oil and gas producers at the helm of climate talks. The UAE is alleged to flare more gas than it reports and plans to increase oil production from 3.7 million barrels a day to 5 million by 2027.
Some contend that the oil and gas industry could throw the brake on greenhouse gas emissions by investing its vast revenues into plugging gas flares and injecting captured carbon underground. But independent assessments maintain that the industry will need to leave at least some of its commercially recoverable reserves permanently underground to limit global warming. No oil-exporting country but Colombia has yet indicated it will do this.
Dubai appears determined to undermine even this small victory. An investigation has released documents showing the UAE hosts planned to advise a Colombian minister that Adnoc “stands ready” to help the South American country develop its oil and gas reserves.
Citizens are used to driving gas-guzzling cars with fuel priced well below international market rates and using air conditioning for much of the year thanks to utility subsidies. Visiting tourists and conference-goers have come to expect chilled shopping malls, swimming pools and lush golf greens that depend entirely on energy-hungry desalinated water.
Despite decades of policies aimed at diversifying the country’s economy away from oil, the UAE’s hydrocarbon sector makes up a quarter of GDP, half of the country’s exports and 80% of government revenues. Oil rent helps buy socioeconomic stability, for instance, by providing local people with public-sector sinecures.
This state of affairs is a central tenet of the Arabian Gulf social contract, in which citizens of the six gulf states mostly occupy bureaucratic public sector positions administering an oil-based economy with expatriate labour dominating the non-oil private sector.
Adnoc, along with the wider oil and gas industry, has invested in carbon sequestration and making hydrogen fuel from the byproducts of oil extraction. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), such measures, even if fully implemented, will only have a small impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Barakah nuclear power plant (the Arab world’s first) started generating electricity in 2020. While only meeting 1% of the country’s electricity demand, when fully operational in 2030, this may rise to 25%.
The oil sector is inherently capital-intensive, not labour-intensive, and so it cannot provide sufficient jobs for Emiratis. The UAE will need to transition to a knowledge-based economy with productive employment in sectors not linked to resource extraction.
In the UAE, sovereign wealth fund Mubadala is tasked with enabling this transition. It has invested in a variety of high-tech sectors, spanning commercial satellites to research and development in renewable energy.
But even if the UAE was to achieve net zero by some measure domestically, continuing to export oil internationally means it will be burned somewhere, and so the climate crisis will continue to grow.
Rising temperatures risk the UAE’s tourism and conference-hosting sectors, which have grown meteorically since the 1990s (third-degree burns and heatstrokes won’t attract international visitors). A show-stopping announcement to further its global leadership ambitions is not out of the question.
At some point, one of the major oil-exporting countries must announce plans to leave some of its commercially recoverable oil permanently untapped. COP28 provides an ideal platform. A participating country may make such a commitment with the caveat that it first needs to build infrastructure powered by renewable energy and overhaul its national oil company’s business model to one that supplies renewable energy, not fossil fuel, globally.
The UAE has the private capital and sovereign wealth required to build a post-oil economy. But will it risk being the first mover?
Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
In all Demographics and Resource Use: The EU’s Interest in Assisting MENA Countries to look at their respective population growth for better understanding and eventually a serious levy towards better numbers would be of paramount importance.
The world population is currently estimated to be more than 8 billion and will be close to 10 billion by 2050. The extraordinary growth can be attributed to increased longevity as a result of widespread improvement in “public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine, and on the other hand, the persistence of high levels of fertility in many countries.” Most of the population growth is occurring in developing countries, a trend that will continue well into the future. Close to 50% of the projected increase in the world’s population from today until 2050 is anticipated to take place in a few large countries within the developing world, and the share of the developing world population will increase from 66% in 1950 to 86% by 2050. Moreover, the population of the developing world is young and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Increases in population will strain the governments of developing countries, translating into more demand for food, water, health care, jobs, and energy, among many other needs. Simply put, it will be more difficult for “low-income and lower-middle-income countries to afford the increase in public expenditures on a per capita basis that is needed to eradicate poverty, end hunger and malnutrition, and ensure universal access to health care, education and other essential services.”
The failure of governments in MENA to address quality-of-life issues as the population grows could lead to a complete collapse of their political systems, as witnessed in countries such as Libya and Syria. Current trends are paving the way for massive migration to European countries, which could experience similar strains in providing satisfactory living conditions. Given its status as a destination for migrants from the MENA region and its proximity to the region, the EU would be an important partner for MENA countries in their efforts to improve quality of life for their residents. The EU could assist MENA countries in adopting effective voluntary family planning, moving toward more reliance on clean and renewable energy, and implementing efficient water management practices.
In the recently published IEA article on a special report, it is put simply that to save the climate, the oil and gas sector must reduce their planet-warming operations.
Oil and gas producers face pivotal choices about their role in the global energy system amid a worsening climate crisis fuelled in large part by their core products, according to a major new special report from the IEA that shows how the industry can take a more responsible approach and contribute positively to the new energy economy.
The Oil and Gas Industry in Net Zero Transitions analyses the implications and opportunities for the industry that would arise from stronger international efforts to reach energy and climate targets. Released ahead of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, the special report sets out what the global oil and gas sector would need to do to align its operations with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Even under today’s policy settings, global demand for both oil and gas is set to peak by 2030, according to the latest IEA projections. Stronger action to tackle climate change would mean clear declines in demand for both fuels. If governments deliver in full on their national energy and climate pledges, demand would fall 45% below today’s level by 2050. In a pathway to reaching net zero emissions by mid-century, which is necessary to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C within reach, oil and gas use would decline by more than 75% by 2050.
Yet the oil and gas sector – which provides more than half of global energy supply and employs nearly 12 million workers worldwide – has been a marginal force at best in transitioning to a clean energy system, according to the report. Oil and gas companies currently account for just 1% of clean energy investment globally – and 60% of that comes from just four companies.
“The oil and gas industry is facing a moment of truth at COP28 in Dubai. With the world suffering the impacts of a worsening climate crisis, continuing with business as usual is neither socially nor environmentally responsible,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Oil and gas producers around the world need to make profound decisions about their future place in the global energy sector. The industry needs to commit to genuinely helping the world meet its energy needs and climate goals – which means letting go of the illusion that implausibly large amounts of carbon capture are the solution. This special report shows a fair and feasible way forward in which oil and gas companies take a real stake in the clean energy economy while helping the world avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.”
The global oil and gas industry encompasses a large and diverse range of players – from small, specialised operators to huge national oil companies. Attention often focuses on the role of the private sector majors, but they own less than 13% of global oil and gas production and reserves.
Every company’s transition strategy can and should include a plan to reduce emissions from its own operations, according to the report. The production, transport and processing of oil and gas results in nearly 15% of global energy-related greenhouse emissions – equal to all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions from the United States. As things stand, companies with targets to reduce their own emissions account for less than half of global oil and gas output.
To align with a 1.5 °C scenario, the industry’s own emissions need to decline by 60% by 2030. The emissions intensity of oil and gas producers with the highest emissions is currently five-to-ten times above those with the lowest, showing the vast potential for improvements. Furthermore, strategies to reduce emissions from methane – which accounts for half of the total emissions from oil and gas operations – are well-known and can typically be pursued at low cost.
While oil and gas production is vastly lower in transitions to net zero emissions, it will not disappear – even in a 1.5 °C scenario. Some investment in oil and gas supply is needed to ensure the security of energy supply and provide fuel for sectors in which emissions are harder to abate, according to the report. Yet not every oil and gas company will be able to maintain output – requiring consumers to send clear signals on their direction and speed of travel so that producers can make informed decisions on future spending.
The USD 800 billion currently invested in the oil and gas sector each year is double what is required in 2030 on a pathway that limits warming to 1.5 °C. In that scenario, declines in demand are sufficiently steep that no new long-lead-time conventional oil and gas projects are needed. Some existing oil and gas production would even need to be shut in.
In transitions to net zero, oil and gas is set to become a less profitable and riskier business over time. The report’s analysis finds that the current valuation of private oil and gas companies could fall by 25% from USD 6 trillion today if all national energy and climate goals are reached, and by up to 60% if the world gets on track to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.
Opportunities lie ahead despite these challenges. The report finds that the oil and gas sector is well placed to scale up some crucial technologies for clean energy transitions. In fact, some 30% of the energy consumed in 2050 in a decarbonised energy system comes from technologies that could benefit from the industry’s skills and resources – including hydrogen, carbon capture, offshore wind and liquid biofuels.
However, this would require a step-change in how the sector allocates its financial resources. The oil and gas industry invested around USD 20 billion in clean energy in 2022, or roughly 2.5% of its total capital spending. The report finds that producers looking to align with the aims of the Paris Agreement would need to put 50% of their capital expenditures towards clean energy projects by 2030, on top of the investment required to reduce emissions from their own operations.
The report also notes that carbon capture, currently the linchpin of many firms’ transition strategies, cannot be used to maintain the status quo. If oil and natural gas consumption were to evolve as projected under today’s policy settings, limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 °C would require an entirely inconceivable 32 billion tonnes of carbon captured for utilisation or storage by 2050, including 23 billion tonnes via direct air capture. The amount of electricity needed to power these technologies would be greater than the entire world’s electricity demand today.
“The fossil fuel sector must make tough decisions now, and their choices will have consequences for decades to come,” Dr Birol said. “Clean energy progress will continue with or without oil and gas producers. However, the journey to net zero emissions will be more costly, and harder to navigate, if the sector is not on board.”
Author: Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
The vast majority of us own a smartphone – and inside each one are metals and minerals that could help the environment.
This is an example of urban mining -.the practice of extracting materials from waste – which is a key part of the circular economy.
Other materials that could be saved from landfill and incineration include waste from demolition and construction.
The number of smartphones in use hit 6.6 billion in 2022. That means the vast majority of the world now owns one. And inside each of those phones is a pinch of multiple different metals and minerals, some of which are rarer and harder and more damaging to extract than others.
But each of these phones also has a limited life – how many people have an old device sitting unused in a drawer somewhere? One piece of research estimates that there are around 7 million unused phones in Switzerland alone, with $10 million worth of embedded gold in them.
It is exactly issues like these that make it so important we get an urban mining system up and running in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
What is urban mining?
Urban mining is the idea of extracting valuable materials from waste, much of which would otherwise go to landfill or incineration. This can include common metals and plastics as well as rarer but valuable elements.
Urban mining allows us to salvage materials of which there is a finite supply, and limits the environmental impact of their disposal. Crucially, it also avoids extraction of additional materials, which damages ecosystems and can cause pollution, among other things.
It forms a key part of the circular economy, which promotes a more sustainable use of resources by keeping them in use for as long as possible.
What is the World Economic Forum doing about the circular economy?
Electronic waste (e-waste) like phones is a prime candidate for urban mining, where products cannot otherwise be repaired.
There are a growing number of companies which offer to buy back and resell unwanted devices, as well as a wave of repair cafes emerging. But these devices are still not routinely considered an economically viable secondary source of materials like gold, silver, copper, lithium, or cobalt.
Once you factor in the environmental costs of extracting these materials, however, the scales tip in favour of urban mining, research suggests. Many of the participants in the Swiss phone study mentioned above said they would be willing to sell their old phone for less than $5. The market value of the metals within them is under $2, but when you factor in the external costs of extraction the cost of the materials is around $18.
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