COP27 was a major moment for the climate movement in 2022.
The year 2022 was a tumultuous one in many ways. While climate-related shocks became even more prevalent and severe, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a global energy crisis that continues to affect millions of peoples’ lives and livelihoods. Following that shock, unprecedented heatwaves across Europe, Asia, and North America, and then devastating flooding in Pakistan, highlighted the urgency of reducing our fossil-fuel dependency and reshaping our energy systems.
Fortunately, other big developments in 2022 offered grounds for hope. The passage of the US Inflation Reduction Act – the largest emissions-reduction investment in the country’s history – is a landmark achievement. Historically, the United States has been the world’s biggest carbon polluter and one of the biggest laggards in international fora. But now, the IRA should put it on a course to reduce its own emissions sharply, which will help drive down prices of renewable energy around the world. Many emerging markets and developing countries will have a chance to leapfrog past coal-fired power plants.
Yes, fossil-fuel lobbyists are pushing governments in Africa and elsewhere to invest in natural-gas development in response to the energy crisis. Many newly planned projects would be “carbon bombs” that would emit more than 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide over their lifetimes. But the climate movement has wasted no time in calling out these efforts, and in denouncing the “dash for gas” in Africa.
As a result, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) has suffered setback after setback. With 22 commercial banks and insurers pulling out of the project, the StopEACOP campaign was gaining momentum ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in November, where it drove the message home.
COP27 was a major moment for the climate movement in 2022. Although the host country, Egypt, offered little civic space to mobilise, organisations adapted by working through existing global networks and coalitions to push for more meaningful decarbonisation commitments, human-rights protections, and financing.
In the end, the conference produced an agreement to establish a separate global fund to compensate vulnerable countries for climate-related “loss and damage.” Given that advanced economies had long refused even to discuss the issue, this is a huge win – one driven by frontline activists and spokespeople from across the Global South. But the summit’s final agreement did not include any specific language about the need to phase out fossil fuels.
Finally, other positive climate-policy developments in 2022 included the launch of Just Energy Transition Partnerships in Indonesia, South Africa, and Vietnam. With the goal of helping countries leapfrog past fossil fuels, JETPs – if done right – could be game changers in the global transition to renewable energy.
The international community also did more to protect nature in 2022. As the year drew to a close, governments at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) adopted the Kunming-Montreal Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework – a deal that many observers are likening to the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement. With a commitment to protect 30% of all land and sea areas by 2030, the framework opens a new chapter, following the collective failure to meet any of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020.
Governments and other stakeholders are finally recognising that climate change and biodiversity loss are inextricably linked. Rainforests and mangroves are not just habitats for millions of species. They are also crucial for slowing the pace of global heating, because they absorb and store vast amounts of CO2. Scientists have shown that conservation, ecosystem restoration, and better management of natural areas could contribute over one-third of the emissions reductions that we need by 2030. More to the point, there simply is no way to keep temperatures within 1.5C without reversing the decline of nature.
The COP15 deal also explicitly recognises that indigenous peoples are central to protecting nature, and it calls on rich countries to mobilise $30bn per year in biodiversity financing for developing countries by 2030.
But setting targets is merely the first step. We must move at an unprecedented pace to restore biodiversity and halt global warming. That means remaining alert to vested interests’ efforts to block progress and pushing back against false solutions – such as carbon offsetting, nuclear energy, and hydraulic fracking. Restoring nature must not come at the expense of local communities. To create and nurture a healthier relationship with the environment, we should take our cues from indigenous peoples.
Outside of UN conferences and corporate boardrooms, a quiet revolution is gathering speed. Those demanding more financing for locally owned renewable-energy systems are piercing through the longstanding barriers and refusing to be marginalised. They are building a new consensus, and making clear that matters of climate justice are non-negotiable.
I consider this quiet revolution to be one of the most exciting things that has happened over the past decade. The cyclical interplay of progress and retrogression is an enduring feature of policymaking – and of nature itself. The inevitable slumps must be met not with despair but with hope for the next upswing. While the 2022 energy crisis created a new pretext for those advocating greater investment in fossil fuels, such investments are rapidly becoming financial losers, because renewables are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels.
Around the world, communities, towns, cities, and regions are experimenting with creative climate solutions. We must identify the ones that work, mobilise support for them, and scale them up. That is how we will launch the decisive next phase of the decades-long fight against climate change and environmental destruction. – Project Syndicate
The forthcoming World Economic Forum Annual Meeting will answer some questions: How can the Middle East and North Africa manage the region’s water crisis? In the meantime, let us see what it is all about.
How can the Middle East and North Africa manage the region’s water crisis?
Nearly 90% of children in the region live in areas of high or extremely high water stress.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is one of the most water-scarce regions in the world.
For years, the water crisis has exacerbated conflict and political tensions. Moreover, the issue continues to significantly impact the health and wellbeing of people in the area, especially women and children. In fact, according to UNICEF, nearly 90% of children in the region live in areas of high or extremely high water stress.
As global temperatures rise and the climate crisis accelerates, the MENA water crisis is expected to worsen – and impact economic growth. The World Bank found that climate-related water scarcity could lead to economic losses equaling up to 14% of the region’s GDP over the next 30 years.
Yet technological innovations and advanced water-management systems are helping to mitigate the situation. This includes the development of major desalination plants, as well as the implementation of sustainable agriculture and water-recycling programmes.
Ahead of the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, four industry leaders share their thoughts on the MENA water crisis and detail ongoing efforts to help the region overcome water scarcity in the coming years.
Peter Terium, Chief Executive Officer, ENOWA; Managing Director, Energy, Water & Food, NEOM
“In NEOM, located in the north-west of Saudi, underground water has been more and more used for agriculture and irrigation due to the increase in population in the region. This has led to a drop in the ground water table and has dried up many of the springs in the area, changing the face of the environment. The aquifers no longer have the capability to regenerate themselves due to the water demand and open dumping of wastewater on the land has led to pollution of this scarce resource.
“By replacing the underground water used for irrigation with the desalinated water, and processing the wastewater and recycling all water that normally goes to waste, we will rebalance the ecosystem and bring back the natural oasis in the region. ENOWA, NEOM’s energy and water subsidiary, is creating a circular water system. To realize this, we bring together innovation across the water value chain, and beyond.
“Globally, average water loss is about 30%. By using innovative technologies, ENOWA aims to reduce loss to 3% which reduces the overall infrastructure and costing for water. With smart monitoring technologies, 100% recycling of wastewater, and the production of clean industrial resources, we are maximizing the potential of water use in industry, farming and to rebalance nature.”
“With our circular approach, we are positively impacting NEOM’s flora and fauna, and we hope to amplify the positive impact across the world.
— Peter Terium, Chief Executive Officer, ENOWA
A boat lies on the dried-out shore of the Euphrates river in Syria. Image: REUTERS/Orhan Qereman
Bahrain Economic Development Board
“Gulf Cooperation Council members are taking a multi-faceted approach to addressing water scarcity. Saudi Arabia’s Rabigh 3 Independent Water Plant produces 600,000 cubic metres of desalinated water a day using reverse osmosis. It can meet the needs of 1 million households and is recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest reverse osmosis desalination plant.
“Bahrain EDB focuses on attracting investments and building solutions that have a positive impact on issues like water scarcity, such as Pavilion Water – a water desalination specialist that produces fresh water with zero greenhouse gas emissions.
“Innovative farming is also helping produce more food with less water across the region. UAE-based start-up Smart Acres is a vertical indoor hydroponic farm that, compared to traditional methods, yields 20 times as much food while using a tenth of the land and 90% less water.
Paddy Padmanathan, Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ACWA Power
“Billions of people around the world lack adequate access to water, a basic need to sustain healthy life. The Middle East and North Africa is the worst off in terms of physical water stress receiving less rainfall than other regions but, yet having fast-growing, densely populated urban centres that require more water.
“Immediately the awareness of the issue needs to be heightened and consumption needs to be contained at 150 litres per day. But to even supply that low level of consumption, we need to keep innovating.
“We at ACWA Power continue to stretch technology to reduce energy, chemical and sophisticated consumables consumption by challenging conventional practices, increasing the use of big data, the phenomenal power of computing, advanced analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to reduce the cost of taking salt out of seawater (desalination) and by increasing the utilization of renewable energy also simultaneously reduce the carbon footprint of this energy intensive process to increase the provision of potable water at a progressively lower cost reducing the impact on climate change.
“With the track record of being the leading desalinator in the world, today dispatching 6.4 million cubic metres per day of desalinated water we are proud to have led the cost reduction challenge by bringing the cost of desalinated water from $2+ per cubic metres just a few years ago to less than $0.50 per cubic metres today.”
Majid Al Futtaim Holding
“With some of the highest per-capita water-consumption rates, a hot and dry climate, wasteful water infrastructure and a heavy reliance on greenhouse gas-producing desalination, MENA countries are particularly affected by water scarcity. The region’s rapid population growth has also led many countries to rely heavily on ever-depleting ground and surface water.
“At Majid Al Futtaim, we understand the scale of the issue and began addressing it as part of our sustainability strategy. We developed a clean water investment strategy that focuses on investing in water generation technology, local offsetting and the development of renewable-powered reverse osmosis desalination plants.
“As a diverse business operating across industries, Majid Al Futtaim is present in several sectors that are typically characterised by high water use. Yet the company takes several steps to effectively minimise its water footprint.
— Majid Al Futtaim Holding
“In our food and beverage retail sector, 80% of products are sourced locally from the region. We’ve also introduced micro irrigation systems and hydroponic farms into our supply chains to minimise water loss and promote sustainable farming. Meanwhile, in the fashion industry, which as a whole uses 93 billion cubic metres of water annually, Majid Al Futtaim engages with suppliers to offer sustainably made products designed to last longer as well as be re-used or recycled.
“Majid Al Futtaim also institutes sustainable water management systems into its building and community development sector. This includes, for instance, the use of on-site water treatment technologies and sustainable gardening practices.”
The contrast of the BRICS summit in June with the meeting of G-7 leaders held only a day prior, served as a foretaste of geopolitical competition to come. It won speculation over whether a new geopolitical bloc, even an international order, might finally be finding form.
The summit came ahead of news that several MENA states are expected to be soon welcomed into BRICS. Regardless of whether BRICS lives up to its potential, this news is further indication that the region’s relationship with the West is heading into a wintry chapter as regimes seek to profit from new opportunities in a multipolar world.
Indeed, the competition and conflict redefining geopolitics has also questioned whether realignments are afoot in the Middle East. Developments like regional interest in BRICS and OPEC+ oil cuts suggest that popular belief in MENA neutrality, in what plausibly seems to be a new cold war, merits consideration and even revision.
China’s President Xi Jinping (L), India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (2nd L), Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (C), South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa (2nd R) and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (R) are pictured before posing for a family picture during the 11th BRICS Summit on November 14, 2019 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photo by Sergio LIMA / AFP)
BRICS: A New Geopolitical Bloc?
Global economic power has been reclaimed in the 21st century. The establishment of BRICS in 2006 is a testament to this seismic shift on the world stage. The organisation is membered by industrialised developing countries with emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Representing 23% of the global economy, 18% of global trade, and a combined gross domestic product akin to that of the US, BRICS possesses immense economic power. When the first summit was held, the organisation’s initial goals were modest and focused on investment. But amid the shifting tides of geopolitics, and the concentrated and accruing economic power of BRICS, it bears the hallmarks of a new geopolitical bloc.
Representing 23% of the global economy, 18% of global trade, and a combined gross domestic product akin to that of the US, BRICS possesses immense economic power.
In reality, the potential of BRICS rests on the dazzling rise of China’s economy. China’s GDP is more than double that of the other four BRICS members: almost $18 trillion compared with Brazil ($1.6 trillion), Russia ($1.8 trillion), India ($3.2 trillion) and South Africa ($400 billion). Without China, the organisation would fade into irrelevance; with China, its economic clout, and so potential to exercise geopolitical power, is vast.
As observed in Forbes: “If intra-BRICS commodity trade were to be settled in a commodity-linked basket of currencies among members as well as willing non-members, it would constitute an effective end to the petrodollar, a key pillar of the G7-led global financial system.” The strong resistance of the Russian ruble to Western sanctions – reaping reward from global energy prices – has boosted confidence in this aspiration.
In reality, the potential of BRICS rests on the dazzling rise of China’s economy. China’s GDP is more than double that of the other four BRICS members
President Putin even proposed at the recent BRICS summit the creation of an “international reserve currency based on the basket of currencies of our countries” to counterweight US hegemony in the IMF. The desire to create an economic order removed from the US-led dominated one has gained impetus as Russia and its allies have been disturbed by the velocity of Western-sanctions, from which they seek permanent protection and relief.
At the outset of war this year, intra-BRICS trade suddenly won significant sway over oil geopolitics through Western-sanctioned Russian crude oil exports being snapped up by the likes of China, India and Brazil. These purchases have offered welcome relief to the Russian economy and its military expenditures, softening the bite of Western sanctions (including the recently announced policy of capping prices on Russia’s oil exports).
The attendance of President Putin at its virtual summit in June was a jarring reminder to the West of how its mood of anger and reproach not shared universally; for most governments, ethical concerns about Russia’s violence do not eclipse the strategic value of Moscow’s energy and economic deals (hence why Western aims to blackball Russia on the world stage yields only limited success).
intra-BRICS trade suddenly won significant sway over oil geopolitics through Western-sanctioned Russian crude oil exports being snapped up by the likes of China, India and Brazil
By opting to remove Russia from the international economic system, the process of deglobalisation – hastened by the Covid-19 pandemic – assumed new intensity; with its promise of straining geopolitical tensions even further, BRICS is another symptom of this global trend. The consolidation of the organisation could define two dominant blocks in geopolitics, although many countries will resist this simplified division in preference for the strategic rewards of neutrality.
In which case, the symbiosis between the main economies – the US, China, the EU, but so too emerging ones like Brazil and India – which has been a major determinant of stability in world politics for decades, could falter with competition. Moreover, the deepening rift between G-7 countries and BRICS questions how, for example, cooperative climate action might be possible going forward? It foreshadows a fraught future for multilateralism. But such views are based on the idea that BRICS will decisively shift from an economic club into a coherent political organisation. There is some scepticism over whether BRICS members have the ability to reach a level of cohesion which would permit united political action.
BRICS has little to show for itself apart from the New Development Bank, established to offer an alternative to the World Bank for emerging economies.
A decade ago, a panel at the Wilson Centre strongly agreed that the differences between the group – namely, trajectories of economic growth and ideological principles – far outweighed commonalities. Anti-Westernism alone is an insufficient ingredient to build and sustain cohesion amongst diverse actors. It is also true that since its birth, BRICS has little to show for itself apart from the New Development Bank, established to offer an alternative to the World Bank for emerging economies.
The institutionalisation of BRICS remains therefore weak. Nonetheless, news of its expansive ambitions makes such criticisms now seem tenuous. As BRICS members hunt for a credible alternative to the US-led global order with increasing zeal, the organisation could demonstrate in the coming years that it counts for much more than an empty acronym.
AFP File Photo
BRICS, the Middle East, and the West
With war in Ukraine squeezing and shaping world politics, competition between the West and its rivals gained definition. In this context, BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – has naturally sought to build up the organisation’s membership.
MENA countries have been among those touted as potential members in the near future. The president of the BRICS International Forum announced that he expects Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to join the group “very soon”. BRICS has caught the interest of other MENA countries who might follow suit; in November came news that Algeria had officially applied to join the organisation. The organisation, which has called up speculation as to whether it might qualify as a new geopolitical bloc, seeks to recruit “node” countries of strategic location and economic power.
If BRICS members wish to present the organisation as a credible alternative to the US-led economic order, it needs to co-opt as much of the world economy as possible. The inclusion of the three countries would represent an important win for BRICS and further address the lop-sided distribution of economic power between the West and the Rest: Saudi Arabia with its vast energy reserves, Turkey through its location and economic growth, and the UAE as a global centre of commerce and finance (the inclusion of key commercial and logistical centres within the group would offer more control over world trade).
The organisation, which has called up speculation as to whether it might qualify as a new geopolitical bloc, seeks to recruit “node” countries of strategic location and economic power.
In particular, bringing in oil-producing states, like Saudi Arabia, into the fold would consolidate BRICS’s control over global oil production itself – whose value in geopolitics has been laid bare this year since Russia invaded Ukraine. From a regional perspective, the incentives for joining BRICS are building and the interest expressed by Saudi Arabia, amongst others, has come as little surprise.
Many in the region likely deem it short-sighted to avoid the potential benefits which BRICS, taut with economic/political power and potential, might afford them; in a world retreating to multipolarity, MENA regimes are united in their desire to exploit and exhaust new opportunities. BRICS membership from a regional perspective, therefore, presents a tantalising prospect.
Despite its vast wealth and intimate security relations with the US, Saudi Arabia seeks to grow interactions with China and other emerging economies, given the demands of its restless economy in transformation. But economic interests are only part of the appeal; strategic considerations of geopolitics play a decisive role too. States like Saudi Arabia are presently reassessing who exactly are and are not their allies.
The cooperation of China and other BRICS members, like Russia and India, represent a welcome antidote for MENA countries to their fussy relations with the West. Indeed, it was symbolic that news of Saudi Arabia’s interest in membership of the BRICS group arrived just ahead of President Biden’s visit to the Middle East in July.
economic interests are only part of the appeal; strategic considerations of geopolitics play a decisive role too. States like Saudi Arabia are presently reassessing who exactly are and are not their allies.
This economic and geopolitical logic is also shared by Turkey and Egypt; however, although the West may regard the accession of countries like Egypt to BRICS as evidence of strategic realignment, some argue that it is more plausible to see it as a natural continuation of foreign policies defined by the principle of balanced international relations. At the same time, suggestions that BRICS represents an attempt to refashion the 1956 Non-Aligned Movement, whose members sought to minimise the Cold War’s interruptions behind a shield of neutrality, ignores its membership’s antipathy to the West.
BRICS seeks to develop and define a credible alternative to the US-led global economy – and particularly the US dollar. With the economic isolation of Russia, MENA regimes have been reminded of the heavy consequences when states fall foul of Washington, and the appeal of an alternative. Western sanctions have stifled many regimes in contemporary history, like those of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Sudan. A new economic system out of the thumb of the West would enable MENA regimes in order to indulge their strategic whims with less consequence.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a GCC-China Summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on December 9, 2022. (Photo by SPA/AFP)
Middle Eastern Realignment in a Multipolar Order?
Moscow’s efforts to marshal diplomatic support for its invasion of Ukraine might seem to undercut claims of geopolitical reshuffle in the region; despite some hesitation, a U.N. resolution condemning Russia in March was supported by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt.
But this incidence of the region rhetorically aligning with the West has proved anomalous in 2022, a year which has been defined more by tension than cooperation. This condemnation has not translated into support for Western sanctions. Like much of the non-Western world, MENA states are not moved by and even deeply suspicious of Western efforts to preserve a rule-based order.
High-minded Western words about ideas of democracy and freedom are far less appealing to MENA autocracies than the respectful and predictable indifference of Russia and China; the anti-Westernism which courses through the region is shared by its regimes too, ever indignant at the meddling in and criticism of their internal affairs by Western countries.
In Washington today, there is considerable animus towards Riyadh since it took a collective decision with its OPEC counterparts to raise global oil prices by announcing its largest supply cut in years – coolly rebuffing the pleas by the Biden administration.
The Biden’s administration’s resolve to renew democracy worldwide is a continually raw reminder to MENA leaders of their ideological friction with the West. This reality was encapsulated in recent months in Western fury about Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup (which, ironically, may be regarded as the best World Cup tournament ever after such a dazzling final).
The controversy surrounding OPEC has led to the further perishing of US-Saudi Arabia relations. In Washington today, there is considerable animus towards Riyadh since it took a collective decision with its OPEC counterparts to raise global oil prices by announcing its largest supply cut in years – coolly rebuffing the pleas by the Biden administration. Consequently, there is now a growing and plausible view in the US that Saudi Arabia is no longer an ally given its decision to blunt the punitive action of the West against Russia.
As the shadows of competition are thrown further across the Middle East, policy makers on both sides of the geopolitical division are carefully observing the initial reactions of regional regimes when taking stock of their friends and adversaries “It’s clear that OPEC+ is aligning with Russia” retorted a wounded White House when the decision was taken in October, directing the criticism at its long-standing ally in the Gulf.
Suggestions that Saudi Arabia may be sidling up to Russia on a political footing has been treated with scorn by commentators, whose main criticism is that this position is too binary. “The Saudis weren’t thinking about Ukraine – like many people in Asia and Africa, they don’t think in absolute terms of being pro- or anti-Russian,” wrote Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
The desire to engage more with organisations like BRICS, so the argument proceeds, does not amount to a rejection of the West but represents the desire of Riyadh (and Cairo, Ankara, and Algiers) to strategically plant its feet on both sides of the geopolitical divide. By doing so, MENA states seek to maximise the benefits of geopolitical competition, minimise its consequences, and evade its constraints.
There is a popular perception that every time the US does not get its way in the Middle East, Washington vainly misreads this as a snub; that the US fails to understand that decisions and policies can occur with little consideration of it. And there is some truth to this view. However, the divergences between the US and MENA states on vital issues in US foreign policy are stacking up.
Whatever the intentions, the action of MENA countries in OPEC+ is not neutral; on the contrary, they have adopted a policy supportive of Russia on the defining geopolitical issue of 2022
Whatever the intentions, the action of MENA countries in OPEC+ is not neutral; on the contrary, they have adopted a policy supportive of Russia on the defining geopolitical issue of 2022. And on other key divisions of contemporary geopolitics – like sovereignty in Taiwan – Arab governments have embraced Beijing’s position. Now with tacit support for Russia through OPEC in the Gulf, in addition to support for China’s repression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, the Middle East is sharply opposed to the US and wider West on the essential geopolitical issues of today and tomorrow.
Only this month, President Xi was honoured by Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, serving as further evidence to some that MENA states are eyeing alternatives to the “liberal world order,” regarding China’s authoritarianism as a more natural ally given their own politics. Saudi officials insisted that the generous reception of Xi is perfectly suitable for a state as powerful as China; yet its timing brimmed with geopolitical symbolism and was credibly seen as a rebuke to the US given its contrast with the wintry welcome which met Biden in July.
Sergio LIMA / AFP(L to R) South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, China’s President Xi Jinping, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro at the 11th BRICS Summit, Brasilia, Brazil, November 14, 2019.
New Friends and Foes
A feeling of change hangs over MENA geopolitics as wider international dynamics evolve. Many commentators and scholars have been rightly dismissing simplistic readings of this change which talk of the emergence of well-defined boundaries and blocs; they remind audiences of the banal but important fact that geopolitics resists crude simplifications (whose consequences in policy making were painfully present and predictable in the Cold War of the last century).
there is a growing and tangible dislocation between the region and the West.
Despite this wisdom, there is also a risk that such commentary becomes too focused on teasing out nuance while failing to see the woods from the trees. Whether shown by news of BRICS pulling new membership from the Middle East, or by Gulf leaders humiliating President Biden over oil production, there is a growing and tangible dislocation between the region and the West.
Talk of neutrality and the need to avoid simplifications may prevail for the time being in policy chatter, but the sense of striking geopolitical shift – even realignment – in the Middle East is gathering credibility. For as the geopolitical crises of the 21st century continue to fall thick and fast, the West and their supposed allies from the region are likely to repeatedly find themselves on opposing sides of the geopolitical divide.
Many people migrate to another country to earn a decent income and to attain a better standard of living. But my recent research shows that across all destinations and generations studied, many migrants from Turkey to European countries are financially worse off than those who stayed at home.
Even if there are some non-monetary benefits of staying in the destination country, such as living in a more orderly environment, this raises fundamental questions. Primarily, why are 79% of the first-generation men who contributed to the growth of Europe by taking on some of the dirtiest, riskiest manual jobs – like working in asbestos processing and sewage canals – still living in income poverty? There is a strong indication that the European labour markets and welfare states are failing migrants and their descendants.
In my recent book, Poverty and International Migration, I examined the poverty status of three generations of migrants from Turkey to multiple European countries, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. I compared them with the “returnees” who moved back to Turkey and the “stayers” who have never left the country.
The study covers the period from early 1960s to the time of their interview (2010-2012), and draws on a sample of 5,980 adults within 1,992 families. The sample was composed of living male ancestors (those who went first were typically men), their children and grandchildren.
For my research, the poverty line was set at 60% of the median disposable household income (adjusted for household size) for every country studied. Those who fall below the country threshold are defined as the income poor.
Data for this research is drawn from the 2000 Families Survey which I conducted with academics based in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. The survey generated what is believed to be the world’s largest database on labour migration to Europe through locating the male ancestors who moved to Europe from five high migration regions in Turkey during the guest-worker years of 1960-1974 and their counterparts who did not migrate at the time.
It charts the family members who were living in various European countries up to the fourth generation, and those that stayed behind in Turkey. The period corresponds to a time when labourers from Turkey were invited through bi-lateral agreements between states to contribute to the building of western and northern Europe.
The results presented in my book show that four-fifths (79%) of the first-generation men who came to Europe as guest-workers and ended up settling there lived below an income poverty line, compared with a third (33%) of those that had stayed in the home country. By the third generation, around half (49%) of those living in Europe were still poor, compared with just over a quarter (27%) of those who remained behind.
Migrants from three family generations residing in countries renowned for the generosity of their welfare states were among the most impoverished. Some of the highest poverty rates were observed in Belgium, Sweden and Denmark.
For example, across all three generations of migrants settled in Sweden, 60% were in income poverty despite an employment rate of 61%. This was the highest level of employment observed for migrants in all the countries studied. Migrants in Sweden were also, on average, more educated than those living in other European destinations.
My findings also reveal that while more than a third (37%) of “stayers” from the third generation went on to complete higher education. This applied to less than a quarter (23%) of the third generation migrants spread across European countries.
Turkish guest workers in a Berlin park in the 1980s. DPA/Alamy
Returnees did well
Having a university education turned out not to improve the latter’s chances of escaping poverty as much as it did for the family members who had not left home. The “returnees” to Turkey were, on the other hand, found to fare much better than those living in Europe and on a par with, if not better than, the “stayers”.
Less than a quarter of first- and third-generation returnees (23% and 24% respectively) experienced income poverty and 43% from the third generation attained a higher education qualification. The money they earned abroad along with their educational qualifications seemed to buy them more economic advantage in Turkey than in the destination country.
The results of the research should not be taken to mean that international migration is economically a bad decision as we still do not know how impoverished these people were prior to migration. First-generation migrants are anecdotally known to be poorer at the time of migration than those who decided not to migrate during guest-worker years, and are likely to have made some economic gains from their move. The returnees’ improved situation does lend support to this.
Nor should the findings lead to the suggestion that if migrants do not earn enough in their new home country, they should go back. Early findings from another piece of research I am currently undertaking suggests that while income poverty considerably reduces migrants’ life satisfaction, there are added non-monetary benefits of migration to a new destination. The exact nature of these benefits remains unknown but it is likely to do, for example, with living in a better organised environment that makes everyday life easier.
However, we still left with the question of why migrants are being left in such poverty. Coupled with the findings from another recent study demonstrating that more than half of Europeans do not welcome non-EU migrants from economically poorer countries, evidence starts to suggest an undercurrent of systemic racism may be acting as a cause.
If migrants were welcome, one would expect destination countries with far more developed welfare states than Turkey to put in place measures to protect guest workers against the risk of poverty in old age, or prevent their children and grandchildren from falling so far behind their counterparts in Turkey in accessing higher education.
They would not let them settle for lower returns on their educational qualifications in more regulated labour markets. It’s also unlikely we would have observed some of the highest poverty rates in countries with generous welfare states such as Sweden – top ranked for its anti-discrimination legislation, based on equality of opportunity.
Overall, the picture for “unwanted” migrants appears to be rather bleak. Unless major systemic changes are made, substantial improvement to their prospects are unlikely.
Contractors must keep up with technological advances to drive the industry forward, says Autodesk senior vice chairman Jim Lynch.
Globally, the built environment footprint is expected to double in size by 2060. For that to happen in line with net zero targets, technology is going to be critical to improving the way construction is carried out.
Jim Lynch, Vice President & General Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions.
Autodesk senior vice chairman Jim Lynch puts it simply: “The industry has to find a better way to build and digital is going to play – and is already playing – a huge role in that.”
For technology to advance our construction techniques, digital literacy is going to be required in all practices and, ideally, through all phases of construction.
“The bare minimum is that contractors use digital technology on the job site for collaboration,” says Lynch.
“Ideally, they should use digital technology during the pre-construction process. Moving on from there they should use it to drive operations and maintenance, then take that project information from design out to a digital twin, where they can use that technology to provide management capabilities for the owner.”
To make this a reality, technology must be easy to deploy and adopt, according to Lynch. “If using and deploying technology is going to need weeks of training where you’re taking workers off the job, that’s not going to work,” he explains.
However, Lynch believes the onus is on contractors to invest more in improving their digital literacy if they are falling behind.
“You have to build up that digital muscle,” he says. “And I think, by and large, contractors really do understand that they have to take those first steps around collaboration, then extend those steps into using more digital during the planning process and then continue on from there.”
He believes that today’s contractors are embracing technology faster than ever, not only because of the competition, but also because of the expectations of clients and the government. He points to the UK’s Building Safety Act, which became law in April 2022, as a driver.
“That is really all about data; it is ensuring that owners, contractors and designers all play a role in making sure that digital information is created, captured and stored throughout the entire process.”
Lynch believes a big challenge is going to be attracting the workforce to build all the future projects – but that digital could play a part in drawing people in. “I think the use of digital technologies to drive better outcomes in construction will be intriguing to the younger generation,” he says.
“How to apply technology to the construction process, especially when you think about augmented reality and virtual reality applications, will drive a greater interest in the workforce.”
He adds that the industry has made great progress in its use of technology in recent decades. “But I think we’ve only scratched the surface,” he says. “I think the best is really yet to come.”
The combination of new technologies of Robots and all in the Middle East’s oil and gas industry’s growth engine is thought to help energy companies to improve efficiency and, most importantly, accelerate growth at a time of pessimism, fear, and the expectation that economic growth and the hydrocarbon markets will decline in the future.The image above is of IGN
Robots to be oil and gas industry’s growth engine
Robots will be the industry’s growth engine, and the oil and gas sector will greatly benefit from emerging use cases.
Advances in modular and customisable robots is expected to result in growing deployment of robotics in the oil and gas industry, says GlobalData.
GlobalData’s thematic report, ‘Robotics in Oil & Gas’, notes that, while robotics has been a part of the oil and gas industry for several decades, growing digitalisation and integration with artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and Internet of Things (IoT), have helped diversify robot use cases within the industry.
Anson Fernandes, Oil and Gas Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “A huge number of robots are now being deployed in oil and gas operations, including terrestrial crawlers, quadrupeds, aerial drones, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).”
Robots have applications across the oil and gas industry in various tasks ranging from surveys, material handling, and construction to inspection, repair, and maintenance. They can be customised for various tasks to ease the work and improve efficiency. During the planning phases of an oil and gas project, robots can be deployed to conduct aerial surveys, or they can be employed to conduct seismic surveys during exploration. Aerial or underwater drones can be adopted depending upon the project location and work requirements.
Fernandes continues: “Robotics is a fast-growing industry. According to GlobalData forecasts, it was worth $52.9 billion in 2021 and will reach $568 billion by 2030, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30%. Robots will be the industry’s growth engine, and the oil and gas sector will greatly benefit from emerging use cases.”
Data analytics and robotics improve insight obtained from surveys and surveillance exercises. This symbiotic relationship between robotics and wider digitalisation technologies is expected to be further evolve through collaborations between technology providers and oil and gas industry players.
Fernandes concludes: “The volume of robotics use cases in the oil and gas industry is expected to grow rapidly, in tow with digitalisation. Industrial robots with analytical support from digital technologies is expected to become the mainstay across the oil and gas industry, especially in the upstream sector, where personnel safety and operational security concerns are heightened.”
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