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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivering to Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iron ore, HBI exports

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

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

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

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



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Measuring the impact of desert greening


Measuring the impact of desert greening as vegetation absorbs more solar energy than the desert reduces the reflectivity of the land surface.

Here is an enlightening article by KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, image above of its campus, credit to ArchDaily).


The above-featured image is for illustration and is to Credit: Sahara Forest Project


Long-term satellite data shows a significant cooling effect of vegetation on land surface temperature.

KAUST researchers compared the land surface temperatures between different planted and bare soil environments around Saudi Arabia and found that vegetation provides an extra cooling effect. © 2023 KAUST; Morgan Bennett Smith.


The searing heat of the Arabian Peninsula translates to a population vulnerable to heat stress. As temperatures continue to rise, effective strategies are urgently needed to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change in the region.

A promising approach is the greening of dry areas, which has been shown to modify the surface climate in several regions. Monitoring the impact of vegetation on surface temperature is important, as KAUST climatologist Matteo Zampieri explains.[1]

“As vegetation absorbs more solar energy compared to the desert, it reduces the reflectivity (albedo) of the land surface. This in turn increases the temperature of the land surface in water limited areas. So, the balance between increased evapotranspiration and reduced albedo compared to the bare soil determines the outcome of greening efforts,” he says.

“The outcomes may vary, based on the availability of water for plants as well as specific physiological processes of drought adapted plant species. While some instances of desert greening may lead to surface cooling, others can actually result in surface warming,” Zampieri warns.

To investigate the effects of managed vegetation, the researchers used satellite data to compare the surface temperature differences between planted areas and bare soil at five sites representing Saudi Arabia’s main agricultural regions. They also used a site at Al-Qirw with a mix of vegetation maintained by pivot irrigation. They analyzed the data at Al-Qirw, where temperature differences between vegetated and bare soil are not influenced by differences in elevation.

The satellite data were used to generate statistics on a daily basis, which showed the changes in average temperature over green areas and the effect of vegetation on temperature variability.

A normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was used as an indicator of the presence and vigor of vegetation and the land surface temperature (LST) during day and night was used to estimate the effects of vegetation on the surface climate.

At Al-Qirw, the annual mean LST differed considerably between the planted areas and bare soil. Between 2010 and 2017, the daytime LST was about 4 degrees Celsius cooler inside the area covered by vegetation compared to the surrounding bare soil.

On hotter days, vegetation provides an extra cooling effect. These results corresponded with an increase in the NDVI in the vegetated area. After 2017, the NDVI suddenly decreased and the cooling effect in Al-Qirw vanished, possibly related to water management sustainability.

Leader of the research team KAUST’s Ibrahim Hoteit says the study supports other evidence that establishing vegetation and effective water management practices mitigates high temperatures in arid regions.

“Our study shows that managed vegetation plays a crucial role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, especially heat waves,” he says.

“However, it also highlights the importance of sustainability factors because the collapse of vegetation can diminish the cooling effect and accelerate local warming trends,” he warns.


  1. Zampieri, M., Alkama, R., Luong, T., Ashok, K. & Hoteit, I. Managing vegetation for stronger cooling efficiency during hot days in the Arabian Peninsula. Ecological Indicators 154, 110789 (2023).| article.


Middle East know-how can help feed drier, hotter world


The MENA region’s climate regime influences its water resources coupled with the drought-surviving trees for its Climate Defence are the few elements of choice in this struggle.  Let us read what Aly Abousabaa had to say.


Middle East know-how can help feed drier, hotter world

By: Aly Abousabaa

Above is a farmer in Morocco showing off the new durum wheat. Credit: Michael Major.

Farmer tasting red fruit of cactus pear, in Madaba, Jordan, 2019. Copyright: Sawsan Hassan/ICARDA(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED).


The Middle East’s expertise in handling heat could be of benefit worldwide, writes Aly Abousabaa, director general of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and CGIAR’s regional director for Central and West Asia and North Africa.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the driest in the world and home to four of the five most water-stressed countries on the planet. But its legacy as the cradle of agriculture also makes it an increasingly valuable source of global wisdom and innovation for adapting food systems for hotter, drier climates – a challenge that lies ahead for a growing number of countries.

Thanks to its “fertile crescent”, a richly biodiverse area in the Middle East, the region has witnessed more than 10,000 years of agricultural transformation and continues to be at the forefront of dryland farming.

With rising temperatures and desertification spreading around the globe, this year’s COP28 climate talks in Dubai (30 November-12 December) offer a timely opportunity to learn from the region’s vast experience and the scientific solutions that are enabling desert farming against the odds.

What MENA lacks in freshwater, it makes up for in resilient, ancient plant and animal species and millennia of agricultural ingenuity.

The region’s extraordinary agricultural heritage and harsh conditions mean it remains a treasure trove of “crop wild relatives” – original food plant species that have evolved over thousands of years to survive heat, water stress and poor soil.

“Governments, policymakers and climate negotiators at COP28 must heed the lessons of the MENA region to enshrine food security in a hotter, drier world.”

Aly Abousabaa, director general, ICARDA

For scientists looking for plant genetic traits that can withstand the kinds of climate extremes now occurring in countries such as Australia, Canada, Spain and the US, MENA is a hotbed of source material from which to develop hardier, more climate tolerant crops.

For example, CGIAR recently released six new drought tolerant varieties of barley and durum wheat using samples stored at a crop genebank managed by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Morocco.

Farmer Aziz el Kaissi conducts a durum wheat trial in Ait Bouhou, Morocco, as part of an ICARDA project to collect data on improved crop varieties. Photo: Michael Major/Crop Trust.

CGIAR’s climate-smart crops offer a vital buffer against the impact of drought, which last year reduced wheat production by around 70 per cent in Morocco, where conditions were so harsh the episode was named “the drought of the century”.

ICARDA has released about 880 new crop varieties in the last 40 years, generating annual benefits worth over US$850 million – and this goes well beyond the MENA region. In the last five years, more than 120 climate-resilient cereal and legume crops have been grown in more than 20 countries.

CGIAR’s heat-resilient wheat varieties, derived from the MENA region’s crop wild relatives, increased yields by up to 24 per cent when tested on sites in Ethiopia, Lebanon, Morocco and Senegal.

Alongside breeding hardier crops, agricultural researchers in the region have also developed cutting-edge early warning systems to help MENA countries and other water-stressed nations to better forecast and anticipate droughts.

Scientists working on the MENAdrought project in collaboration with governments in Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco, have built country-specific systems which predict the likelihood of drought conditions over the next one to three months. This allows farmers and local authorities to manage water resources more effectively and make better-informed planting decisions.


drought index has already been adopted to show where stressed conditions exist and trigger actions to help, and the project has expanded to Tunisia, with interest from other MENA countries.

The region also offers a compelling example of how traditional knowledge and practices can be harnessed to bolster food security, accelerated through local and regional collaboration.

For instance, the Integrated Desert Farming Innovation Program has been launched as part of the US-UAE initiative, Agriculture Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate, to harness and expand desert farming practices across the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

Techniques that have improved productivity and reversed desertification include water management innovation, green energy integration, vertical farming, conservation agriculture and deep learning through satellite observation.

A novel technique is the use of an ancient practice known as “Marab”, which involves creating areas of relatively flat land that slows water flow after rainfall, allowing more moisture retention and less degradation.

Reseeding indigenous range species, including grasses and legumes with reduced water needs, and controlling the grazing of livestock have also been shown to contribute to rangeland rehabilitation. Using this technology in Jordan meant barley production increased from 0.34 to 8.37 tonnes per hectare and the yields became more reliable due to a lesser dependence on unpredictable rainfall.

While the world races to limit global temperature rises, climate change is already under way with now inevitable consequences both in MENA and beyond.

As many more countries face hotter and drier conditions, the MENA region is a valuable test case for the adaptive capacity of agriculture. Many of the innovations developed in the Middle East and North Africa will become instrumental to farming in a climate emergency.

Governments, policymakers and climate negotiators at COP28 must heed the lessons of the MENA region to enshrine food security in a hotter, drier world.

ICARDA researches and develops climate-smart agri-innovations to generate resilient livelihoods for dryland farmers suffering a climate crisis.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Global desk.




‘Renewables to supply half of global power by 2030’


The IEA’s latest World Energy Outlook forecasts renewables will supply almost half of the global power mix by 2030, but urges much stronger policies are needed to achieve the 1.5°C target.


The latest edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO) describes an energy system in 2030 in which clean technologies play a significantly greater role than today.


This includes almost 10 times as many electric cars on the road worldwide, solar PV generating more electricity than the entire US power system does today, renewables’ share of the global electricity mix nearing 50%, up from around 30% today, heat pumps and other electric heating systems outselling fossil fuel boilers globally and three times as much investment going into new offshore wind projects than into new coal- and gas-fired power plants.

All of those increases are based only on the current policy settings of governments around the world.


If countries deliver on their national energy and climate pledges on time and in full, clean energy progress would move even faster.


However, even stronger measures would still be needed to keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.


“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable. It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ – and the sooner the better for all of us,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.


“Governments, companies and investors need to get behind clean energy transitions rather than hindering them.


The WEO-2023 proposes a global strategy for getting the world on track by 2030 that consists of five key pillars, which can also provide the basis for a successful COP28 climate change conference.


These comprise tripling global renewable capacity, doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements, slashing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations by 75%, innovative, large-scale financing mechanisms to triple clean energy investments in emerging and developing economies; and measures to ensure an orderly decline in the use of fossil fuels, including an end to new approvals of unabated coal-fired power plants.


Birol added: “Every country needs to find its own pathway, but international cooperation is crucial for accelerating clean energy transitions.


“In particular, the speed at which emissions decline will hinge in large part on our ability to finance sustainable solutions to meet rising energy demand from the world’s fast-growing economies.


“This all points to the vital importance of redoubling collaboration and cooperation, not retreating from them.”




Equip youth in developing countries with green skills


Equip youth in developing countries with green skills to solve unprecedented climate challenges

ReliefWeb on 23 October 2023

— Equipping young people in developing countries with green skills is a vital component of tackling the unprecedented climate crisis we are facing.

This was the message from Education Above All (EAA) Foundation, one of the largest global foundations in development and education, participating in the 2023 MENA Climate Week.

Hosted by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh the event gathered policymakers, practitioners, businesses, and civil society to discuss and examine barriers to overcome climate change, solutions, and global initiatives to address the situation.

Addressing delegates in the ‘Integrating Climate Change Education into the Education Systems in the MENA region” panel discussion, Mr Abdulla Al-Abdulla , the Executive Director of Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), an EAA Foundation programme said: “The impacts of climate change, from shifting weather patterns to rising sea levels, are felt globally, and the challenges posed are unprecedented in scale. Moreover, the largest generation of youth in history, nearly 90% of 1.8 billion individuals aged 10-24, reside in developing countries.”

He continued: “These young people hold the key to our collective future, but they are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, despite bearing the least responsibility for it. Education is a powerful tool in bridging the knowledge and gap in skills that young people face in addressing climate change.”

To address this issue, EAA’s Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), has embarked on a new mandate this year focused on Education for Climate Action with three main focus areas; Greening Learning, Greening Communities, and Greening Refugee Camps.

These focus areas intend to integrate climate education into secondary school curricula and build the capacity of teachers and facilitators; equip young people with the knowledge and green skills they need to take climate actions in their communities; and develop relevant knowledge and skills for refugee youth to lead climate actions within these camps to foster sustainability.

Concluding his address Al Abdulla said:

“Our belief is that when young individuals understand the issues, acquire green skills, and develop the values and attitudes necessary for climate action, they can become the driving force behind tangible change in their communities.”

ROTA’s approach to climate education focuses on cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioural domains, prioritising the behavioural domain to encourage and empower youth to make sound climate actions using their acquired knowledge and green skills.

These initiatives align with national and regional climate plans, including Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), supporting climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience as defined by the OECD.

ROTA–EAA Foundation runs various global projects aimed at equipping youth with green skills, knowledge, values, and attitudes for sustainable living. In Vietnam, ROTA collaborates with ActionAid to empower young community leaders in driving climate action and connect youth in a national network to influence decision-makers.

Recently, ROTA–EAA Foundation also launched the Green Youth 360 project with the Girl Child Network in Kenya, empowering youth in refugee camps with skills like tree planting, beekeeping, agriculture, environmental cleanup, and renewable energy, to address environmental challenges.