We all know technology could turn one of the greatest challenges of today into one of the greatest opportunities for sustainable socio-economic development to maintain economic progress while dramatically reducing emissions, but beyond Tech: Prioritising water and food security in smart City Development would be a must, especially in certain regions of the globe.
Beyond Tech: Prioritising water and food security in smart City Development
By Chandra Dake,
May 14, 2023
Dake Rechsand’s Chandra Dake examines why water and food security networks are equally essential for the smart cities of the future.
Smart city projects dominate the development vision of economies across the world. In the Middle East, such developments are gaining momentum by the day. Therefore, a future where the word “smart” prefixes every city in the developing world is not too far away. However, at this juncture, the question remains: What are smart cities beyond their obvious technological underpinnings?
By definition, smart cities are urban centres where infrastructure, such as power grids, water utilities, and traffic control, is connected via different information and communication technologies (ICT). In the Middle East, smart city developments must prioritise food and water networks due to long-standing scarcities. Due to systemic challenges, including but not limited to an arid climate, high soil salinity, unreliable rainfall, and desert conditions, the region has not made progress toward sustainable water and food security.
Systems thinking approach to food security
Food scarcity has many causal factors as well as consequences. In the regional context, it has led to a trade deficit, with nearly 90 percent of food being imported. Such supply-chain dependencies are not sustainable in the long run. While the obvious solution is local food production through agriculture, it is anything but easy due to desert conditions, soil salinity, and water scarcity, among other detriments. This complex situation calls for a “systems thinking” approach.
Systems thinking posits a multidimensional assessment of a problem, as well as a strong focus on how various constituents interrelate. For example, due to soil salinity, local food production requires excessive irrigation, which further aggravates existing water scarcity. The adoption of smart agriculture technologies (AgriTech), such as irrigation sensors and precision farming, carries merit. However, their impact is limited to increased efficiency in irrigation and yield measurement; they cannot address systemic challenges such as soil salinity.
Water-retentive mediums such as ‘Breathable Sand’ make a compelling case here. Through its permeability, it ensures effective nutrient supply to the roots, leading to optimal yield with nearly 80 percent less water usage. Combined with smart AgriTech, such solutions can enhance food security without compromising water goals, characteristic of systems thinking. Concurrently, smart cities, through the effective use of sensors and networks, must make provision for a reduction in water usage, reuse, and recycling.
Sponginess adds to smartness in cities
As part of smart city projects, developers can implement Sponge City solutions like ‘IDer’ across public areas. In application, they absorb rainfall runoffs, keep surfaces free from waterlogging and skidding, and even filter and store the water in underground reservoirs. The harvested water can enhance the city’s water security, as well as supercharge its agriculture-led food security efforts. Instead of traditional carbon-intensive techniques, such as the construction of canals and sewers, urban master planners can explore Sponge Cities to address flooding incidents associated with increasing rainfall.
Thanks to smart cities’ ICT capabilities, stakeholders can effectively measure the positive outcomes. The “measurability” is paramount because, in the short term, it enables regional economies to show accountability and transparency in key conventions such as COP28 and, in the long term, helps stay on track to achieving ambitious goals like net-zero emissions.
The bottom line is that the standalone capabilities of ICT in smart cities need on-the-ground, practical solutions to contribute to sustainable development goals.
Chandra Dake is the Executive Chairman and Group CEO of the Dake Group.
[GreenBiz publishes a range of perspectives on the transition to a clean economy. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the position of GreenBiz.]
Nature has had a 3.8 billion years’ head start on humans learning how to solve complex challenges. Humans have been mimicking the natural world to solve the complexities and challenges of the built environment for millennia — from ancient Indian rock-cut architecture in 6000 BCE to Gothic cathedrals.
With the growing realization of how urbanization, industrialization and unfettered economic growth are affecting our world, we must look to nature for sustainability solutions.
Modern building techniques are material-intensive and polluting — it’s responsible for around one-quarter of land system change and 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And with an area the size of Paris being built up each week, we need to do better.
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued yet another dire warning and calls out the critical role of the built environment in climate change mitigation. The construction industry has the power to shape a more resilient, nature-positive economy, and nature can show us how: from the city level to the building design level to the material and component level, there’s a wealth of examples from which to learn.
Biomimetic design at the city level
The Mobius project’s futuristic-looking greenhouse showcases just what cities need now: a way to manage a city’s infrastructure system — from waste treatment to the water system, for example — through a closed-loop circular economy approach.
Iguana Architects, the project’s creator, modeled this after the oak tree, one of nature’s brilliant examples that has the potential to reuse its output resources such as materials, energy and water, therefore acting as a closed-loop system and conserving resources. By mimicking a natural ecosystem, Mobius rethinks water treatment, energy generation and waste management. Biological waste, for example, is turned into locally grown food, cutting down on the food miles — or it’s turned into methane to generate electricity for the greenhouse.
Many cities struggle to plant their own food — particularly those in drier regions. The Sahara Forest Project is trying to create life in one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth, learning from nature’s innovations for desert life. Researchers studied how the Namibian fog-basking beetle survives in such an arid environment, finding that it attracts and collects water droplets from fog and wind to drink. The beetle’s hydrophilic shell allows it to survive in a climate that only receives 1 centimeter of water per year. Based on this finding, the idea of the seawater-cooled greenhouse was born.
That’s not all — solar panels were also arranged to receive light reflected from a mirror to harvest the sun’s power at an exponential rate. Exploration, the architectural firm behind this project, created a 2.4-acre pilot project — such a success that they claim that “a facility with [148 acres] of greenhouses could provide all the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines currently imported into Qatar.” The project has been scaled and successfully implemented in Jordan and Tunisia.
While single creatures have a lot to teach us, so do entire ecosystems. Inspired by the concept of ecological succession, in which the structure of a biological community evolves over time, Jan Kudlicka and his team came up with a plan to regenerate the low-income Rio settlement favela da Rocinha. His plan: organizing the region in vertical levels, with the ground floor for stores, medical offices and other services, the middle layer for living and the rooftops destined for playgrounds, open air cinema and gardens. This optimizes the use of space in a crowded area that cannot grow out but must grow “up,” as space is limited by the mountains above and the city below. The project also seeks to regenerate the structure of existing buildings instead of tearing them down to build new ones — thus saving on materials and minimizing pollution.
Biomimetic buildings: How nature has inspired centuries of architecture
Renowned architects — from Antonio Gaudi to Buckminster Fuller to Frei Otto — have drawn inspiration from nature when dreaming up their buildings. Even the Eiffel Tower is said to have been based on the structure of the human femur. While biomimicry has been on architects’ minds for a while, now it is being explored at a new level.
Recently, inspiration has been garnered from something that appears fragile at first glance. The Eden project, a giant greenhouse inspired by the biblical Garden of Eden, was designed to resemble soap bubbles — optimally positioned in the sun to allow for complete self-heating. Dragonfly wings served as inspiration for the best way to assemble pieces of steel —allowing for a lightweight structure that required fewer carbon emissions to transport from place to place.
Lightweighting is a primary concern in designing the built environment: doing more with less. While hemp and bamboo are standout options, we can also draw inspiration from the abalone shell. Chemically, its composition is similar to that of blackboard chalk, although there’s a key structural difference between the two — the manner in which the shell’s calcium carbonate discs are layered make the formation 3,000 times stronger. By mimicking the discs, we can create strong structures with half the volume of materials, reducing the need for virgin materials in construction. Inspired by these abalone discs, scientists are working towards developing bendable concrete that can extend infrastructure’s service life while reducing costs.
Biomimicry for building materials: Zooming in to the microscopic level
We can narrow down to a microscopic level to learn which other tricks nature has up her sleeve. The lotus leaf, for example, boasts tiny hairs covered with a waxy coating that allows it to stay dry. The lotus leaf’s structure has inspired a protective coating for external areas that is water — and dirt — repellent, decreasing buildings’ need for maintenance. When it rains, the droplets roll off, picking up dirt on the way down. This decreases the need for protective finishings, which are usually toxic and can be harsh on the environment.
Limestone-producing bacteria have also served as inspiration to cut maintenance costs by millions of euros while extending buildings’ lifespans. Hendrick Jonkers, a researcher from TU Delft, was fascinated by the way bones regenerate themselves after being broken, and wanted to translate this into regeneration in the built environment. He discovered that certain bacteria can produce limestone, filling the gaps and cracks that affect concrete structures over time.
From the micro to macro level, nature has the power to inspire
Nature can be used to guide urban planning for sustainable cities, shape individual buildings and even act as a muse for material innovation. We already have an expansive library of solutions — we just have to roll them out at scale.
Given the built environment’s impact, it’s time to get serious about building in a way that harmonizes with, rather than harms, nature. While biomimetic design is definitely not the holy grail towards achieving a regenerative built environment, it could become a source of inspiration. We like to think of ourselves as the most intelligent species — but Mother Earth has many more years of experience and she is happy to share her free intellectual property.
Here are some thoughts ‘On Urban Greening 2023 and the challenge of valuing nature at this stage; as the author put it, “Generations of capitalism, consumerism and environmental degradation will take much undoing to move humanity back to operating within our ecological limits.”
Generations of capitalism, consumerism and environmental degradation will take a lot of undoing to move humanity back to operating within our ecological limits.
All those involved in the built environment have their work cut out for them. First, it was operational and embodied carbon. Then it was biodiversity, and soon it will be embodied water.
The Fifth Estate’s Urban Greening 2023 event on Thursday highlights the top thinkers, researchers and practitioners of biophilic design and integrating nature back into our homes, workplaces and places of leisure.
And what better way to kick off the day with appreciation of earth-centred governance with a keynote from Earth Laws Alliance of Australia national convenor, Michelle Maloney?
The earth jurisprudence expert framed the discussion with research from Will Steffen on the “Great Acceleration” – a 2015 study which visualises how the acceleration of industrial system development since the 1950s impacted our socio-economic and planetary wealth in 24 economic and earth system trends.
As the graphs of earth system trends in the image below indicate, increased economic output and development occurs in tandem with stratospheric rises of all indicators, from population to GDP, CO2 to ocean acidification, and tropical forest loss to coastal nitrogen levels.
These trends describe planet Earth’s transition from the Holocene, where all beings live in harmony with each other, to the Anthropocene, where human survival dominates that of all other living things.
The result is that humanity has created an “over-extractivist way of being influenced everything we all do,” Maloney said.
“And not one of us can change it on our own. But there’s an entire body of work that’s out there that’s challenging these systems. And great acceleration…was entirely manmade, entirely reliant on fossil fuels. And something that is entirely capable of being changed into something much better.”
Before launching into what most would consider radical ideas for changing our mindsets and improving our stewardship of the planet, Maloney refers to her work with leading Indigenous thinker Mary Graham to emphasise the importance of working with Indigenous governance systems and the laws of Country to build better futures.
“And that’s why we call ourselves Future Dreaming. Because yes, we’re a little bit out there. But is it weird or unusual to think that we should try to live within ecological limits?”
In her search for what she terms “alternative governance models”, Maloney was enchanted by Graham’s construct of “sacralised ecological custodianship” which has driven much of her focus as an environmental lawyer on “nature personhood” where human rights are conferred on things like mountains, rivers and the like.
The threads of how to modify our governance, financial and economic systems to build a better world carried over into a fascinating discussion featuring panellists from EY, KPMG, NSW government and GHD.
As KPMG head of social and sustainable finance Carolin Leeshaa pointed out: “We tend to think of nature as free, but it’s really not.”
The World Economic Forum, she said, estimates that nature directly contributes $US125 trillion to the world economy every year, and around 50 per cent of global GDP is either moderately or highly dependent on nature.
On the flip side, we now realise that if we degrade nature through deforestation, water pollution and species loss, it carries significant material financial risks.
She pointed to a growing realisation among corporates that preserving nature needs to be part of investment and strategic decision-making. “We’re bounded by nature because we simply cannot grow beyond our planetary boundaries.”
The need to incorporate nature into economic language and terminology gives Rasika Mohan market lead for sustainability, resilience and ESG for GHD Advisory, “a twinge of discomfort because it seems like this is the only way we can preserve and protect nature.”
Her most depressing example of this is that in land valuation, a patch of land is worth more if it is cleared than if it is rich in natural diversity, because cleared land is thought to be economically productive, “whereas land that has wilderness on it is considered to be a poor return.”
Mohan pointed to GHD’s recent work on the Fishermans Bend redevelopment in Melbourne where the company studied ways to implement biodiversity sensitive urban design to revegetate and rehabilitate former industrial spaces, and a rehabilitation at the aptly named Boggy Creek in Victoria’s Otway Ranges, a former sand quarry and creek. Finding quality data is a recurring issue, she added, even in the face of advancements such as digital twins and LIDAR (light detection and ranging).
Amy Croucher spoke about NSW Treasury’s Sustainability Advantage program that works with businesses to undertake a Nature Health Check and an action plan to implement change.
The program developed a natural capital accounting framework for the Wollondilly Shire Council, a peri-urban development area to the south of Sydney, which [tp1] is home to critically endangered ecological communities, where the aim was to quantify the amount and type of native vegetation that might be impacted by development.
Emma Herd, partner with EY, likened the process of incorporating natural capital into existing economic and financial systems as a “translation exercise.. it’s about taking the large amorphous and turning it into things that business must and can be doing, and measurable impacts and outcomes from them.
“Getting business to do things is often giving them the language and the tools they need to make decisions and act as well. The challenge is, how do we do that in a way that doesn’t throw out all the new, by bringing it into the fold?”
Mohan said it wasn’t capitalism that felt uncomfortable, rather it was the fear of the unknown. “You can’t really predict the future, but you can only be resilient enough to be able to adapt to it and bounce back from it…so I think it’s a deeply uncomfortable space.”
We need to conserve 30 per cent of nature by 2030
Leeshaa described the signing of the Gulf Biodiversity Framework at COP 15 last year, which stipulates that 30 per cent of nature must be conserved by 2030, as a landmark development for the nature positive movement because it will translate into new national legislation, as is occurring with the federal government’s new Nature Repair Markets Bill.
Having the tools to assign a monetary value to nature is one thing, but it will all be for naught if consumers are unwilling to pay for it.
What the developers think
No one knows this more keenly than large-scale property developers. The Fifth Estate managing editor Tina Perinotto, moderated a panel that included Mulpha head of developments Tim Spencer, who observed a general flight to quality towards sustainable buildings but argued that to achieve better outcomes, it was necessary to push architects harder to allocate space for green infrastructure because they tended to want to maximise the amount of built form on a given site.
Melissa Schulz, general manager of sustainability at QIC described the fund manager’s master plan to develop green spaces around the Castle Towers shopping mall in Sydney’s northwest. “I think I’m speaking to the converted when I say that Western Sydney has a problem with the urban heat island effect. So [adding green infrastructure in that location is really, really important.” QIC is also pushing the green envelope at its office tower in Albert Street, Brisbane, one of the above-station developments as part of the Cross River Rail project.
Not to be outdone, Mirvac senior sustainability manager Andrew Scerri pointed to a master-planned community in Western Australia where the developer had managed to preserve 600 established trees. “And it’s actually a cost saving as well because transplanting them within the site was a lot cheaper than buying them.”
But the property developer‘s curse is that no matter how much you flex your green credentials and no matter how many trees you plant, someone will always point to flaws in your track record. Mirvac’s Scerri was painfully reminded of this when a Hornsby Shire councillor in the audience took the floor in a fiery exchange to ask how this could be reconciled with the company recently cutting down “hundreds of trees” at a recent project in her municipality.
With time running out before the Taskforce for Nature-Related Financial Disclosures releases its framework guidance in September, developers, fund managers and consultants alike are scrambling to find the data and tools they need to measure and manage the ecological footprint of their operations.
While it’s clear that some have a lot of catching up to do, it’s also apparent that even in the short space of a year since Urban Greening 2022, the industry’s approach to listening, understanding and working with nature has significantly evolved.
It feels like the “translation exercise” is well underway.
Masking the true scale of action needed to avert Climate Change is increasingly obvious to many observers around the world. Here is Kevin Anderson, University of Manchester with his own perception of the issue.
IPCC’s conservative nature masks true scale of action needed to avert catastrophic climate change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) synthesis report recently landed with an authoritative thump, giving voice to hundreds of scientists endeavouring to understand the unfolding calamity of global heating. What’s changed since the last one in 2014? Well, we’ve dumped an additional third of a trillion tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere, primarily from burning fossil fuels. While world leaders promised to cut global emissions, they have presided over a 5% rise.
The new report evokes a mild sense of urgency, calling on governments to mobilise finance to accelerate the uptake of green technology. But its conclusions are far removed from a direct interpretation of the IPCC’s own carbon budgets (the total amount of CO₂ scientists estimate can be put into the atmosphere for a given temperature rise).
The report claims that, to maintain a 50:50 chance of warming not exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, CO₂ emissions must be cut to “net-zero” by the “early 2050s”. Yet, updating the IPCC’s estimate of the 1.5°C carbon budget, from 2020 to 2023, and then drawing a straight line down from today’s total emissions to the point where all carbon emissions must cease, and without exceeding this budget, gives a zero CO₂ date of 2040.
A full description of the above chart is available here.
Given it will take a few years to organise the necessary political structures and technical deployment, the date for eliminating all CO₂ emissions to remain within 1.5°C of warming comes closer still, to around the mid-2030s. This is a strikingly different level of urgency to that evoked by the IPCC’s “early 2050s”. Similar smoke and mirrors lie behind the “early 2070s” timeline the IPCC conjures for limiting global heating to 2°C.
IPCC science embeds colonial attitudes
For over two decades, the IPCC’s work on cutting emissions (what experts call “mitigation”) has been dominated by a particular group of modellers who use huge computer models to simulate what may happen to emissions under different assumptions, primarily related to price and technology. I’ve raised concerns before about how this select cadre, almost entirely based in wealthy, high-emitting nations, has undermined the necessary scale of emission reductions.
In 2023, I can no longer tiptoe around the sensibilities of those overseeing this bias. In my view, they have been as damaging to the agenda of cutting emissions as Exxon was in misleading the public about climate science. The IPCC’s mitigation report in 2022 did include a chapter on “demand, services and social aspects” as a repository for alternative voices, but these were reduced to an inaudible whisper in the latest report’s influential summary for policymakers.
The specialist modelling groups (referred to as Integrated Assessment Modelling, or IAMs) have successfully crowded out competing voices, reducing the task of mitigation to price-induced shifts in technology – some of the most important of which, like so-called “negative emissions technologies”, are barely out of the laboratory.
The IPCC offers many “scenarios” of future low-carbon energy systems and how we might get there from here. But as the work of academic Tejal Kanitkar and others has made clear, not only do these scenarios prefer speculative technology tomorrow over deeply challenging policies today (effectively a greenwashed business-as-usual), they also systematically embed colonial attitudes towards “developing nations”.
With few if any exceptions, they maintain current levels of inequality between developed and developing nations, with several scenarios actually increasing the levels of inequality. Granted, many IAM modellers strive to work objectively, but they do so within deeply subjective boundaries established and preserved by those leading such groups.
What happened to equity?
If we step outside the rarefied realm of IAM scenarios that leading climate scientist Johan Rockström describes as “academic gymnastics that have nothing to do with reality”, it’s clear that not exceeding 1.5°C or 2°C will require fundamental changes to most facets of modern life.
Starting now, to not exceed 1.5°C of warming requires 11% year-on-year cuts in emissions, falling to nearer 5% for 2°C. However, these global average rates ignore the core concept of equity, central to all UN climate negotiations, which gives “developing country parties” a little longer to decarbonise.
Include equity and most “developed” nations need to reach zero CO₂ emissions between 2030 and 2035, with developing nations following suit up to a decade later. Any delay will shrink these timelines still further.
Most IAM models ignore and often even exacerbate the obscene inequality in energy use and emissions, both within nations and between individuals. As the International Energy Agency recently reported, the top 10% of emitters accounted for nearly half of global CO₂ emissions from energy use in 2021, compared with 0.2% for the bottom 10%. More disturbingly, the greenhouse gas emissions of the top 1% are 1.5 times those of the bottom half of the world’s population.
So where does this leave us? In wealthier nations, any hope of arresting global heating at 1.5 or 2°C demands a technical revolution on the scale of the post-war Marshall Plan. Rather than relying on technologies such as direct air capture of CO₂ to mature in the near future, countries like the UK must rapidly deploy tried-and-tested technologies.
Retrofit housing stock, shift from mass ownership of combustion-engine cars to expanded zero-carbon public transport, electrify industries, build new homes to Passivhaus standard, roll-out a zero-carbon energy supply and, crucially, phase out fossil fuel production.
Three decades of complacency has meant technology on its own cannot now cut emissions fast enough. A second, accompanying phase, must be the rapid reduction of energy and material consumption.
Given deep inequalities, this, and deploying zero-carbon infrastructure, is only possible by re-allocating society’s productive capacity away from enabling the private luxury of a few and austerity for everyone else, and towards wider public prosperity and private sufficiency.
For most people, tackling climate change will bring multiple benefits, from affordable housing to secure employment. But for those few of us who have disproportionately benefited from the status quo, it means a profound reduction in how much energy we use and stuff we accumulate.
The question now is, will we high-consuming few make (voluntarily or by force) the fundamental changes needed for decarbonisation in a timely and organised manner? Or will we fight to maintain our privileges and let the rapidly changing climate do it, chaotically and brutally, for us?
DW takes us to the hottest area to tell us how local people are putting their hands together for a better future for everyone at a time when realising that energy cooperation is a necessary step; it is about Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs jointly tackling climate change.
The Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. It’s already being hit disproportionately by rising temperatures, water scarcity and desertification. And the outlook for the future is grim.
These are all compelling reasons for experts in the region to collaborate more, say the organizers of a conference on agriculture, water and food security. The conference, which was attended by experts from Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and several Arabic and Muslim countries, aimed to develop practical programs to address regional challenges.
“So much can be done in this region by cooperating across borders,” said William Wechsler, senior director of the N7 Initiative which organized the conference held last week in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi. The initiative promotes collaboration between Israel and Arab and Muslim nations that have signed the Abraham Accords, a deal brokered in 2020 to normalize relations between Israel and several Arab countries, including Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“For example, water can be made more available, food prices can be lowered, and people’s lives can be made more secure,” said Wechsler, listing the advantages of potential cooperations.
Wechsler believes agriculture is an ideal basis for climate change collaboration. Not only is it a field where progress can be made quickly, it could also have a big impact on people’s lives across the MENA region.
“If we miss the opportunity to address climate change now, the window of opportunity will eventually close,” Wechsler warned.
Although there are challenges to establishing governments and private sector cooperations, Wechsler believes those actively involved in tackling climate change and its effects are keen to work together.
“At the end of the day, scientists and engineers are practical people who are interested in solving problems, no matter where they are from,” Wechsler told DW.
Difficult to find funding for joint projects
For conference participant Faouzi Bekkaoui, the director of Morocco’s National Agricultural Research Institute, Israel has much to offer his country.
“Israeli expertise relates in particular to water usage efficiency, such as irrigation systems and developing more resilient crops and varieties,” he told DW.
Morocco is among the world’s most water-stressed countries, according to a World Bank 2022 report, and its agricultural sector is badly affected by the water shortage and climate change.
“Israel also made significant progress in biotechnology or genomics, and all these areas could be beneficial for Morocco, as well,” he said.
But funds for joint Moroccan-Israeli projects or academic exchanges are limited. Bekkaoui has now applied to the US-based Merck Foundation, which funds projects between Israel and the Arab countries that signed the Abraham Accords, for a grant.
The region lacks a tradition of cross-border academic cooperations.
“Most national research administrations … have limited pathways to grant research funding to foreign organizations,” said Youssef Wehbe, a researcher at the National Center of Meteorology in Abu Dhabi, in a recent podcast by the Middle East Institute.
Finding funding for cross-border projects to combat climate change is even more complex. During the World Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, richer nations agreed to provide adaptation funds worth $40 billion (€37.3 billion) annually for low- and middle-income countries from 2025 onwards.
But most of this finance is awarded in the form of loans for mitigation projects to reduce fossil fuel usage, such as installing solar panels or wind farms, which return a profit to lending nations, explained Wehbe.
In contrast, financing for adaptation schemes is low as they are “harder to fund and are less attractive to funding nations compared to the loan model, which returns a profit for these lending nations,” Wehbe said.
He calls for more globally oriented research programs targeting climate change “to solicit ideas from the international scientific community.”
Tackling climate change to reduce conflict
Agriculture and climate change expert Jamal Saghir, a professor at Canada’s McGill University and former World Bank director, also regards collaboration across borders as the best solution.
“Regional cooperation is always a win-win situation and much better than national or bilateral projects,” he told DW. “Most of the Mideast countries are not doing enough yet and climate change is much faster.”
The Middle East is warming at twice the global average. This is expected to fuel competition and conflict over dwindling resources – making it essential for the region to tackle climate change and its consequences such as more migration and unrest.
However, Saghir believes the region can leapfrog these issues through technology. Here he seesIsrael and the Gulf countries in a position to take a lead.
“Israeli technology is leading in desalination and irrigation and the region would benefit a lot from these methods,” he said. The United Arab Emirates, beyond their thriving oil business, have also made significant investments in renewable energies, he pointed out.
“Joint collaboration will lead to new ideas in research and development, which can then be implemented by several countries,” he said. “What are they waiting for? This could happen now.”
Building a basis of trust
Tareq Abu Hamad, executive director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel, believes tackling climate change together with other scientists across the region could turn into “a great opportunity to build trust.”
“We live in a small region that is considered as a hotspot when it comes to climate change, and we do not have any other option than cooperating with each other to deal with these challenges,” he said.
Alex Plitsas, who is involved in the N7 Initiative, was struck by one scene at the conference that filled him with hope.
“The most extraordinary thing I witnessed … in Abu Dhabi was when a male Arab diplomat from a Gulf state wearing traditional thobe & donning a kaffiyeh sat with a female Israeli entrepreneur and I late at night,” he wrote on Twitter, “as they worked to figure out how to make people’s lives better.”
Originally posted on HUMAN WRONGS WATCH: Human Wrongs Watch (UN News)* — Disinformation, hate speech and deadly attacks against journalists are threatening freedom of the press worldwide, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday [2 May 2023], calling for greater solidarity with the people who bring us the news. UN Photo/Mark Garten | File photo…
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