In the past few years, the GCC countries have individually dealt with the consequences of the close relationship between economic development and climate change. This issue has been significantly affecting economic and social development programmes as well as the provision of energy sources and economic diversification.

This new approach is called by some as the “green economy”, based on the foundations of sustainable development that ensure the permanent supply of clean energy and raw materials necessary for growth — by preserving available resources without harming the environment and reducing the negative impact of climate change on development.

These efforts have been receiving growing attention. The United Nations, recently held its 18th climate change conference in Doha, where four GCC states — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain — filed a historic joint submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), pledging to bring forward climate-smart economic diversification plans.

Within this framework, each country or group of countries, as is the case with the Gulf group, is required to set its own methods and approaches to reduce emissions by encouraging clean energy projects and setting up modern industries that rely on less polluting technologies and develop strong foundations for sustainable development that consider climate change and deal with it accordingly.

The programme, sponsored by four GCC states, enjoys great credibility and good prospects for implementation. Among Arab and developing countries, most GCC countries have ambitious programmes to develop clean energy sources. The UAE, for example, has allocated $62 billion (Dh228.03 billion) to develop renewable energy, especially solar energy, through Masdar City and Mohammad Bin Rashid Solar Park, apart from wind power generation.

The UAE’s efforts in this regard has extended to include assisting in implementation of such projects in other countries, such as Britain and Spain, while the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has allocated Dh184 million ($50 million) to finance renewable energy projects in the form of soft loans in developing countries.

Saudi Arabia has estimated investments in solar energy at $109 billion to create permanent sources of clean energy to reduce carbon emissions and dealing with its negative economic repercussions, while Qatar has allocated $20 billion to develop clean energy sources, specifically solar energy. Bahrain is striving to adopt similar projects, bringing the number of clean energy projects planned in the GCC to 30.

Thus, this agreement is pivotal for GCC programmes in the production of renewable energy, sustainable development and climate conservation. This approach paves the way for joint Gulf action capable of dealing with one of the most important challenges in the world.

A decade ago, climate change caused harmful and costly economic effects that led to an increase in food prices and cost the world huge losses as a result of floods, drought, and natural disasters.

Among other benefits, inter-GCC coordination in this regard will lower the costs of these programmes and establish Gulf common centres for research, development and nationalisation of techniques used in producing clean energy. It will also help develop the necessary studies to reduce the impacts of climate change on the Gulf economies and the optimal use of natural resources, especially in the area of water scarcity in the GCC countries.

In addition, the establishment and development of modern industries, which are less harmful to the environment and based on advanced technology and clean energy, are capital-intensive industries that require huge funds. The GCC countries may not have such huge funds on their own, and hence need to work collectively — an approach included in the joint statement.

The swift participation of Kuwait and Oman in this programme will significantly help ensure energy supplies and strengthen the foundations of sustainable development in the two countries.

Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.