rising sea levels
How far and how soon can GCC states put together the funds required to take on climate change challenges? Image Credit: Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

Coastal countries and cities are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change - rising sea levels that could submerge economically and strategically significant regions, such as Singapore and popular tourist destinations like the Maldives.

Fortunately, there is still time to mitigate any such repercussions through proactive preventive measures and adequate financial allocations. By taking such steps, these countries and cities can safeguard their continued prosperity and preserve their commercial significance, drawing on successful examples from around the world.

In Singapore, the Water Information Institute was established focusing on research using advanced technologies, including AI, to forecast the likely impact on the island from any climate change variables. This is crucial as Singapore is a major global commercial and financial center, especially in the highly strategic East Asia region.

Singapore's $100b commitment

Financially, in 2019, Singapore committed S$100 billion (US$74 billion) to coastal protection. These include constructing water barriers and planting sea trees, which can reduce wave intensity by up to 75 per cent, while also focusing on reducing harmful carbon emissions.

In Indonesia, a new capital is set to be inaugurated next August, designed to be safer from climate risks and entailing a budget of $35 billion. This new city will replace Jakarta, which is slated to receive $40 billion over the next decade to protect it from natural disasters, especially rising sea levels.

Similarly, the Philippines is considering establishing a new capital to replace Manila, which also faces significant climate change threats.

The situation is particularly dire for island nations like the Maldives, where 90 per cent of the islands have experienced erosion, and 80 per cent of the country is projected to be uninhabitable by 2050, especially the capital Malé, if urgent protective measures are not taken.

The Maldivian government has allocated 50 per cent of its government budget to combat climate repercussions. It has been warning of such risks for two decades, and some residents have expressed intentions to migrate due to the anticipated dangers.

Other countries facing severe climate change threats - such as China, India, Vietnam, and the Netherlands - have also implemented significant measures to protect their coastlines.

In the Gulf, most cities are located along the Arabian Gulf coast, alongside numerous Gulf islands. This geographical reality underscores the urgent need for comprehensive scientific, technical, financial, and environmental measures to protect these areas and prevent potential economic and social repercussions.

Establishing joint Gulf research institutes and centers is a strategic step to understand the unique changes and risks for the region, which may differ from those in other areas and require bespoke measures. Scientific studies can help determine the necessary strategies to avoid risks, and cooperation agreements can be signed with countries that possess advanced scientific technologies.

Be consistent with budget allocations

Financially, it is essential to adopt the necessary budget allocations based on studies to protect cities and islands from environmental risks impacting the Gulf. These annual allocations can significantly reduce the cost of delayed interventions, which may be expensive and place a heavy burden on state budgets in the short-term. Consistent funding is more sustainable and can be less financially taxing over time.

Additionally, building natural barriers around cities and islands is a viable strategy. Planting trees that can thrive in Gulf waters, such as mangroves, which are already widespread on some Gulf coasts, is one approach.

Developing saltwater farming techniques can also be harnessed to form natural barriers and improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide. These measures will protect cities and islands, reduce financial burdens, and contribute to preserving the infrastructure necessary for growth.