Year after year, climate change is increasingly linked to economic crises experienced by many countries and on the living standards of their people. Climate change-associated phenomena - floods, unseasonal storms, scarcity of rain, sweltering heat, and melting glaciers - have serious repercussions at the economic level, but the quality of life on the planet.
There is a global alert on to reduce such drastic changes and eventually avoid some of the worst repercussions. UN climate change conferences are held annually to take global action and tackle these changes. For example, those like the COP27 summit that concluded in Sharm Al Sheikh and featuring attendees from 197 countries.
This reflects the importance given to the issue of the strong link between climate change and economic development, prompting a global response. The UAE will host the next summit – the COP28 - in 2023, and preparations started as soon as it was officially confirmed.
In fact, achievements have been made since the first summit in 1994, especially with regard to the development of clean energy sources to reduce carbon emissions. Among these is the significant reduction in the cost of producing solar panels, which has speeded up their spread. This is in addition to wind power and estuaries and the more recent embarking on the production of green hydrogen.
Two important outcomes have been noticed. The first lies in the scarcity of financing needed to develop clean energy sources in many countries, whereby the UAE has helped establish renewable energy production in many countries. Recently, the UAE signed a significant partnership with the US to invest $100 billion to contribute to financing alternate energy sources.
The second one lies in escalating international tensions and outbreak of wars, leading to missed opportunities to face climate-related repercussions.
The GCC has made remarkable progress in preparing for the expected climate repercussions. This is manifest in the development of clean energy sources and cooperation in the field of cloud seeding, which will contribute to reducing temperatures and increasing the area of green cover.
However, there are still some aspects of environmental protection that need more. In the GCC, water recycling has focused mainly on the treatment of wastewater and its use in the production of fertilizers and for irrigation. There is interest in collecting cardboard waste, but the rest of what comes through as waste has not yet been exploited. This constitutes a wealth that can generate billions.
In many countries, trash bins are dedicated for glass, plastics, and paper, and the process of recycling them contributes to preserving natural resources and reducing pollution and gas emissions, as well as increase local income.
Such waste bins in the GCC are limited to some commercial complexes, but this ‘wealth’ can be better used in the interest of climate and the environment. As for the feasibility of such a step, and since some GCC countries are considered small markets, it is possible to establish waste recycling centres in some of the bigger consumption markets, such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Recycling materials can be exported to these centers from relatively small markets, which will benefit to both exporting and importing countries and eventually lead to the protection of the Gulf’s environment. And with economic returns for all.
The GCC’s General Secretariat or one of authorities on environment and climate can prepare an integrated project for coordination among GCC states to bring about this qualitative shift.