Five climate action projects from MENA that are making a real difference
Middle East and North Africa Climate Week is taking place this week in Dubai, bringing together key stakeholders to explore the region’s climate challenges and opportunities and showcase ambitious solutions.
The entire region is a climate change hotspot. It is already the most water-scarce region in the world – and the increasing temperatures are predicted to lead to more persistent and acute drought.
Building resilience is key, which is why effective climate action is vital to limit the worst effects of the climate crisis. Here then are five climate action projects from the Middle East and North Africa that are making a real difference.
RISE2030 is a community-led initiative, based in Beirut that focuses on empowering women and youth, with the aim of improving living conditions in Lebanon’s most deprived areas through education, employment and empowerment. The past two years have been challenging for Lebanon with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating explosion in August 2020 that left more than 300,000 families homeless.
RISE2030 has been at the forefront of the response to both tragedies, as well as launching a number of sustainability projects. In 2019, thirteen women trainees installed a solar system at a waste sorting and material recovery facility in Qaraoun, 85km southeast of Beirut. This women-led solar training project was also replicated in North Lebanon and Mount Lebanon under the Women Economic Empowerment Project with The Embassy of Canada, and the United Nations Development Fund. Thirteen women trainees installed the system and 19 women associations and small business supported the project through food production. The project helped female-led small businesses and women in the cooperatives prepare and sell their rural food through the town’s women’s association. Rise2030 is an example of the strides that can be made when sustainability and female empowerment are combined.
Fog Harvesting (Morocco)
Although they have lived for centuries on rain and well-water, today the people of Ait Baamrane, on the edge of Morocco’s Sahara Desert, rely only sporadically on this groundwater because it is no longer being replenished due to intense droughts. To help solve this problem, Dar Si Hmad, a women-led NGO in Morocco, designed and installed the world’s largest operational fog water harvesting system.
It is an innovative solution to persistent water stress where fog is abundant, a technique inspired from ancient water practices. As the wind blows the fog, droplets of water form on the nets, which then drip into containers below. The project provides accessible potable water to more than 400 people in five villages. The fog harvesting project is a successful model of a locally-driven, participatory climate change adaptation initiative, providing an environmentally friendly water source to combat the effects of desertification.
Renewable Energy Projects (The State of Palestine)
Gaza’s energy crisis is longstanding and devastating. Power outages routinely stretch across multiple hours a day, hampering the operation of factories and businesses in a region where economic activity is already under huge pressure. Gaza is racked by poverty and its unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world. Daily power outages range from 12 to 16 hours with annual supply at only one third of the peak demand. Similarly in the West Bank, access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy is rare and blackouts are common – a part of daily life for many students while at school.
To help solve this issue, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, supported the first private sector investments in domestic power supply in the West Bank and Gaza. Two distributed generation projects, PRICO Solar and Massader Solar, are bolstering power supply to help jump-start renewables and support economic development in the region.
The largest project of its kind in Gaza, the PRICO solar plant will generate and distribute up to 80 per cent of the Gaza Industrial Estate’s electricity, keeping 32 factories running, ensuring the continued employment of nearly 800 people. In the West Bank’s Massader project, up to 500 schools are being outfitted with solar panel arrays to support uninterrupted clean energy while students are in class. Innovative financing for PRICO and Massader is part of a larger effort by the IFC to create viable markets for renewable energy in the Middle East and North Africa. Blended concessional finance support from the government of Canada for PRICO and the governments of the Netherlands and Finland for Massader was critical in helping the projects proceed.
Zero Carbon Police Force (United Arab Emirates)
The city of Dubai is aiming to become the world’s “lowest carbon footprint” city by 2050, and as part of this, Dubai Police is embracing sustainability and emissions reduction. This ties into Dubai’s goal of cutting its emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and ultimately becoming carbon neutral by 2050. To help achieve this, a number of the city’s police stations have had solar panels installed on their roofs, with plans to expand the solar panels to the more than 400 buildings Dubai Police operates. Dubai Police is also planning to transform its fleet to hybrid vehicles, and reducing its reliance on traditional cars. Dubai Police is also aiming to transform its operations towards a ‘smart police’ where all services will be available electronically, reducing the need to travel to police stations.
Yalla Let’s Bike (Syria)
In 2013, Sarah Zein began cycling to avoid the traffic congestion in Syria’s capital Damascus. What should have been a normal bike ride to and from work was interrupted by frequent verbal sexual harassment from bystanders. This motivated her to co-found Yalla Let’s Bike (Come on Let’s Bike), an initiative that aims to defy traditional gender roles, combat overcrowded streets, and promote bicycling as a healthy and eco-friendly mode of transportation. So far, more than 4,000 women and girls have participated in Yalla Let’s Bike cycling events, helping overcome the stigma of women cycling. This has been reflected in growing bike sales, with bike shop owners in Damascus revealing that women and girls have made over 40 per cent of bike sale in recent years, with bike sales rising by more than 60 per cent overall.
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