Top sustainable initiatives in the Middle East

Setting sights on a greener future
Top sustainable initiatives in the Middle East
More investments in sustainability initiatives emerging in the region

Effective sustainable initiatives are essential for mitigating climate change, conserving resources, and fostering economic growth. In the Middle East, where rapid development co-exists with environmental preservation, the need for such practices is particularly evident.

Because of its unique challenges, the region faces a number of risks. Therefore, adopting sustainable initiatives is both a responsibility and an opportunity for companies to create a sustainable and resilient future.

Here we will tackle key initiatives in the Middle East that help create a sustainable future.

Investing in renewable energy

The Middle East, home to the world’s largest natural gas reserves, remains a significant player in the global energy sector. Moreover, its natural gas power generation capacity is expected to grow significantly from 965.4 to 1,667 terawatt hours by 2035.

Sustainable initiatives have become paramount in the region. In line with this, the UAE has launched several projects to meet its renewable energy targets. The country aims to generate 44 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Renewable energy programs

Thanks to major projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE is set to become the leading market for solar equipment in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 has set a goal to provide 75 percent of Dubai’s energy from clean sources by 2050.

Increasingly significant is the role of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The park, the largest single-site solar park globally, is planning to reach a capacity of 5,000 MW by 2030.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia launched a $28 bn renewable energy development program in 2019. It offers loans for clean energy projects and manufacturers of renewable energy components.

Read: Safeguarding nature in the GCC

Adopting green building standards

With industrialization in full swing, the Middle East’s infrastructure is growing at a rapid pace. In collaboration with relevant federal and local authorities, the UAE has introduced a series of new green building codes.

These codes align with the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and Water Security Strategy 2036. Specifically, the green building codes aim to reduce energy demand by 50 percent and water demand by 40 percent by 2050. Furthermore, it is expected to save $2.7 bn by 2030 and reduce 30 percent of carbon emissions.

In line with this, Abu Dhabi has introduced the Estidama Pearl Rating System. Government buildings and residential villas must obtain two pearls, while all new buildings are required to have a one-pearl rating.

Sustainable initiatives in agriculture

Maintaining crops in the arid Middle Eastern region can be challenging due to limited access to rainfall and fertile soil.

Despite being one of the leading users of water supply for agriculture globally, Iran struggles with low water availability. Turkey, on the other hand, is a standout performer in the region, contributing 2.26 percent of the world’s wheat production.

To make farming sustainable, Middle Eastern countries must adopt the latest agricultural technologies. The rise of agritech focuses on reducing agrarian waste and the use of chemical fertilizers.

On a larger scale, the GCC countries are leading the agritech movement. Collaborative partnerships between start-ups, private businesses, and governments have resulted in significant investments in agritech.

For example, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office launched partnerships worth $41 mn with agritech companies in 2020. This is the MENA region’s largest investment in this area.

Embracing digitalization

Embracing digitalization contributes to sustainability and economic growth in the Middle East. Many GCC countries prioritize advanced technologies in their economic diversification strategies.

In addition, governments, educational institutions, and private organizations in the Middle East understand the importance of digital skills. Empowering individuals with these skills drives the success of digitalization in the Middle East.

Digitalization also promotes sustainable business practices. By adopting remote work, businesses reduce their carbon footprint by minimizing travel.

A 2020 study found that 97 percent of business leaders in the Middle East and Africa expect more hybrid working models in the future. Two years later, 88 percent of UAE companies believe employees should have the opportunity to request flexible work.

In general, embracing digitalization does not only benefit businesses. It also contributes to achieving the broader goal of sustainability in the Middle East.

Promoting a circular economy

According to the 2022 Circularity Gap Report, the circular economy has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent. Likewise, it addresses interconnected crises like biodiversity loss and resource overexploitation.

In the GCC countries, adopting a circular economic model could lead to savings of $138 bn in 2030. This shift could also decrease emissions by 150 mn tons.

Recognizing the benefits, Saudi Arabia has taken the initiative for a circular economy. Its closed-loop system focuses on the 4Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, and remove, fostering an independent and self-sustaining economic system.

Similarly, the UAE has embraced a Circular Economy Policy that promotes sustainable resource management, efficient consumption, and production. It aims to secure raw materials and reduce environmental pressure. Additionally, it stimulates innovation, fosters economic growth, and creates jobs for a better quality of life.

Wrapping up

By implementing sustainable business practices, we can work towards a greener and more sustainable future for all. Acting collectively towards a greener economy can help the Middle East and planet in the long run.

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