Why is #COP21 important for the Middle East and North Africa region?


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Cairo - Yeul l World BankOver 25,000 people have descended on the Bourget in the suburbs of Paris to attend the much anticipated 21st Conference of Parties on climate change, or “COP21”. The first meeting today is due to be attended by 120 heads of state including 11 from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). But what is the convention about, really? 

It all started in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro during the 1992 Earth Summit, when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, was adopted. This near universal agreement, recognizing climate change as a threat, has been endorsed by most countries in the world (more than 190 of them). Every year now, parties to this agreement meet to review the implementation of the Convention; that is why it is referred to as the Conference of the Parties (COP).
The objective of COP21 in Paris is to get everyone to agree to keep global emissions low right until 2050 to make sure global warming rises no more than by 2oC worldwide. The goal is to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that will prevent “dangerous interference” with the climate system.  
Countries have agreed to submit targets to limit their greenhouse gas emissions—this is referred to as the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (of greenhouse gases), or INDCs. As of today, more than 170 countries have submitted their INDCs, including 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  
What are MENA’s contributions to climate change? MENA contributes about 7% of the total annual 32 Giga tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)  emissions (see pie chart). China, India and the US are the three largest contributors, jointly emitting almost half of global CO2.

A region’s total emissions do not tell the whole story. While China, India, and the US emit 17 times more carbon dioxide than the Arab Gulf countries , per capita they emit about 4 times less. In MENA, there are stark regional differences (see bar chart). The citizens of the Gulf have the largest emission footprint in the world, while the citizens of most other MENA countries have a gas emissions footprint well below the world average.
The six Gulf countries are among the world’s top 10 per capita emitters . To put it in perspective, one Kuwaiti, Emirati or Omani emits as much as 10 Egyptians, Tunisians or Moroccans . The most extreme contrast in the region is the emissions produced by one Qatari equal those produced by 73 Djiboutians or Palestinians .
Despite not being the largest emitting region, MENA is already under severe heat and water stress with little margin for adaptability. Compared to the rest of the world, the MENA region will suffer disproportionally from extreme heat. A previous blog mapped out the kind of future the region could face if concerted action is not taken. Therefore the stakes for MENA in Paris are high.   
What is MENA pledging at COP21? As of today, 16 MENA countries have submitted their pledges. Most countries have two targets: an unconditional target, one to be reached by a country on its own with domestic resources; and a conditional target contingent on outside financial and technological assistance.

The pledges show a wide array of ambition, but it hard to compare targets between countries as the benchmarks are not harmonized. The World Bank is currently developing a tool that will help countries harmonize and compare their pledges.
Nevertheless, one can cautiously infer that the most ambitious countries in terms of limiting greenhouse gas emission in MENA are: Djibouti, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. Funnily enough, though, these are also among the countries with the least emissions!
We acknowledge the contribution of Sebastian Wienges.


Maria Sarraf

Lead Environmental Economist

Martin Heger

Environmental Economist

Join the Conversation

Condé Alkaly Mohamed
December 07, 2015

Tous les pays ont obligatoirement besoin de la COP21 pour la survie, la vie économique, la sécurité et le développement intégré.

December 08, 2015

A very nice and informative write up.

December 09, 2015

Great post Maria.
The trend of emission per capita in MENA countries seems to be similar to the rate of traffic fatalities per capita. Per example, The GCC countries have at the same time the highest per capita emission and traffic fatalities. Speed, vehicle technologies and traffic ( all related to low fuel prices) must be behind this correlation but this is worth while looking into it in more details. Several GCC countries are adjusting their fuel prices, it will be interesting to estimate this effect on the emission per capita and traffic fatalities.
Said Dahdah

Ann-Sofie Jespersen
December 09, 2015

Maria, thanks for this, very insightful.
What is your take on the intersections of gender and climate - Mary Robinson reported that some countries from the region are opposing the inclusion of language on gender equality in the proposed COP21 text - http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/08/cop21-is-too-male-do…

George S.
December 09, 2015

Very informative summary of the situation in MENA. It is interesting to note that the situation of these countries is somewhat out of their control since the impact of global climate change is likely to hit them hardest.

December 09, 2015

Very very interesting conclusions. Thanks

December 09, 2015

very very interesting conclusions. good job

Dahbia BOURI
December 12, 2015

l'affirmation selon laquelle "dans la région MENA, ce sont Djibouti, le Liban, le Maroc et la Tunisie qui se sont fixé les objectifs les plus ambitieux pour limiter leurs émissions de GES" est tronquée et trompeuse sur la réalité ,La conception du Tableau INDC est à mon avis pas clair et peut prêter à confusion sur la volonté réelle des états et sur l’impact de celui-ci, et donc fausser les conclusions que l’on peut tirer.
En effet je pense que le classement par niveau d’objectifs inconditionnels est plus significatif sur la volonté réelle d’engagement
Si pour le Liban et Djibouti les objectifs inconditionnels sont réellement ambitieux, ainsi que le Maroc il n’en est pas de même pour la Tunisie qui n’en a pas du tout !
De plus les objectifs conditionnels du Maroc et de la Tunisie sont largement supérieurs à leurs objectifs inconditionnels
1. Ajouter une colonne objectifs inconditionnelle seuls et une colonne total des objectifs
2.ajouter une dernière colonne qui donne l’impact réels de ces objectifs de réduction par pays en rapport avec le total émissions mondiale
Pourriez vous SVP expliquer ce que signifie la mention qui revient souvent dans la dernière colonne du Tableau"scénario de référence"
Salutations Cordiales d’Algérie
Dahbia Bouri
Économiste Consultante Développement durable&Economie verte
+213 772 44 40 12
[email protected]