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Pathways for Regional Environmental Cooperation in the Gulf

Mehran Haghirian and Aisha Al-Sarihi

Bourse & Bazaar Foundation and the Middle East Institute - NUS

November 2023

Executive Summary

The countries surrounding the Gulf – Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – are facing acute risks from climate change. With its arid and semiarid climatic conditions, the Gulf region is already grappling with grave environmental issues including water scarcity, severe sand and dust storms, exposure to cyclones, heatwaves, and pollution. The regional countries are paying heavy human and financial costs for the mounting consequences of these challenges – shutting down factories, announcing emergency public holidays, cutting water and electricity supplies, and even losing tourists.

This edited volume is a collaboration between the Bourse & Bazaar Foundation and the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore. The publication seeks to identify areas for regional environmental cooperation and explore practical approaches to address shared challenges. The chapters examine potential cooperation on protection of marine environments, responses to extreme weather events, mitigation of sand and dust storms, cooperation on food security, and advancement of the energy transition, among other topics. The experts who contributed come from diverse backgrounds, but all agree that the Gulf region is facing devastating climate impacts, which will only intensify in the absence of inclusive mitigation strategies.

This edited volume brings a practical perspective to the growing conversation on shared environmental challenges in the Gulf. The nine chapters go move beyond talking points on the need to fight climate change to present practical recommendations for regional governments and external stakeholders, as well as academic institutions, companies, and individuals involved in climate action. The edited volume is comprised of the following chapters:

Chapter 1: Collective Environmental Action to Preserve the Gulf’s Marine Ecosystem

Mohammad Al-Saidi

Chapter 2: Towards Common and Sustainable Resource Management in the Gulf

Tobias Zumbrägel

Chapter 3: Joint Efforts to Combat Extreme Weather Events in the Gulf

Said Al-Sarmi and Suad Al-Manji

Chapter 4: Tackling Sand and Dust Storms to Build on Regional Détente in the Gulf

Glada Lahn and Adnan Tabatabai

Chapter 5: Cooperation Opportunities for the Gulf in the Energy Transition

Robin Mills

Chapter 6: Boosting Food Security in the Gulf through Regional Cooperation

Malak Altaeb

Chapter 7: Bolstering Iraq’s Climate Response through Regional Environmental Cooperation

Maha Yassin

Chapter 8: Addressing Shared Environmental Challenges in the Gulf with European Support

Mehran Haghirian

Chapter 9: Examining Gulf-Southeast Asia Interregional Environmental Cooperation

Aisha Al-Sarihi and Muhammad Shidiq

Taken together, these nine chapters make clear that missed opportunities for cooperation due to political differences across the Gulf have not only delayed environmental mitigation but have also limited economic integration as well. While trust and political will remain prerequisites for enhanced regional environmental cooperation, this volume highlights the importance of joint climate science and research programs, knowledge sharing, capacity building, finance leveraging, and policy coordination as key areas to improve regional environmental cooperation in the Gulf region. Opportunities abound for the Gulf states to cooperate in tackling shared environmental challenges.


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