As Kuwait Marks Hottest Day Recorded, Gulf Ramps Up Transition to Sustainable Future
For the past several years, Gulf nations including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have invested heavily in clean energy and sustainability initiatives, in order to mitigate the growing effects of climate change. Given the rapid expansion of climate change-related consequences in the Gulf, the positive impacts of such efforts could have immediate and much-needed effects on the region.
Over the last two weeks alone, Kuwait has recorded the highest temperatures in the world, with temperatures in the city of Al Jahra and Nuwaiseeb reaching 53.5°C and 53.2°C respectively.
According to Essa Ramadan, a Kuwaiti meteorologist, temperatures in these regions of Kuwait typically do not exceed 46°C. Over the past several years, however, the Gulf nation has experienced rising temperatures. The 10 warmest years in the country’s history have all occurred since 2005, with seven of these years occurring since 2014.
Kuwait is particularly vulnerable to higher temperatures because its proximity to the equator means it attracts more solar radiation. In addition, Kuwait’s push to expand infrastructure, and subsequent decreases in vegetation and trees, has also fostered higher temperatures.
Similar tales of the negative impacts of climate change are emerging around the Middle East, and around the world. The World Bank has warned that extreme heat caused by climate change will reduce agricultural yield in the Middle East, make some parts of the region unlivable, decreasing water resources, and increase migration and conflict. This underscores the need for more investment in climate change mitigation strategies and sustainability efforts.
The UAE has emerged as a leader in pushing forward such a green agenda. In January 2012, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, launched the Green Economy initiative. The program seeks to establish the UAE as a global leader in sustainability and green technologies and aims to leverage environmentally-friendly practices to augment the country’s long-term economic growth and competitiveness. The Green Economy initiative particularly emphasizes investment and development in renewable energy, the import, and export of green products and technologies, environmentally-friendly urban planning, mitigation strategies related to agriculture and biodiversity, and the effective management of water, electricity, natural resources, and waste.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia has introduced numerous efforts to promote clean energy and sustainable practices through its Saudi Vision 2030. The strategic plan seeks to promote three core pillars: an ambitious nation, a thriving economy, and vibrant society. Climate change mitigation and sustainability practices are integral to each one of these pillars. In March, the Kingdom, which is currently the leading oil producer in the world, reaffirmed its commitment to diversify its energy sources and generate half of the country’s power using renewable sources by 2030.
“As a leading global oil producer, the kingdom fully recognizes its share of responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis. Just as the kingdom underpinned energy markets during the oil and gas era, it is going to become a global leader in forging a greener world,” Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman shared in March.