Arab countries perform poorly on climate action scorecard

Published online 24 March 2024

 The latest Climate Change Performance Index highlights weak climate action in the region.

Muhammad Al-Sayed Ali

Climate change affects people's lifestyles and their futures
Climate change affects people's lifestyles and their futures

Due to fossil fuel consumption, the Earth’s global mean temperature has risen 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. The rise increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods.

According to the 2024 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), issued by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network (CAN), this goal hinges on massive fossil fuel cuts, the biggest oil producers in the MENA region have been lagging behind on achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

The index monitors the environmental performance of the countries responsible for 92% of greenhouse gas emissions based on data aggregated up to two years prior to its release.

 Overall, the index reports that climate action is waning in Arab countries, particularly in oil-producing ones, with Saudi Arabia ranking globally in the 67th place (last on the index), the UAE holding the 65th place, Algeria the 54th, and Egypt in the 22ndplace. Morocco scored best among Arab countries, ranking ninth globally.

 Globally, the top three positions remained empty, as none of the countries evaluated took any action to adhere to the 1.5°C threshold. Denmark ranked at the top of the index, followed by Estonia in the fifth place, the Philippines, India, the Netherlands, Morocco, and Sweden coming in 10th.

 The index assesses the performance of each country in four categories towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals: greenhouse gas emissions (accounting for 40% of the overall score), renewable energy (20%), energy use (20%), and climate policy (20%).

 “Some countries fare well in individual categories, but none constantly scores high or very high”, says Jan Burck, senior advisor for low-carbon strategies and energy and project leader for climate indices at the NGO and Think Tank Germanwatch. He adds that accordingly, the averages are insufficient to adhere to the 1.5°C limit, and countries must step up their efforts.

Burck tells Nature Middle East that most Arab countries depend on fossil fuel for energy, which does not align with the 1.5°C limit. He point ed to Morocco as a positive example for Arab countries as it secured average scores in the categories of renewable energy and climate policy, but high scores in the categories of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

Egypt fell two places on this year’s index, ranking 22nd, among average-performing countries on the index, with varying scores across the four major categories: scoring high on greenhouse gases emissions and energy use, low on climate policy, and very low on renewable energy.

Algeria fell six places compared to last year, ranking 54th among countries with very low performance, and scoring low on greenhouse gas emissions and climate policy, and very low on renewable energy.

The UAE was one of the "lowest performing" countries, and ranked very low in the categories of greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy and energy use.

In last place, Saudi Arabia obtained a very low score in all four categories of the index.

Samir Mowafi, an environmental expert and former consultant to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, explains that the reliance of major and oil-producing and exporting countries on fossil fuels confirms that we are not on the right track to achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement.

Mowafi added that the statements made by major countries and oil producers about the necessity of reducing emissions and strongly shifting to renewable energy are empty promises.

Despite the importance of shifting towards renewable energy, some countries have morer pressing needs than others. Egypt, Mowafi says, for instance has a global emissions share of 0.73%, but is severely impacted by climate change.

“Even if Egypt completely switched to clean energy, this would not have a strong impact on reducing emissions, and this applies to the majority of developing countries,” Mowafi says.

Noha Samir Donia, a professor of Irrigation and Environmental Hydraulics, and Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Environmental Research at Ain Shams University, agrees with Mowafi, and adds that the responsibility to reduce emissions falls heavier on oil-producing countries, especially in the Gulf.