11/04/2021, 09.58
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Middle East, the fight against climate change and oil dependence

The region is developing a 10-year action plan to "strengthen" the fight for the environment. It focuses on 13 issues including energy, the food chain and migration. But the economy remains tied to crude oil, with increased demand from the Asian continent. Record revenues in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. 



Beirut (AsiaNews) - A ten-year action programme to "strengthen" collaboration in the Middle East in the fight against climate change, to be approved at a meeting between countries in the area, including Israel, scheduled for next February.

As the Cop26 climate conference continues in Glasgow between those present and distinguished absentees - China and Russia - regional leaders are preparing to ratify by fall 2022 the Eastern Mediterranean&Middle East Climate Change Initiative (Emme-Cci) plan, launched in 2019 in Cyprus. The project focuses around 13 primary themes, ranging from energy to agroforestry, from the food chain to the marine environment, education, migration and tourism.

This ambitious project, aims - at least on paper - to provide implementation plans for an environmental crisis that affects the Middle East as much as and more than other areas in the world, to teh point of rendering it "unlivable". Jihad Alsawair, consultant of the Jordanian Ministry of Environment, stresses that "we must act collectively, decisively and based on scientific knowledge". Fatima Driouech, from Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change, points the finger at the rising seas and the disappearance of half of the region's wetlands. 

Speaking to The Times of Israel, Ambassador Gideon Behar, Israel's special envoy for climate change and sustainability, points out that "the effects of climate change in the Middle East are so dramatic and severe that only through regional cooperation can we survive and prosper. “The Middle East is warming faster than the world average. It is suffering from desertification and is the most water-scarce region on the planet,” he said. “By 2050, the amount of water per person (also taking population growth into account) will be half  of what it is today. We are seeing rivers drying up and people rioting over water shortages.”

In spite of the announcements and good interactions, the region - and its economy - remain closely linked to oil revenues, relying on Asian markets as new buyers. Major industry leaders such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait are experiencing growth in demand for crude oil from Asia, while the United States, Europe and Africa are declining. 

According to data provided by Refinitiv Oil Research, the import share from Asia grew 61.6% in October, up further from 59.1% in September. In contrast, the share of crude oil destined for the West, which includes the Americas and Europe, fell 19% last month, the lowest of the year and down steadily from 28% in February. Exports to Africa were also down, falling 8.4% in October. 

Among producer countries, in Iraq oil exports in October 2021 grew to 3.12 million barrels per day; the previous month the figure was 3.08 million barrels. Only from Basra terminals, in the south, 3.01 million barrels left last month, while from Kirkuk 98 thousand barrels left towards Turkey and 10 thousand towards Jordan. In October Baghdad cashed 7.68 billion dollars, with an average price per barrel of 79.3 dollars.

Finally, Saudi Arabia: in the third quarter Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, recorded revenues for 30.4 billion dollars, thanks to the increase in demand for the gradual easing of the containment measures of Covid-19 in the world. The company's net income more than doubled from last year's .8 billion. Aramco CEO Amin Nasser speaks of "exceptional" results linked to increased "economic activity in key markets and a rebound in energy demand."

Riyadh has joined more than 100 countries in reducing carbon emissions by 2060, but does not intend to give up its role as a global leader in oil and gas production even in the face of growing pressure to invest in renewables. Moreover, despite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's (MBS) efforts to diversify the economy with his Vision 2030 plan, the kingdom depends on oil exports to sustain public spending.

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