According to a report commissioned by Agility and compiled by Horizon Group, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar rank top in the GCC for their climate change efforts in several key areas. This, the report outlined, is despite their fossil fuel dependency.
The new report that compares government and business sustainability policies, investment and actions across the Middle East and Africa, found that South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia rank at the top of the 17-country Middle East and Africa Environmental Sustainability Scorecard, released on Thursday.
According to Agility, the scorecard is the most detailed examination to date of country performance in environmental sustainability outcomes, government policies, and corporate practices in the two regions.
Horizon scored countries in six key “pillar” areas, and concluded that the 17 countries covered “are relative ‘latecomers’ to global sustainable development but equally represent regions that are rapidly stepping up their sustainability strategies, programs and investments.
Horizon, said the aim of the report was to look “beyond the selective characteristics of the Middle East being fossil fuel-dependent with high greenhouse gas emissions per capita, and African countries being low emitters of greenhouse gases but taking relatively little action on the environment.”
The scorecard used 48 performance and progress indicators to compare countries, including data, regulatory frameworks, policy assessments, incentives and corporate practices across six pillar areas: green investment and technology; sustainable infrastructure and transport; governance and reporting; energy transition; environmental ecosystems; and Circularity.
Further, to capture corporate practices and progress, Horizon surveyed 647 business executives in the seventeen countries.
The UAE ranked first on Sustainable Infrastructure & Transport; Energy Transition; and Environmental Ecosystem. Qatar is 1st in Green Investment, Innovation & Tech; and Governance & Reporting.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia ranks in the top five in five of six key pillar areas.
Bahrain, third, was found to perform well in Circularity, while Oman’s highest ranking (sixth) was also in Circularity.
Kuwait (fifth) performed best on Environmental Ecosystems, which examines air, soil and water pollution, alongside conservation, and biodiversity.
That being said, the six hydrocarbon-intensive GCC countries were found to be at the bottom of the 17-nation ranking in Energy Transition. This looked at energy supply, renewable energy use, subsidies and taxes, along with energy-transition agendas at national and corporate levels.
Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa, on the other hand, were found to be the leaders in Energy Transition.
According to the report, “embracing a strategic green growth approach to economic diversification” could potentially elevate combined GCC economic output from $6 trillion by 2050, to over $13 trillion.
The report also found that eighty-two per cent of African businesses and 49% of Middle East businesses are unaware of the UN-led COP process that nations are using to push and measure efforts to tackle climate change. Further, it revealed that few companies use COP to set their sustainability targets.
Consistent with other recent research findings, ninety-seven per cent of companies say their business has been affected by climate change, and 49% say climate change has caused “severe damage” or has a “significant and growing” impact on them.
Further, it was found that when it comes to climate action, governments are “outpacing the private sector” in both the Middle East and Africa.
As is to be expected, it was also found that different countries have different sustainability priorities.
High-income, energy-producing Gulf countries were found to generally invest more in sustainable infrastructure and ecosystems, while African economies perform best in energy conservation and consumption.
Regarding green investment, it was found that high and middle-income countries are investing the most: Qatar, UAE, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, while Africa was found to be focused on green transport: Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa led here.
Green building, on the other hand, was more of a priority for Gulf countries, and waste management, consumption was found to be tied to wealth.