News Middle East30 Jul 2020

MENA:Blueprint suggested for 'green' recovery from COVID-19

| 30 Jul 2020

As the MENA region recovers from the current economic downturn, it is important that governments make their recovery 'green', says the writers of a blog posted on the World Bank website.

The writers, Ms Lia Sieghart, practice manager, and Mr Martiin Heger, senior environmental economist, both of the World Bank, say that for a green recovery plan for MENA, the region could look towards Europe.

Europe has decided to make the “European Green Deal” its recovery strategy for the post coronavirus crisis period with funds in the amount of EUR750bn ($821bn) to be provided under green conditions, focusing on land restoration, biodiversity, and lowering emissions in priority sectors among other strategies.

Priority sectors for MENA

The writers say, “For MENA, there are certain sectors that should be priorities for 'going green,' such as transport and fuel. In the region, industries and traffic are the main contributors to emissions causing local air pollution. Examples of globally tried-and-tested policies for such sectors include, mandating energy efficiency targets, energy efficiency standards for firms, fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, fuel switching, end-of-pipe technologies and pricing pollution/carbon (or removing perverse subsidies for pollution/carbon).

“In addition, energy efficiency standards for buildings, and minimum performance standards for appliances, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, hold high promise in MENA.”

Green recovery plan for MENA

There has been much discussion around finding shovel-ready projects to quickly support the economic recovery phase of the pandemic: projects that can hit the ground running and provide employment opportunities for many people.

Two examples of such projects that are greening 'brown' activities include scaling up of successful pollution abatement projects, as well as launching of new projects, like the Egypt Environmental Pollution Abatement Project (EPAP), and the Air & Climate Pollution Reduction Project in Egypt. Moreover, another example from a current project that can add value to this important initiative is the Lebanon Environmental Pollution Abatement Project (LEPAP):

  • The LEPAP has offered credit to firms heavy polluting industries with near 0% interest rates for a period of 7 years with a grace period of up to 2 years. LEPAP has provided this concessional funding to fuel switching, energy efficiency and end-of-pipe projects.

  • The EPAP project helps industry improve performance and comply with environmental regulations. Eligible industries in Greater Cairo and Alexandria can take advantage of funds to borrow for fuel switching, energy efficiency, and end-of-pipe technologies at near zero interest rates. Scaling them up now would be the perfect opportunity for green recovery.

  • The Air & Climate Pollution Reduction Project in Greater Cairo, Egypt, under preparation, aims to reduce pollution from the transport sector and the solid waste management sector, which are the two largest contributors to emissions in the Greater Cairo area.

Fiscal stimulus supporting green projects is particularly important for the MENA region, where most people depend on natural capital. Working towards an inclusive green stimulus means that low-cost financing will be made available for green activities, and that benefits from these investments accrue in particular to lower income groups.

Greening and poverty reduction

Even though most of MENA’s population lives in urban areas (60%), most of MENA’s poor live in rural areas. Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and Morocco for instance, all have more poor people living in rural areas than they do in urban areas. It has been found that "greening" was significantly related to poverty reduction, and moreover, that "greening" was pro-poor, meaning that it benefitted disproportionately poorer communities.

There are examples of sustainable land management practice investments, such as the promising project of the Tunisian Oases Ecosystems and Livelihoods Project, which helped traditional oases to fend off the relentless forces of desertification. This project also provided opportunities and jobs for many young people and improved the output from this ecosystems, producing dates, jam, honey and ecotourism, and thus increasing the income of rural communities.

Another example of high-return green investments is the Integrated Land Management in Lagging Regions project in Tunisia, which included climate-smart land management interventions that are crucial during particularly hot years. Integrated land management interventions are not only key climate change adaptation strategies, but they also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas mitigation.

Finally, there are also crucial opportunities for coastal management and creating a sustainable Blue Economy. In addition to improving inclusiveness on land, so are there win-win-win-win opportunities on the shores of the sea, and in the sea. For example, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) programme in Morocco helped boost incomes of low-income coastal communities by supporting their livelihoods with alternative activities.

Fisherfolk’s livelihoods were successfully diversified in order to make them more resilient to global warming. For example, temperature-sensitive fish stock that are negatively affected by increases in temperatures have negative impacts on the sustenance of coastal communities and consumption. Supporting additional activities such as algae culture and eco-tourism helps communities to diversify and become more resilient to climate shocks.

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