January 23, 2023No Comments

The Middle East in 2023: From Revolution to Survival

Author: Omri Brinner and Chantal Elisabeth Hohe.

2022 brought about several game-changing developments in the Middle East and beyond. These events - from domestic political instability, through the weakening of American influence in the region, to the protests in Iran - will all leave a mark in 2023, a year that is shaping to be decisive for the Middle East’s future.

Of the many things to monitor in the region during 2023, four issues stand out the most, largely due to their international significance. These are the American involvement in the Middle East; climate change and the region’s efforts - or lack of - to counter it; the domestic upheaval in Iran and its global impact; and the economic situation across the region, with a growing number of countries in economic disarray (Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen).

Image Source: https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/protests-in-iran-the-regime-s-trail-of-blood-a-8775e064-e031-4f80-8a87-5ec4cb59246c 

The US in the Middle East

Going into 2023, the United State’s role in the Middle East is undefined. Had it been clear and obvious, American officials wouldn’t have to reiterate that their country will remain pivotal as it once was. The facts on the ground suggest less American physical involvement. There are less American troops in the region; American diplomacy has been weakened; and one is much more exposed to alternative soft power than before. In that sense we are expected to see declining American presence across the region. Diplomatically, the US is losing grip as well. While it largely has Israel on its side in its competition with China and Russia, other allies - most notably Saudi Arabia - are becoming less and less dependent on the US, fueling a multipolar world where the US is now one of many, rather than the one. The US can stay assured that it will continue to have leverage over several individuals and countries in the coming year, but all in all - and much due to the multipolar inertia across the region - this leverage is not infinite, and further distancing from American policies are likely to follow. This dynamic played out in the relations between President Biden and the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin-Salman, where the latter refused to give-in to American pressure on oil prices, proving that the American leverage on him and his country is limited. In other words, American superiority will not only continue to be challenged from afar, but also from within the region itself.


2023 might very well be the year of the Persian Spring. The revolutionary protests that began in September have the potential to spin the regime out of control and to create a new reality in the country, and the region. What started as a social protest against the state’s brutality and the killing of Masha Amini has developed into a full regime-change movement, with the slogan “death to Khamenei” gaining momentum and legitimacy on social media. It is of course possible that the harsh and lethal crackdown by the state will break the back of the revolution, but these past few months and the ones to follow will certainly change Iran and affect the region as a whole, whichever way the wind blows.

Furthermore, in light of the internal turmoil and the fact that the Iranian nuclear deal is all but alive, it is likely that Iran will push to both enrich as much uranium as possible and to create destabilizing chaos across the region in the coming months. All in all, what happens in Iran during 2023 will determine the near future of the Middle East.


After a rather unsuccessful COP27 failed to produce actionable policy solutions or real commitments from the international community, a decisive year lies ahead for the Middle East, where people will continue suffering from the consequences of the climate crisis. Most prominently, water scarcity will lead to an increasingly dire situation, fueling food insecurity, economic downturn, civil unrest, and violent extremism. That said, several innovative start-ups and promising technologies are on the rise, with the GCC countries upping the funding to accelerate developments in the field. Hope now lies upon the Abu Dhabi COP28, set to take place in November and, ironically, hosted by UAE’s National Oil Company CEO, with civil society organizations and academia urging for serious action.


A cleavage in economic performance is increasingly visible among Middle Eastern countries, with the oil-based GCC monarchies witnessing continuous growth - whereas others are facing economic decline, leading to or exacerbating existing socio-political turbulences. The economic outlook for 2023 indicates that inflation is likely to surpass 30% in numerous countries, with Syria at 63% and Lebanon at a staggering 167% . Further regional actors, such as Iran, Turkey, Egypt, and Yemen, face economic hardship while also having to tackle political challenges, civil unrest, and violent conflicts. Overall, domestic and international factors - such as the war in Ukraine - are likely to deepen a looming recession and the energy crisis. While it is likely that wealthy GCC countries will continue to support struggling regional allies, countries such as Yemen, Libya and Lebanon will continue to be used as arenas for proxy wars, further deepening their economic troubles.

December 5, 2022No Comments

COP27: Breakthroughs and Worries

Author: Arslan Sheikh.

The outcomes of Conference of the Parties (COP) 27 held in Egypt this year has been a subject of heated debate. Even though marketed as the ‘implementation of COP’ with a focus on Africa and the most vulnerable countries to climate change, several analyses have already been issued on the definitive results of COP27. This article tries to reflect on five important areas where advancement has been made on climate action in world’s most important climate-related event.

Increasing Political Will for Forests

According to the 2022 Forest Declaration Assessment, to be on a track to completely stop deforestation by 2030, a ten percent annual reduction in deforestation is needed. Even though the rates of deforestation globally reduced only moderately in 2021 by 6.3% compared to the 2018-2020 baseline, forests became more degraded in 2021. However, overall losses of forests exceeded gains in the same period, resulting in a net loss of 100 million hectares globally.

In this regard, the creation of Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership (FCLP) has been introduced with the realisation that there is no time left to spare for halting and reversing forest loss by 2030, thus, reflecting a strong political will for forests. The leaders of the FCLP member countries are the key stakeholders in the partnership and are its essential ‘priority setters’. The FCLP will hold routine meetings at the start of climate COPs to inspire responsibility. It will also publish an annual Global Progress Report which would include independent assessments of global progress towards the 2030 goal and recapitulating progress made by the FCLP in its missions. The declarations by Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Indonesia ahead of the G20 signified their intents to work out jointly to safeguard their massive swathes of tropical forests gaining the nickname ‘’OPEC of rainforests’’. Also, the presence of Brazil’s president elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva brought Amazon forests in limelight where Brazil vowed to prioritize halting deforestation and offering to host COP30.

The Arrival of Food in Text

Unprecedently, food was made it onto the main agenda after being acknowledged in the final text and also with at least five event spaces devoted to food and agriculture. Important progress included the launch of Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) Initiative – a multi-stakeholder partnership to step up access to finance, develop capability, and promote policy development to guarantee food security in countries most vulnerable to climate change. As associated with food, 14 top global agricultural and processing companies shared their roadmap to 1.5 degrees Celsius – gaining hybrid reactions – with thorough strategies on summarizing how they will get rid of deforestation from their agricultural commodity supply chains by 2025.

Nature-based solutions were incorporated in the CO27 text for the first time with forests, oceans, and agriculture each having their own section. Even though the inclusion of Koronivia Dialogue – the track where food and agriculture is discussed at UNFCCC could be seen as a positive sign at COP27, it still would need time to wait till COP28 for the emphasis needed to genuinely transform the global food system. There are strong analyses that COP27 has been a ‘notable disappointment’ for sustainable food systems – largely representing a defence of food systems status-quo.

Image Source: unsplash.com

Progressively Bluer COP

Many analysts have expressed COP27 for being ‘’an increasingly blue COP’’, with the ocean ending up in the final declaration and the first ever ocean pavilion in the blue zone. Many other declarations bolstered the acknowledgement of the essential character of the oceans in the climate system. The Egyptian presidency, Germany, and IUCN launched the Enhancing Nature-Based Solutions for an Accelerated Climate Transformation (ENACT). The Mangrove Breakthrough was also launched to protect 15 million hectares of mangroves worldwide 2030.

Beside these, High Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidance were also announced which aims to safeguard nature; empower people; employ the best information, interventions, and carbon accounting practices; operate locally and contextually; and mobilise high integrity capital. The implementation of these guidance and principles are expected to release the full potential of blue carbon, reducing emissions while safeguarding some of the earth’s most exclusive and beneficial ecosystems.

African-led Initiatives

There were various announcements coming out of COP27 which highlighted Africa’s potential as a ‘natural capital powerhouse’. These involved the launch of the African Carbon Markets Initiative, Africa Sustainable Commodities Initiative , $2 billion African restoration fund, a funding support for Africa’s Great Green Wall initiatives, among various others.

Structural Reforms of Finance for Climate

The biggest breakthrough coming out of COP27 was the agreement on creation of Loss and Damage Fund with the subject being put on the agenda and adopted for the first time at COP27. It seeks to set up new funding arrangements, as well as a committed fund, to support developing countries in acting in response to loss and damage. Governments at COP27 agreed to set up a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalise both new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year. The evolving Bridgetown agenda remained a central theme within the discussions on bringing structural reforms in the financial system and creating innovative mechanisms that would support nature and climate outcomes at national and ecosystem levels.

Major financial institutions which are signatories to the Financial Sector Commitment on Eliminating Commodity-driven Deforestation have been pushing forward with implementation through the Finance Sector Deforestation Action (FSDA) Initiative. FSDA members have published shared investor expectations that are anticipated to be supplemented as appropriate on a sector-specific basis. Largely, the 10 point plan for financing biodiversity was pushed forward at COP27 with a ministerial meeting among 16 countries to set a conduit for minimising the global biodiversity finance gap.


Despite reflecting some breakthroughs and progressive developments on climate, COP27 does little to avoid future climate change disasters. It is being heralded as progressive and breakthrough in tackling the threats already devastating the planet, but is considered to be having made very little progress on emission cutting measures that could avoid even worse future climate change disasters. Even though being admired for creation of Loss and Damage Fund, many showed reservations on countries’ hesitancy in adopting more ambitious climate plans, which could leave the planet on a dangerous warming path. 

November 28, 2022No Comments

Africa: the pursuit for growth and sustainability

Authors: Michele Mignogna and Miguel Jiménez.


The current global energy crisis has proven how energy is the lifeblood of today's economies and highlighted the need for and advantages of an expedited scale-up of less expensive and cleaner sources of energy. To protect the planet, it is essential to make a global effort to transition to cleaner energy. As such, the most affected players by climate and history, African economies, are gaining momentum to address this issue and any comprehensive energy transition can only be achieved bearing in mind their situation

Africa’s energy outlook

In sub-Saharan Africa, less than half of the population has access to electricity and this number has dropped by 4% since 2019 due to many brownouts, blackouts, and load-shedding. Even in the industrial powerhouses of South Africa and Nigeria in sub-Saharan Africa, electrical networks regularly fail to sustain the region's current generation capacity, making it impossible to fulfill demand. The situation is similar in the north of the continent, where Egypt, one of the largest economies of the continent, suffers the same destiny. A study conducted under the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, shows a financial deficit of between $17 billion and $25 billion, with the abovementioned economies counting for around 33% of this gap.

Moreover, despite having the least culpability for the issue, Africa is already more severely affected by climate change than most other regions of the globe. Africa has the lowest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita of any continent, contributing less than 4% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, while having about one-fifth of the world's population. The adverse consequences of climate change, such as water stress, decreased food production and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, are already being felt disproportionately by African populations.

Africa's potential to leapfrog is not lacking and has already been discussed by the literature. However, dialogues on the actions to take to tackle the realities of climate change also center on how to manage energy use. Africa is at the center of a vital trade-off between using energy resources, which may significantly advance the continent's economic growth, and mitigating climate change. Although the world is experiencing an energy crisis of historic proportions,interest in its enormous gas resources is also growing north of the Mediterranean

Image Source

A matter of  economic justice

The Paris Agreement targets of keeping average temperature increases well below 2ºC and trying to not surpass 1.5ºC by 2050 with respect to pre-industrial levels set a roadmap to follow to fight climate change. This was to be achieved through National Determined Contributions (NDCs), that is, every signatory country would pledge to set a roadmap for cutting emissions, theoretically, following science-based targets. Despite being a move in the right direction, it does not come as a surprise that African economies yet to blossom are reluctant to curb their emissions at the same pace as developed countries.

By making a quick analysis of past and present events one can’t help but sympathize with the land that gave birth to mankind. On the one hand, going back a couple of centuries, the Scramble for Africa by European countries stands out as a watershed event in the continent’s history. The methods used for the continent’s partitioning and subsequent establishment of imperial powers have given rise to many maladies which have had long-lasting effects in inhibiting economic growth as has been proven over time and time again by academics. To name a few, depopulation through slavery has been found to account for 47% of the income disparity between African nations and the rest of the world. Moreover, the artificial nature of colonial boundaries has increased the likelihood of ethnic-driven conflict taking many lives and leaving many countries in a continuous “standby” situation. The previous two factors, coupled with the establishment of extractive institutions causing resource depletion to fund America and Europe’s industrialization, have contributed to the underdevelopment of the institutional framework in the aftermath of independence, which remains at a primitive stage to this day.

The outsized impacts of climate change make it a serious threat for the continent’s economics, which could be constrained by up to three percent by 2050 and further precipitate the fall into poverty of millions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, combining the deterring effects of colonial legacy and the increasing consequences of climate change on the continent, asking for the mistreated African people to decarbonize by giving up growth and letting their momentum pass is historically unfair and currently unrealistic. This resonates even more when some data is explored concerning the continent’s future energy demand. By 2040, Africa will acccount for 50% of the global workforce.

Growth as we know it

Nonetheless, considering the demographic prospects and the further increase in energy coverage, a boom in energy demand is expected, and this, in turn, forces any durable global solution to climate change to take into account the region’s interests and constraints. Even though it is clear that Africa’s will can’t be overlooked, growth as we have come to know it implies for the continent to follow China and India’s emission history, 1st and 3rd largest polluters respectively, and to become, in the near future, the biggest polluter. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that if we take into account how much ground is the renewable energy scenario gaining and Africa’s suitable renewable energy endowments. For instance, the continent receives 60 per cent more sunlight a year than the global average. Hence, solar energy has been coined the backbone of Africa’s new energy system, making it a solid challenge for the conventional fuel industry. Yet, for this to materialize the aforementioned investment gap should be dealt with. Healing previous wrongdoings and a solution to the investment deficit have been manifested, implicitly and explicitly, by US Climate Envoy John Kerry in the latest proposal at the COP 27. Under the name of “Energy Transition Accelerator” (ETA), its ultimate purpose is achieving the decarbonization of African countries by channelling a constant flow of private capital from big companies. Yet, what’s in it for the big polluters in the game? 

Carbon markets have been around for quite some time and are divided between mandatory and voluntary ones. The former ones are regulated by states, and represent a tool for them to decarbonize specific sectors. The European Emission Trading Scheme does this by capping the emissions allowed and making companies buy and trade carbon credits equivalent to one tonne of CO2 in order to justify excessive emissions. Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCM), on the other hand, represent the market for companies to further advance in their own voluntary pledges for decarbonization. In VCM, credits are earned  either through avoidance/reduction projects or through removal/sequestration projects. ETA’s proposal focuses on the former offsetting solution, that is, private companies would earn credits by helping African countries either by phasing out fossil fuel infrastructure already in place  or by fostering the use of renewables in places where fossil fuels are not in place yet. 

This proposal would expand VCM which has not yet exploded as a result of an untapped demand and a disorganized supply. However, these markets have been plagued with critics due to the lack of monitoring, and some of them apply to ETA’s proposal as well. The most notable issue is the lack of additionality that these projects may have. This means that the installation of renewables would occur given the plunging cost of wind and solar power, regardless of the credit's existence. Secondly, unless proper monitoring is enforced, companies may end up earning credits for building climate resilience, i.e. building walls for rising sea levels, a well-intended action which, however, deviates from the principle of one credit equivalent to one tonne of carbon sequestered. 


All in all, African investment needs are immense, particularly in the area of infrastructure, making it imperative to seek cooperation between the public and private sectors. Furthermore, attending these needs requires from developed countries to understand the African context. Years of failed aid should have taught us that much. In this sense, even though it has some flaws that should be corrected before its implementation, ETA may be determinant to guarantee the proper transition of the African continent towards renewables without compromising the continent’s growth. Successive COP rounds have failed to address this issue, and dealing with global climate change through the achievement of national decarbonization targets seems to be a battle that will be fought by governments on domestic ground. ETA’s proposal may make the giant non-state polluters step in, and in doing so,  unlock millions of private capital in the right direction. In the hypothetical case where environmental integrity is compromised as a result of some  credits being earned by fostering climate resilience, this still would allow the African population to combat climate change consequences which they are mainly not responsible for, and in turn, allowing some compensation for centuries of injustices.