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Climate Change in the Middle East and North Africa: Mitigating Vulnerabilities and Designing Effective Policies

Conclusions from a Carnegie series on climate-related vulnerability, socioeconomic impacts, and governance challenges.

Published on June 20, 2024

Policy awareness about the challenges of climate change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been on the rise, especially with Egypt hosting the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in 2022 and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosting COP28 in 2023. The previously dominant narrative in MENA public and political spaces—that addressing climate change is a luxury that cannot be attended to in countries facing constant turmoil—has receded. The devastating impacts of climate change, ranging from high temperatures and extreme weather events in the Middle East to declining water resources and eroded coastal land in North Africa, have imposed their urgency on both citizenries and polities.

Equally emerging as urgent policy priorities have been the correlations of climate change, societal vulnerabilities, and governance deficits. Research has shown that in order to devise climate adaptation strategies that can facilitate equitable political power sharing among relevant stakeholders and address the socioeconomic struggles of vulnerable populations, climate governance must be approached from a political economy perspective, which may pose a problem for MENA countries.

In countries facing long-standing socioeconomic crises—poverty, unemployment, high inflation rates, population growth, and widening gaps between rich and poor population segments as well as between urban and rural localities—the impacts of climate change have exacerbated societal vulnerabilities. The weak, the needy, the unprotected, and the marginalized in the MENA region all have been greatly affected. According to the World Bank report on the impacts of climate change on poverty, poor and socioeconomically disadvantaged population segments are mostly at risk should governments fail to adequately tackle climate mitigation and adaptation.

Meanwhile, chronic governance deficits have made it difficult for MENA countries to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. These deficits include the persistence of undemocratic policymaking processes; the systematic exclusion of wide segments of MENA populations in favor of consolidating power and influence in the hands of the ruling establishments; the lack of transparency and accountability in resource and financial allocation matters and in policy implementation; and the restrictive nature of public spaces, which undermines the free flow of information and freedoms of expression and associations. Moreover, climate-change-induced societal vulnerabilities have also aggravated governance deficits in the region.

Several key questions have driven the research work that led to this series on climate, vulnerability, and governance:

  1. How has poor governance in MENA countries contributed to a lack of inclusivity and action, as well as structural deficiencies in countries’ declared commitments such as those related to resilient infrastructure, economic opportunity, and human security?
  2. What are the most significant short-term and long-term impacts of climate change at both institutional and individual levels that allow for an exploration of the relationships between climatic hazards, slow-onset hazards, governance, and vulnerability? Which are preexisting and therefore exacerbated by climate change, and which are new vulnerabilities that are a direct result of climate change and poor governance?
  3. What is the role of civil society in driving climate change action at the country and regional levels? How does the lack of engagement between governments and civil society actors in MENA limit climate adaptation efforts and undermine the representation of vulnerable communities, specifically women, minorities, and low-income individuals, in policymaking processes?
  4. How do different risks, climatic and nonclimatic, that MENA governments face impact governance models? How do governance and climate change impact each other?
  5. How do preexisting vulnerabilities—particularly poverty, water and food insecurity, and health issues—exacerbate climatic effects on vulnerable societal groups? Are governments considering vulnerable societal groups in their climate policies, and to what extent are these policies effective? How do government policies decrease or increase vulnerability? How do governance deficits, intensified by climatic hazards, create new vulnerabilities?
  6. How do different political and economic governance models in the region inform countries’ climate policies, especially in regard to sustainable resource sharing?

This series seeks to engage ongoing popular and policy debates addressing the correlations of climate change, vulnerability, and governance in the MENA region. The contributions were written by regional and international scholars, and their findings are based on empirical research conducted mostly in 2023.

Traditionally, the map of vulnerable population segments in the MENA region has included poor and impoverished communities; religious and ethnic minorities; members of rural, coastal, and urban populations, especially women and children; and migrant communities. In a first methodological step to examine the impacts of climate change on vulnerability, the collected pieces disaggregate preexisting vulnerabilities related to poverty, gender inequality, deteriorating public health and educational services, lack of social safety networks, and oppressive political conditions. The second methodological step analytically links the relationship between climate change and preexisting vulnerabilities to newly created vulnerabilities such as water scarcity, desertification, and the decline of farmer communities. As framed in this collection, these two methodological steps yield an updated and realistic map of vulnerable communities in the MENA region. Through this process, the authors’ research benefits the poor, the marginalized, and the underrepresented by giving voice to their legitimate concerns in order to seek an end to poverty and discrimination.

Contributors also analyzed the impacts of climate change on governance. State capacities may vary radically across the MENA region, but governance challenges remain almost identical. Eradicating poverty, improving the quality of key services, addressing gender inequality, ending human rights violations, empowering underrepresented population segments, and getting rulers and governments to abide by the principles of the rule of law during a climate transition are key governance challenges that unite countries such as Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, and Egypt. The authors of the different contributions shed light on how climate change, on the one hand, has given social and political urgency to these governance challenges and how, on the other hand, it brings to the fore new challenges such as the loss of costal resources, rising water scarcity and food insecurity, and the widened map of societal vulnerability.

The research design, questions, and outcomes of these pieces have been undoubtably enriched by engagement with vulnerable communities in the region. The authors’ knowledge, awareness, and activism all helped guide the research and ensured that it supports local empowerment and inclusion.

Country-Specific Realities

In his piece on climate adaptation plans in the region, Saber Osman primarily characterizes the MENA region’s vulnerability to climate change as an economic loss: Dust storms alone have cost the region $13 billion annually. The MENA region is particularly dependent on climate-sensitive agriculture for food security and livelihood, yet it is one of the world’s most water-scarce and drought-prone regions. Such conditions have already enabled instances of social unrest that could spin off to conflicts. The excessive urbanization of economically vital coastal areas in cities like Alexandria, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, and Benghazi, and the largely costal countries of Tunisia and Morocco, increasingly is threatened by sea level rises and flooding that have aggravated infrastructure crucial to economic development, transportation, and tourism. Osman further points to women and youth as one of the most marginalized groups as a result of preexisting social disparities and forced migration in the form of men seeking employment in urban areas and consequently abandoning their households.

Osman outlines the institutional, legislative, and policy deficits of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and the UAE in response to climate change based on their Nationally Determined Contribution and National Adaptation Plan reports. Climate change has revealed common threads linking the governance gaps, such as the lack of coordination mechanisms and methods for streamlining climate policies and plans between relevant national and local stakeholders, sectors, and institutions; financial restraints; and technical insufficiencies in assessing climate risks. Because of insufficient technical expertise and political turmoil, Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, and Syria all struggle to consistently report climate goals and policy updates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. An integrated approach to climate planning, consistent reporting via technical assistance, and (as Osman emphasizes) the mobilization of climate financing by the international community through partnerships with donors and the private sector are all necessary to build climate-resilient mitigation and adaptation systems across the region. Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco suffer from the largest climate financing gaps in North Africa; Osman also identifies Jordan and Tunisia as significantly weak in terms of climate financing.

In the second piece on the water crisis, Mohammed Mahmoud argues that a country’s access to water and the specific type of water resources used, whether freshwater or nonconventional—such as desalination and water recycling—are crucial determinants of a country’s ability to alleviate climate pressures and to adapt to climate change. Historically, the MENA region has relied on groundwater owing to its limited surface water systems. This is especially the case in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Gaza Strip in Palestine. As groundwater is a finite resource and demands for it have led to excessive pumping and extraction methods that are harmful to the environment, overreliance has heightened the MENA region’s vulnerability to climate change.

The region’s surface water systems—namely the Nile River, the Tigris-Euphrates River System, and the Jordan River—depend heavily on higher-elevation precipitation and snowpack, which continues to decrease as the earth’s temperature rises. Because of this shortfall, some of the region’s most fragile countries, including Sudan and Yemen, are receiving less water to supply their agricultural sectors, therefore intensifying preexisting vulnerabilities. Urban water use also is inhibited, further disadvantaging fragile countries that are experiencing the highest rates of urban population growth, namely Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

According to Mahmoud, a large share of the region’s climate governance challenges stems from unresolved transboundary conflicts, along with excessive groundwater depletion between riparian states that fail to collectively regulate shared groundwater aquifers. Mahmoud warns that competing water needs between riparian states in the MENA region have allowed for the monopolization of water flows, further underlining the urgency to establish sustainable water management mechanisms at the regional level. Specifically, upstreaming by Türkiye has limited Iraq’s water sources from Tigris-Euphrates River System, Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has strained Egypt’s and Sudan’s utilization of water from the Nile, and water supplies to Jordan via Lake Tiberias and the Dead Sea have significantly diminished in quantity. In all these cases, waterways have also worsened in quality owing to insufficient regulations on pollution, solid waste discharge, and irrigation runoff from nearby farms. Similarly, effective adaptation to climate change calls for reduced reliance on the energy-intensive process of desalination, mainly in the Gulf and through Libya’s Great Man-Made River project.

Adopting a more localized perspective, Dina Zayed also homes in on the intersection of climate vulnerability and governance. In a journalistic piece on a major flooding that occurred in Alexandria in 2015, Zayed portrays how Egypt remains one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. This can be demonstrated by its continued heavy exposure to floods, where a one-meter sea-level rise scenario is projected to affect 10 percent of Egypt’s total population and to wipe out nearly 15 percent of its agricultural land. As a country with an agrarian economy and economic activity highly concentrated in coastal areas, which also ranks second in the world in terms of coastal populations affected, Egypt’s population writ large is highly vulnerable to climate change.

Zayed strongly advocates for the mobilization of civil society groups in Egypt to facilitate government efforts to collect and track climate-related data. Currently, this approach is not a streamlined and developed part of climate adaptation plans in Egypt. She further argues that more participatory governance mechanisms, which both are inclusive of all relevant stakeholders and sectors and also win the approval of the public through transparent policies, are needed to achieve more effective and equitable climate protections. These sentiments are echoed in a draft for a new climate strategy. However, Egypt’s legal restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will have negative implications for climate adaptation. In particular, NGOs have undertaken robust fundraising efforts, both locally and from abroad, that have proven to advance climate capacity-building mechanisms, but since 2017 these ambitions have been minimized in response to fears of surveillance and harassment. Zayed believes NGOs have the ability to inform more accurate and inclusive decisionmaking on climate change and to fortify government officials’ understanding of climate risks facing Egypt. Thus, she argues that climate change has revealed deficits in policy decisionmaking stemming from a lack of accurate information, data, and input from subnational governments and municipalities and that NGOs can fill this gap if Egypt can depoliticize the roles of these organizations.

On another hand, Shada El-Sharif and Marwan Muasher point to the economic losses associated with climate change. El-Sharif and Muasher argue that Jordan’s severe water scarcity problem has made the country’s economic development highly vulnerable to climate change, particularly for older adults, migrants, and those living in poverty. Jordan’s agriculture sector is likely to suffer further declines in economic productivity owing to reduced water availability, given that Jordan’s per capita renewable freshwater resources already fall well below the United Nations’ severe water scarcity threshold of 500 cubic meters per year (m3/year). The authors explain how water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, has enabled forced rural to urban migration in the farming community and depleted water resources for subsistence farmers who depend on rainfed agriculture. On a national level, this is also concerning for the 53 percent of Jordanians already vulnerable to food insecurity.

In addition to rising operating costs in Jordan’s tourism and water sector, mostly from electricity demands, Jordan’s trade structure is also highly vulnerable to climate change. Its five largest export sectors—textiles, chemicals, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and rare minerals—either rely on intensive extractions of water and energy or are sensitive to water and energy tariffs. El-Sharif and Muasher emphasize that climate change, beyond worsening vulnerabilities in national economic terms, will have unfavorable impacts on traditionally vulnerable groups especially regarding health. Malnutrition is rampant in refugee camps in Jordan, particularly in the eastern Badia area, as increasing temperatures have given rise to water-, food- and vector-borne diseases. Asthma and lung diseases brought about by temperature rises and dust storms are also infecting refugees, consequently worsening their high vulnerability to socioeconomic and health challenges.

El-Sharif and Muasher use the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate adaptation frameworks to make the central argument that the most effective way a country can address climate-induced vulnerabilities is through strengthening its adaptive capacities. Their article calls for actors to mobilize toward sustainable development through a multilevel global governance framework that promotes multisectoral and multistakeholder involvement and collaboration between regional, municipal, and city-level governments and between the water, health, agriculture, and urban development sectors. Jordan has made strides in better aligning its executive and legislative branches on climate projects and policies and has prioritized multidisciplinary governance in climate-sensitive sectors by creating a Water-Energy-Food-Environment Nexus Council (though this has yet to be institutionalized).

However, El-Sharif and Muasher revert to the point that the state’s focus on creating new policies is holding Jordan back from streamlining existing policies and realizing its optimal governance capacity. Moreover, regulatory obstacles at higher levels of government continue to stifle local empowerment toward climate resilience. Climate change has forced local farmers to give up their land: many have reported being ill-prepared for climate hazards like frost and drought owing to (what they consider to be) a lack of access to communication with national authorities and early-warning systems. As stressed by El-Sharif and Muasher, to safeguard economic livelihood at the micro level, more coordination between national local actors is needed. At the macro level, El-Sharif and Muasher reinforce that a “just economic transition” that ensures job opportunities in all climate-sensitive sectors while generating revenue for the state should be at the forefront of Jordan’s climate strategy. To reach its emissions reduction target in particular, Jordan will have to attract more investments.

In a case study on Amman specifically, Reem Halaseh argues that a combination of burgeoning urbanization (rate of 97.2 percent) and aging infrastructure has meant that climate change significantly heightens preexisting social and economic vulnerabilities in Amman, Jordan—a city already suffering from a 24 percent unemployment rate and a continuous influx of refugees. Amman struggles with limited green spaces, which otherwise could help alleviate the city’s rising heat island effect, and with strained water and electricity consumption that causes more frequent blackouts and vehicle inefficiencies.

In Amman, those disproportionately impacted by climate change include refugees living in overcrowded camps as well as lower-income groups with a comparable lack of access to sufficient resources and economic opportunities. Both groups are more exposed to heatwaves and outbreaks of vectorborne and airborne diseases. Al Qweismah, Abu Alanda, Al Jwaydah, and the western district of Wadi As Seer are particularly vulnerable. Droughts that further limit access to water also disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including youth, the elderly, women, city workers, and people with disabilities—all of whom are primarily concentrated in residential and commercial areas. Affected areas include Basman, Abdali, Badir, Zahran, Ras Al Ein, Tlaa’ Al Ali, Um As Summaq, and Khalda. Lastly, Halaseh raises the issue of flash flood occurrences as a driver of exacerbated vulnerabilities jeopardizing schools and residential and commercial spaces in Al Madinah district and outlines how poorly built infrastructure has contributed to unsafe conditions.

Halaseh asserts that establishing urban climate resilience in Amman will hinge on upgrading critical physical infrastructure in a way that utilizes energy efficiently and equitably, to ensure that all will have adequate access to city resources. Amman’s various local climate strategies and action plans—including the Amman Resilience Strategy, the Amman Green City Action Plan, and the Amman Smart City Roadmap, as well as the Green Amman Municipality—promote sustainable city development through energy resource diversification. Possible approaches include turning to renewable energy; expanding green spaces; and improving management of solid waste, water, and wastewater. Implementing these plans will improve successes with future emergency responses to climate hazards. Yet as Halaseh argues, the escalated magnitude of climate risks in Amman’s most vulnerable urban communities has underlined the need for the consistent monitoring of disaggregated climate data that are measurable, scientific, and evidence-based, as part of greater climate governance efforts. Although air- and vector-borne diseases in the context of climate change remain understudied in Amman, Halaseh asserts that further research could help reduce climate-induced inequalities, especially for the health-related consequences of climate change. Halaseh also highlights how district-level city plans, especially Amman’s “data hub,” the Amman Urban Observatory, generally must be better aligned with broader IPCC recommendations and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Both resources contain thoroughly and accurately studied environmental indicators that can yield better guidance and results for effective climate adaptation in Amman. Improvements in coordinated national- and city-level planning in Jordan also could make progress in Amman’s climate action goals.

Beyond centralized governance, the MENA region’s vulnerability to climate change also can be framed as a hydrocarbon dependence issue, according to Manal Shehabi. Shehabi’s piece focuses on Morocco, a hydrocarbon importer state, and Oman, a hydrocarbon exporter state, as case studies. Along with other Gulf states, Oman unduly relies on hydrocarbon exports with inherently volatile prices for government revenue, which has heightened its economic vulnerability, as seen following the 2014 oil price collapse. Similarly, Morocco’s dependence on energy and energy-intensive imports has heightened the country’s economic vulnerability through energy and food import inflation following hydrocarbon price hikes. Additionally, both countries, especially Oman, face high levels of water stress that have deprived their citizens, especially farming communities, of adequate water supplies, a situation that is exacerbated by climate change impacts such as floodings in Oman and droughts in Morocco. Water scarcity is especially challenging in Oman, and the country will have to increasingly rely on additional energy-intensive water desalination projects to secure its water needs, including for its planned energy transition projects. In Morocco, already vulnerable Indigenous groups in Noor Ouarzazate have been displaced from their land, which was used for renewable projects, while the cleaning and cooling down for solar panels depleted potable water resources.

Shehabi advocates for MENA states to prioritize protecting the environment in their economically motivated energy transition plans to manage substantial trade-offs of those plans and to make them just and climate-resilient, benefiting people and the environment. The importance of managing those trade-offs is evident in regional acceleration of green hydrogen plans (which require water and renewable electricity). In Morocco, the government has established some renewable energy projects in agricultural-rich regions that have depleted water resources, harming potable water levels, agricultural products, farmers, and consumers of water-intensive agricultural products. Similarly, even though green hydrogen use is more sustainable than hydrocarbons, MENA governments—particularly in the Gulf states and Jordan—are ambitious in their plans for exporting green hydrogen, the production of which is costly and water-intensive and, therefore, will further strain water resources and local demands in some of the world’s most water-stressed countries.

Oman has announced plans to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 in its National Strategy for Orderly Transition to Net Zero. Yet Shehabi argues that Oman’s strategy yields a substantial reduction of emissions—approximately 97 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e)—which is still insufficient to reach net zero. In addition to expanding renewables, Oman will need to substantially decarbonize both its oil and gas operations and industries and utilize expensive carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies. In Morocco, by contrast, the gap between targets and transition plans is less pronounced; Morocco emits significantly less emissions than Oman and has a more-established renewables sector. Although Morocco has emissions reduction plans for its forestry, land use, waste, and agriculture sectors, decarbonizing its agriculture sector using costly future output of green ammonia (a derivative of green hydrogen) could economically harm local farmers and consumers through the price surge of agricultural goods, absent subsidies or other measures. In this way, energy transition projects’ effects on vulnerable sectors could undermine a just transition, which further highlights the need for Morocco to implement energy transition plans that are climate-resilient and benefit all groups. Lastly, Shehabi states that an effective, just transition plan cannot be achieved without adequate access to finance, especially for middle-income countries (especially hydrocarbon importers).

In Libya’s case, Frederic Wehrey approaches vulnerability to climate change as a condition exacerbated by political turmoil that perpetuates the marginalization of already vulnerable socioeconomically disadvantaged communities and ethnolinguistic minorities, especially when it comes to access to water and energy infrastructures. Wehrey claims that on a national scale, Libya’s economic reliance on revenues from oil exports will undermine its decarbonization transition, risking continued exposure of its population to oil price fluctuations along with exposure to food supply shocks due to excessive imports of agricultural goods.

In terms of climate risks sharpening vulnerabilities, the arable and farmer-concentrated towns of Jabal Nafusa in Libya (such as Yifren, Nalut, Jadu, and Qala’a) continue to experience disrupted harvesting cycles, decreasing yields, and heightened food insecurity conditions as a result of climate change. Worsening sandstorms in the south have spiked transportation costs for farmers transporting crops to northern markets. Limited water access coupled with temperature spikes have led to frequent electricity outages in areas like Fezzan, Libya’s poorest region concentrated with farmers and displaced persons. Consequently, water supplies crucial for irrigating staple products like wheat and barley in Fezzan, are progressively declining in output; vandalism of wells in Fezzan has diminished output by 30 percent. Similarly, in socioeconomically vulnerable areas like the western Jafara Plain and in the eastern Jabal Akhdar, access to land and resources already threatened by climate impacts like reduced precipitation and rising temperatures has been further threatened by political instability, namely the Libyan Arab Armed Forces’ monopolization of key agriculture and energy infrastructure.

Wehrey argues that the socioeconomic hardships experienced by Libya’s most vulnerable communities as a result of climate change are exacerbated by the lack of decentralization in Libya’s governance strategy. The insufficient power of local governance has allowed for the escalation of corruptive measures that deprioritize sustainable policies and goals, further disadvantaging Libya’s most fragile groups. Wehrey explains how the government’s diversion of water supplies away from Libya’s poorer minorities, such as the non-Arab Tabu, Tuareg, and Amazigh people, and toward richer northern communities is the product of a deficit of regulated control on the centralization of resources, which will further jeopardize Libya’s climate goals and widen socioeconomic inequalities. Similarly, the state-owned monopolies that heavily influence Libya’s energy sector have sidelined renewable energy plans. Wehrey refers to this state of affairs to call for greater decentralization in governance to help both national and local actors develop capacities for a more effective response to climate-induced vulnerabilities.

Wehrey further argues how, at the governance level, climate disasters such as the catastrophic flooding in Derna in 2023 have exposed Libya’s lack of qualified personnel, insufficient technical capacities, and poor local data collection mechanisms. Libya’s future climate governance plans will rely on greater expertise and collaboration with universities to develop potential solutions. Wehrey also claims that the regulatory exclusion of local grassroots actors and foreign companies in climate planning will only derail adaptation strategies that safeguard the most affected vulnerable minorities. As part of this greater argument for decentralization in climate governance, Wehrey points to municipal leaders in Nafusa and an agricultural research center in the coastal city of Misrata as models for effective climate governance through their introduction of economical adaptive capacity tools that locals have continued to use.

As for Tunisia, Sarah Yerkes and Joy Arkeh argue that climate change has widened preexisting socioeconomic inequalities that further harm struggling populations in the rural, coastal, and fragile urban sectors. On a national level, Tunisa’s overdependence on food imports (especially grain, at 95 percent) has rendered Tunisia structurally inept to weather climate shocks, such as droughts, that lower agricultural yields. At a sectoral level, Tunisia’s persistent struggles over water and food scarcity, both made worse by rising temperatures, have further harmed groups that are economically dependent on agriculture and fishing and therefore are subject to food and price energy shocks. Yerkes and Arkeh demonstrate how Tunisians’ poverty status is positively correlated with their chances of being exposed to climate risks; in the poorer southern region, for instance, residents are more likely to work in jobs associated with climate stress, like agriculture. Additionally, rural Tunisians exposed to climate change have been forced to migrate to highly concentrated urban areas, which raises their vulnerability to climate-induced health and socioeconomic risks among already vulnerable groups, especially as women and children are left behind while men seek urban employment.

Yerkes and Arkeh argue that Tunisia’s centralized governance structure plays a major role in imperiling climate adaptation efforts and further exacerbating preexisting and climate-induced socioeconomic vulnerabilities. According to the authors, divided government coalitions and the prevalence of a rent economy and related particular interest groups have created a weak institutional setup for climate action in Tunisia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources, and Fisheries. More critically, the absence of a functional local government infrastructure has prevented municipalities from adequately addressing local climate challenges, which require a distinct set of strategies (from the national agenda) that cater to differing local bioclimates. In Tunisia’s energy sector, centralization has led to the deprioritization of climate plans intended to protect vulnerable rural communities that are suffering disproportionately from water scarcity. In addition, agricultural land continues to be seized to build land for solar and wind projects that require significant water usage.

Similarly, Yerkes and Arkeh examine the implications of the water sector’s lack of participatory governance, advocating against the privatization of the water and renewable energy sectors. As is the case with Tunisia’s energy sector, Yerkes and Arkeh argue that in addition to alleviating public budgetary pressures and expanding financing measures for climate projects, private sector involvement as a function of decentralization can immensely improve resource security in Tunisia. Major benefits include healthier water quality and more abundant water supplies, especially in areas disproportionately experiencing water scarcity, by allowing for more efficient project implementation processes. Such processes include operations, maintenance, regulation, and enforcement.


In summary, as long as social and economic justice continues to be excluded from climate governance frameworks, climate change will deepen the region’s socioeconomic problems. Major adaptation projects across the region that are dubbed as “sustainable” are acquired through unchecked land seizures resulting in displacement and are the same projects to degrade the quality and quantity of already scarce resources. Costly techniques like desalination and green hydrogen are prized for being renewable yet fail to critically assess the impacts of their use—through a demographic and sectoral-inclusive lens—before implementation. The urban poor will face a distinctive set of climate, health, and resource access challenges compared to commercial farmers versus subsistence farmers; so will consumers versus producers of agricultural products. The MENA region’s centralized governance framework will have environmental consequences. The monopolization of resources by political powerhouses—in addition to a lack of concerted governance between local grassroots actors and foreign entities, especially regarding fundraising—remains one of the biggest roadblocks to honing capacity building and self-sufficiency. Policymakers must seriously consider how siloed emergency responses set back climate resilience goals and must begin to treat micro-level local and municipal issues with national urgency through established communication channels with state-level stakeholders.

Correction: The paragraphs summarizing chapter 6, on Morocco's and Oman's energy transitions, have undergone text revisions.

In this series on climate change, vulnerability, and governance, Carnegie scholars and contributors analyze how climate change impacts socioeconomically vulnerable populations and infrastructures and shapes governance systems and capacities in the MENA region.

For more in the series, see:


Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.