Archive for March, 2011

The Arab Green Economy Initiative – Moshe Terdman

March 18, 2011

The Arab Green Economy Initiative – Moshe Terdman

Green Compass Research – March 2011


The Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) presented its program on Arab Green Economy at a special session held during the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which convened in Nairobi In February 21-24, 2011. AFED Secretary General, Najib Sa’ab, presented the Arab Green Economy Initiative, which aims at “transitioning from virtual economy based on real estate and financial speculation and depletion of resources, to the real economy based on sustainable growth combined with productive investment which creates new job opportunities”. Najib Sa’ab said that the Arab development agendas are facing demanding challenges, as populations grow fast and rapid economic growth strain institutional capacities and natural resources, such as water. He added that “Arab economies are requested to provide gainful employment to tens of millions over the next 10 years, alleviate poverty, address food and water security risks, drive economic growth, and adapt to climate change”. Sa’ab emphasized that these challenges demand strong action by Arab governments guided by a bold vision and concluded that a shift to a green economy can bolster the region’s economic competitiveness and diversify national incomes, while maintaining social stability, cultural identity, and environmental sustainability.[1]

Najib Saab also disclosed that Arab Green Economy will be the subject of its annual report for 2011, covering eight topics: water, agriculture, energy, transport, industry, cities and green building, tourism, and waste management. The report highlights opportunities of sustainable investments in each of these sectors to be discussed at the AFED annual conference in October 2011.[2]

During the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, an agreement between AFED and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was signed to hold training sessions on green finance and corporate environmental performance reporting, aimed at introducing the culture of accountability and measuring environmental performance in the Arab world. AFED programme in 2011 also includes training modules in energy and water efficiency audits.[3]

But, before dealing in detail with the Arab Green Economy Initiative, a definition of the term “green economy” is in order.

The UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative

UNEP’s working definition of a green economy is “a system of economic activities related to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services that result in improved human wellbeing over the long term, while not exposing future generations to significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities”.[4]

Therefore, in practice, green economy means the following things: increase in green investment, increase in quantity and quality of jobs in green sectors, increase in local and global environmental benefits, decrease in energy/resource use per unit of production, decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, and decrease in waste and pollution.

On October 22, 2008, the Economics and Trade Branch of the UNEP launched the Green Economy Initiative (GEI) “to put forward strong and convincing evidence that would support a global plan for a transition to a green economy – one that is dominated by investment in and consumption of environmentally enhancing goods and services. GEI will consider the economic returns, income generation, job creation, and poverty reduction that can be achieved by investing in a new generation of assets including clean and efficient technology, renewable energy, ecosystem and biodiversity-based products and services, chemical and waste management, and the construction or retrofitting of ‘green cities’ with ecologically-friendly buildings”.[5]

The GEI is designed to produce a roadmap for governments and other decision makers so that they can reshape and refocus financial markets and public spending towards a range of green sectors, while sustainably using and preserving natural assets. According to the UNEP website, the GEI “consists of several components whose collective overall objective is to provide the analysis and policy support for investing in green sectors and in greening environmental unfriendly sectors. Within UNEP, the Green Economy Initiative includes three sets of activities:

  1. Producing a Green Economy Report and related research materials, which will analyze the macroeconomic, sustainability, and poverty reduction implications of green investment in a range of sectors from renewable energy to sustainable agriculture and providing guidance on policies that can catalyze increased investment in these sectors.
  2. Providing advisory services on ways to move towards a green economy in specific countries.
  3. Engaging a wide range of research, non-governmental organizations, business and UN partners in implementing the Green Economy Initiative”.[6]

Making a Transition to an Arab Green Economy

The UNEP partnered with the AFED in order to create the Arab Green Economy Initiative. The AFED is regarded throughout the Arab world as the leading and the most influential and important regional environmental organization that has become the main source of credible information on the state of Arab environment and policy options.  

According to its website, the “Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) is a not-for-profit regional non-governmental organization, grouping experts together with civil society, business community and media, to promote prudent environmental policies and programmes across the Arab region”. The AFED was officially established in Beirut on June 17, 2006, at the conclusion of a regional conference on Public Opinion and the Environment, organized by the Environment and Development magazine on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. The AFED is based in Beirut and has been endorsed by the Arab League and the UNEP.[7]     

In preparation for launching the Arab Green Economy Initiative, the AFED, in partnership with the UNEP, organized a series of workshops from May 8 to June 22, 2009 in six Arab countries, including: Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. The workshops addressed the opportunities and challenges of navigating a transition to green economy as well as the business rationale for corporate environmental sustainability efforts. The workshops also presented frameworks for incorporating environmental responsibility goals into business strategies. Participants represented all sorts of industries, including oil and gas, banking, design, tourism, construction and others.[8]

During the first workshop, which was held in Beirut on May 8, 2009, Hussein Abaza, chief of UNEP’s Economics and Trade Branch in Geneva, said that “Arab countries, like the rest of the world, are experiencing the effects of economic recession, which call for efficient and immediate action. Today’s economic slowdown presents us with a rare opportunity to re-direct our energies and resources toward making a transition to more sustainable patterns of development”. Abaza called for “turning high unemployment, food and water security risks, and climate change into green opportunities”. Explaining that the Green Economy Initiative “would be anchored in investments in environmental assets, clean and efficient production, renewable energy and regenerative urbanization”, Abaza noted that the workshops are carried out in cooperation with UNEP’s regional office for West Asia.[9]

Indeed, data presented at the workshops showed that green initiative, mainly in energy, water and food production, will create new jobs that are urgently needed, especially when rapid population growth and urbanization in the Arab world will drive demand for jobs and put additional strain on Arab national budgets. With about 100 million between the ages of 15 to 29, which accounted for about 30% of the Arab population in 2009, the Arab world has the largest number of young people of any region. The unemployment rate of this age group stood at 25% in 2009. Of particular concern is the ability of the Arab economies to provide for the needs of a youth population bulge over the next 10 years. In 2009, the Arab world had one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 14-17%. Moreover, food and water security problems threaten economic prosperity and social stability in the Arab world. According to the Islamic Development Bank, “50 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water in the Arab world with a further 97 million lacking access to adequate sanitation”.[10]  

The Arab Green Economy Initiative will provide a plan for tackling unemployment issues by focusing on sustainable patterns of investments in labor-intensive sectors of the economy. The workshops identified five main green growth sectors: green buildings, sustainable transport, renewable and efficient energy, sustainable agriculture and fresh water. The Green Arab Economy Initiative will also address how to rationalize water use and how to assist farmers sustain livelihood security in rural areas. For example, investments in organic agriculture and water conservation can spur growth in an organic food market, one of the highest growing sectors.[11]

The backbone for the Arab Green Economy Initiative will be the creation of public-private partnerships, which will become a driver for the green economy. As an inseparable and most important part of the Arab Green Economy Initiative, the AFED will launch the following programs: economics of eco-system investing, Arab green enterprises, public policy recommendations, corporate environmental responsibility, sustainability reporting, new business models and sustainability, product stewardship workshops, environmental housekeeping handbook, and web-based consumer education.[12]   


The Arab Green Economy Initiative has won the backing of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) as well as other regional bodies, who have cooperated with the AFED to develop a joint Arab vision for green economy, which will be presented at Rio+20 Summit that will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

Indeed, the Green Economy Initiative was originally initiated due to the worldwide economic recession in 2008. But, the economic recession is only one reason, and a relatively minor one, for the future implementation of this initiative throughout the Arab world.  

The two reasons that I find far more important in the regional context of the Arab world for what is likely to be an easy implementation of this initiative are: the current events and the socio-economic situation that led to them as well as the environmental security challenges facing the Arab world.

First of all, the current events, which have been experienced by almost all of the Arab countries, brought the Arab regimes to the conclusion that in order to be legitimized by their people, and especially by the ever-growing youths, they need to find an answer to the unemployment issue. This initiative is giving an answer to this burning issue.

Furthermore, the Middle East and North Africa as a whole are facing four main environmental security challenges caused by climate change: energy security, food security, water security, and desertification and land degradation. The Arab Green Economy Initiative will help those countries to better adapt to climate change effects and to better deal with the environmental challenges facing them.

To sum up, the Arab Green Economy Initiative has a good potential, if wholly and well implemented, to solve many acute and difficult socio-economical and environmental problems and challenges facing the Arab world.

In the meantime, the Arab world has been experiencing recently the beginning of a development of green building, green investments, renewable energy, and other green industries. The implementation of the Arab Green Economy Initiative will result in the development of many more green enterprises throughout the Arab world.         

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Qatar – Qatar Drafts Law on Electronic Waste

March 10, 2011

In June 2010, Qatar is drafting a law on the safe management of the country’s fast accumulating stock of hazardous electronic waste (e-waste).

The law, the first of its kind in the region, is expected to be issued within three months (September 2010) and will include specific directives to dealers in electronic goods and stipulations for customers on how to manage old and defunct electronic gadgets, an environment ministry official has said.

“The ministry is in the preliminary stage of drafting the law. We will put in all the ideas required for bringing down the country’s e-waste to the zero level. Qatar would be the first country in the region to come out with a law to manage e-waste”, Rashid Al Kuwari, from the environment ministry, said, quoted by Qatari daily The Peninsula.

As a precursor to the Ministry of Environment’s ambitious plans to cut the country’s carbon footprint, Qatar Telecom (Qtel) on June 12, 2010  launched Qatar’s first e-waste recycling programme, which would ensure the safe and secure disposal of mobile phones and other electronic equipment.

“Working under the Ministry of Environment, we have developed a programme that would allow people to safely dispose potentially hazardous e-waste, Adel Al Mutawa, Executive Director, Group Communications, Qtel, said. “From today, all Qtel shops throughout Qatar will feature a ‘drop box’ disposal area that serves as the designated drop-off site for e-waste items like mobile phones and laptops, which contain heavy metals that can harm the environment,” he said.

Qtel, with the support of the recycling service agency ‘enviroserve’, will make regular pick-ups of e-waste from Qtel’s collection sites. The e-waste will be collected in 20-foot containers and shipped to a facility in Singapore for systemic recycling.

Monthly drop-off days for customers to dispose of larger electronic items such as old TVs and computers at designated locations will also be launched by Qtel.

Stuart Fleming, CEO, enviroserve, said a similar programme launched in UAE proved a great success. In a period of three years, enviroserve collected 600 tonnes of e-waste and 300,000 old mobile phones from the UAE.

“Safe management of e-waste is one of the problems faced by the world. Studies have proved that the heavy metals in a phone are capable of contaminating 600,000 litres of water,” he said, according to the Qatari daily.

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