Paving the Way Towards a Greener MENA

sustainable energy project
Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels

Assessing our current circumstances and the feasibility to change.

Individuals and governments are hopping on the ‘sustainability’ train at different times. Depending on available education, current resources and viable incentives, businesses are adopting new practices and implementing new laws around operating sustainably. 

Contributing Editor, Saja Elmishri assesses what can be done to create a more sustainable way of life in the MENA region. 

Some may say that achieving sustainable development goals across MENA is a far-fetched idea  however, several individuals and companies are embracing the thought of a greener future. Such initiatives may entail using more renewable energy or embedding sustainability into the educational curriculum in order to showcase the practical ways of how sustainability can be utilised for example.

But what is actually known about the availability of sustainable resources in the Middle East?  For example, we know there are abundant sources of renewable energy that can be used across the region and there are methods of reducing the carbon footprint caused by construction projects and traffic.

Therefore, as sustainability is becoming a goal for brave companies to champion, it is very important that it gets celebrated and included across every market from education, fashion, tech and government via different incentives. For example, awarding financial grants to businesses that incorporate sustainability into their trade will encourage brands to take part in a greener future. To illustrate, the launch of MENA Green Building Awards in 2013 empowers businesses and organizations to evidently implement sustainable designs. 

On one side, there are several propositions being made of how UAE supermarkets are tackling plastic pollution but there also has to be incentives in place that encourage fashion retailers in the Middle East to reduce their waste. As we know, UAE has a prominent mall culture, which includes spending the entire day shopping, watching movies, dining and lounging. Therefore with traffic heavy malls, targeting this particular consumer trend, retailers need to come up with strategies that aim to reduce waste. Whether that is across reducing the carbon footprint of each individual store, tackling single use packaging, or even educating consumers to take active steps as well – these are all practical actions that can be implemented. 

solar panels
Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels

But if the world wants to see a change, and work against the climate change emergency that we as citizens are going to face if we do not reduce our carbon emissions, said changes need to occur on a global scale.

According to Drapers, the pandemic has highlighted the turning point of sustainability and has stressed the importance of adapting to a ‘planet first’ mentality. But once again, it’s not enough to build awareness, the true change comes from how we define sustainability and the tactical  solutions that follow. 

Specifically, there is potential for the MENA region to become the global leader in sustainability and advance its development. For example one way to start would be to take advantage of the warmer weather and find ways of generating carbon free electricity by using solar panels.

Note that not every strategy that works best for other parts of the world, will also work in MENA. From a Western point of view, one might make the assumption that certain regions in the Middle East are far behind when it comes to sustainability. Which is why, when it comes to creating solutions on how to approach certain areas of sustainability, it’s crucial to consider how logical and feasible each solution is for our specific region.