Climate Security & Water Stress

Climate security is causing additional water stress in a region that is already extremely affected by water scarcity.  The arid to semi-arid climate, the lack of renewable water resources that lie within the boundaries of the Arab countries, as well as the increasing pressure on groundwater resources, some of which are non-renewable, are all contributing factors to water scarcity. Fast growing populations and economies increase the overall water demand, as agricultural systems need to be able to boost food production in order to ensure food security in the region. To do this, a massive enhancement of crop water use efficiency is required, as agricultural production is directly affected by water stress.  Several countries of the Arab world still lack the means and capacity to ensure access to sufficient potable water and safe drinking water for all their citizens. The pollution of water resources places a further limitation on water use, while rising sea levels are heightening salinity levels in coastal groundwater aquifers and soils. The destruction of ecosystem health and loss of biodiversity are affecting the ability of ecosystems to provide vital ecosystem services through a balanced water cycle that enables water purification services. Water stress can impact population groups differently, as especially the poor and marginalized, as well as vulnerable groups, such as women, children, or refugees face a lack of secure water access and the financial means to cope with water-related climate change effects such as floods, salinity, or droughts. As many of the Arab world’s water resources are transboundary, effective sharing agreements between countries is a key issue. Water stress also has an impact on energy, as hydro-electricity is a principal energy generation mechanism in the region. Many of the technical actions needed to address those challenges are well defined. We now need to develop the strategic institutional tools to be able to implement water stress-related actions through a regional policy framework that enables integrated, concerted, and targeted action across the region.

Climate Security & Food Security

The Arab world has the highest food deficit and is the highest food-importing region globally.  The average annual increase in the food production and consumption gap is increasing throughout the past few years. Climate change is expected to impact the region’s agriculture and food production systems, with potentially severe negative impacts on food security, as it affects food prices, labor productivity, water supplies and livelihoods. Food security includes food production, as well as the social and economic access to sufficient food that meets the dietary needs and food preferences of all groups and populations across the Arab region. Water scarcity, temperature rise, sea level rise and an increase in extreme weather events including storms, floods and droughts threaten the development and maintenance of sustainable food production systems in a region where arable land is extremely limited. Beyond that, rising food prices following decreased production levels, harvest losses, changes on global food markets, or fluctuations in energy and transportation costs, are having a detrimental effect on the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable population groups. Fast population growth across the region enhances the overall food needs, as well as the requirement to boost food production, which is a serious challenge, given the region’s limited resources that are now under additional stress from climate change effects. Conflict, displacement, and forced migration can hinder the safe and efficient distribution of food to all population groups, particularly the vulnerable ones. Political tensions and conflict between nations across the Arab region impact food imports and exports, as more collaboration is needed to ensure the regional distribution of food. Food safety is another important aspect of food security. Pollution and a lack of food safety standards can considerably lower food quality and impact human health. The Arab region is facing numerous health problems such as obesity, undernourishment, malnourishment, and the stunting of children, the latter three of which are evidenced disproportionately in vulnerable groups. This Stakeholder Dialogue workshop will be requesting the participating food experts to identify technical tools, institutional capacities and political mechanisms needed to guarantee that food security can be ensured as a central aspect of climate security, always integrating food security with the themes addressed by the other Task Forces.

Climate Security & Energy Security

Our energy systems, including industry and transportation systems, rely by around 80% on the use of fossil fuels. The combustion of fossil fuels releases CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, upsetting the carbon cycle and causing global warming. For countries to keep global warming well under 2°C as compared to pre-industrial levels in order to abate destructive climate change effects (such as rising temperatures, changes in precipitation and rain patterns, frequently occurring extreme weather events), wide-reaching transformations in the energy sector are required. The economies of several countries in the region are based on the drilling and export of oil and gas, meaning that energy transformations towards renewable energy can have wide-reaching economic effects. Changes in available technologies, public services, and consumer behavior with respect to energy consumption are required in order to ratify the Paris Agreement. These can be supported by policy instruments such as tax incentives, loans, or aid programs, as well as the support of renewable energy-related industries. The region faces a challenge of distributing affordable and clean energy to all population groups, especially vulnerable groups that are still facing energy shortages. Achieving this with a net zero carbon footprint is a serious challenge. Financing the transformations needed in the energy sector can be a burden for poor and marginalized groups who do not have the financial means to achieve the needed investments, and are already struggling to cope with energy price increases, and to face climate change-induced impacts on their livelihoods. Energy prices have wide-reaching effects on social well-being, as they immediately impact transportation and food prices. As 30% of the region’s agricultural systems depend on irrigation, food production is closely linked with water pumping, and therefore with energy. Hydro-electricity plays a significant role in the region’s energy mix and thus water shortages can have a detrimental effect on energy production. The Task Force members of this theme will be requested to define technical, institutional and political challenges that are limiting the implementation of sustainable energy policies too. The ultimate goal is to identify tangible, integrated and targeted tools to implement planned sustainable energy policies.

Climate Security, Social Cohesion and Gender Equity

Climate change phenomena, such as rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns and rainfalls, sea level rise, and the increase in extreme and destructive weather, have an immediate impact on social security and wellbeing. Climate change-related effects, both catastrophic and slow onset changes can destroy livelihoods. Natural disasters can cause loss of life immediately leaving large parts of the population homeless, thus acting as a driver for forced migration. As climate change may render parts of the Arab region uninhabitable, the region needs to be prepared for waves of climate-induced refugees. This comes as political instability and armed conflict is already destabilizing the region, causing a major displacement of people, and leaving countries already dealing with resource scarcity scrambling to host large numbers of refugees. Challenges of water security, food security and energy provision, addressed by the three other Task Forces, are intricately linked with social cohesion. A competition over scarcer resources in the region can lead to competition and conflict, both within and across countries. Moreover, a lack of water, food and energy, intensified by climate change, further enhances the struggle to eradicate poverty and hunger, and to create safe, healthy and prosperous livelihoods for all parts of the Arab populations. Research has shown that women are extensively impacted by climate change and water scarcity as compared to men. Therefore, the policy tools addressing climate security must be gender-sensitive and must foster gender equity. Gender equity concerns access to resources, carrying the socio-economic burdens caused by climate change, protection from climate change related risks, and inclusion in framing and implementing climate security strategies. Climate change implications necessitate an enhanced functioning of social protection, health and disaster relief systems, education about climate change and its effects, as well as equal access to financial mechanisms for coping with climate change. In this Task Force, the aim is to identify technical capacities, institutional frameworks and political tools that address social climate security challenges through a nexus approach that integrates the themes addressed by the other three Task Forces. Additionally, linkages will also be established with the concept of climate security as a whole, and with the political frameworks that form the basis for this workshop, namely: The Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It is to be emphasized that this workshop is less focused on the identification of particular technical interventions or actions to advance climate security, but more on the development of institutional capacity and strategic planning tools needed to successfully implement already identified action plans.