A STUDY published by Christian Aid has highlighted the devastating economic impact climate change will inflict on the Arabian Peninsula.

With delegates discussing a global phase out date for fossil fuels at COP28, the first COP held in the Gulf since 2012, the new report lays out the economic impacts of rising temperatures on one of the world’s already hottest regions.

The analysis in the report, titled Mercury Rising: the economic impact of climate change on the Arabian Peninsula, was led by Marina Andrijevic, an economist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna.

Estimates based on peer-reviewed methodology by Burke et al show that if global temperature rise reaches 3C by the end of the century, the UAE and Saudi Arabia face a reduction in economic growth of -72 per cent compared to a scenario without climate change. Gulf countries as a whole can expect to suffer an average GDP hit of -69 per cent at 3C of warming by 2100. Even if countries keep global temperature rise to 1.5C as set out in the Paris Agreement, these countries still face an average GDP growth reduction of -8.2 per cent by 2050 and -36 per cent by 2100.

This highlights the threat posed to the region from the expansion of fossil fuels which make up 75 per cent of greenhouse gasses. The findings have sparked calls from climate scientists and campaigners in the region for a fossil fuel phase out date to be agreed at COP28 this week.

By 2050 and 2100, the economies of these countries are still expected to be higher than they are today. The study highlights the amount of damage caused to their GDP by climate change, compared to a scenario where climate change did not take place.

The report also shows that countries in the region have some of the highest per capita emissions on the planet, even before factoring in the large amounts of fossil fuels created in these countries. (These per capita CO2 figures do not account for emissions embedded in traded goods). The average resident of COP28 host nation the UAE is responsible for 25.8 tonnes of CO2 per year. That is 645 times more than the average person from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose per capita CO2 emissions is 0.04 tonnes.

Shady Khalil, Campaigns Lead at Greenpeace Middle East and North Africa, said: ”As one of the region’s most acutely threatened by climate change, the Middle East and North Africa faces a future where rising temperatures could render vast areas uninhabitable, exacerbating the vulnerabilities of countless communities and leading to displacement, wars, and premature deaths. At COP28, we must commit to a just and equitable phaseout of fossil fuels. This commitment isn’t just for the sake of our region; it’s a clarion call to the world to acknowledge and act upon the urgent need to transition to renewable energy sources. Our actions today will determine the liveability in this region and around the world for generations to come.”

Lead researcher on the report, Marina Andrijevic, an economist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, said: “The analysis shows the grave economic harm that will be posed to life in the Arabian Peninsula if temperatures continue to climb in an already baking hot region. It’s a tragic irony that much of this global heating will be caused by oil and gas burned from this very part of the world. Agreeing to phase out of all fossil fuels is the single most significant thing that COP28 could achieve in reducing emissions and turning the tide on climate change. It’s not just the Arab world which faces big economic headwinds if emissions grow, other vulnerable countries will also be affected with some of the poorest people bearing the greatest cost.”

Meysam Qadrdan, Professor of Energy Networks and Systems at Cardiff University, said: “The economic impacts of climate change are already here and set to grow if emissions continue to rise. The science is clear that burning fossil fuels is the driving force behind the climate change, which is why many climate scientists and more than a hundred countries are calling for COP28 to set a fossil fuel phase out date. The Arabian Peninsula is one of the hottest regions on the planet and is expected to face serious climate impacts if the expansion of fossil fuels is allowed to continue.”

Joab Okanda, Senior Climate Advisor, Christian Aid, said: “This year is set to be the hottest on record and fossil fuels are directly to blame. They make up 75 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions which are fuelling the climate crisis. For people living in places already facing extreme heat, like the Arabian Peninsula, continued growth of the fossil fuel industry is a threat to life. Vulnerable people around the world have been calling for a phase out of fossil fuels for many years and until now the issue has been brushed under the carpet at COP summits. That needs to end here in the UAE. What better place to usher in the dawn of a new age than in one of the biggest oil producing countries on earth.”

Joanna Haigh, Former Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London, said: “Fossil fuels are inextricably linked to the climate crisis and until they are phased out the more global heating we will see, and the more climate suffering will take place. The Gulf region is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and will face serious climate challenges if temperatures continue to rise.”

Mohamed Adow, Director of climate and energy think tank, Power Shift Africa, said: “The world is trying to achieve something truly remarkable at this COP. Ending the fossil fuel era will be one of the proudest achievements of our species and the UAE would be a fitting place to set the funeral date. This report shows how essential it is that we get on with ushering in a global economy powered by clean energy as quickly as possible. People in the Gulf, as well as other much poorer and more vulnerable places, will reap the benefit in the long run, once we put fossil fuels to rest.”

Speaking in June 2000, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Former Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia, said: “The Stone Age came to an end not because we had lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”

The methodology used in this study does not factor in adaptation measures so greater investment in adaptation could potentially alleviate some of the economic damage. However adaptation cannot be taken for granted, especially in countries with lower socioeconomic resources. The current lack of adaptation support is one of the key issues being discussed at COP28.

According to the UN’s Adaptation Gap report, published in November this year, adaptation finance needs of developing countries are now 10-18 times bigger than international public finance flows and 50 per cent larger than previously thought.

* More about the UN’s Adaption Gap Report here.

Source: Christian Aid