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Competition hots up for climate leadership in MENA


The race is on as the major Middle East powers up their climate ambition after many years of slow progress. Healthy competition could help drive genuine action.

Leaders of four Middle East and North African (MENA) powers took part in the US Leaders Summit on Climate – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, and Israel – representing 40 per cent of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions and just under 3.5 per cent of global emissions, as well as being the most influential states in the region along with Iran which was not invited.

Although the political significance of the summit is clear with the new US administration trying to chart a new course and make up for lost time, long-term geopolitical moves by the US have cast a long shadow over dynamics in the MENA region. Its declared pivot to Asia and partial withdrawal from MENA encourages several regional powers to now engage in a geopolitical competition to fill a perceived vacuum.

In the past, this usually manifested as states vying to expand their influence using diplomatic, financial, and military means but the new US administration’s focus on climate action has opened a new arena for regional leadership and global status. US president Joe Biden had urged invited leaders to use the summit as an opportunity to ‘outline how their countries will also contribute to stronger climate ambition’ but some MENA responses to his invitation came well before the meeting.

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