Climate change fight key to Iraq’s future
One of the countries that is being significantly impacted by climate change is Iraq. In fact, Iraq has been identified as the world’s fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change. And that is why finding sustainable solutions to combat the problem in Iraq is critical.
Taking collective action and having the political will to implement major environmental policies are among the most important factors required to address climate change in Iraq, which was once known as “the country of 30 million palm trees.”
Iraqi leaders have been taking constructive steps, such as offering policies to combat climate change and participating in key events such as COP27, the 27th annual UN Conference on Climate Change that was held in Egypt last year.
In a further step in the right direction, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani is making it a priority to tackle climate change through sweeping measures he hopes will be taken by 2030. In a speech to open the two-day Iraq Climate Conference in Basra in March, the prime minister pointed out that “more than 7 million citizens have been affected in Iraq ... and hundreds of thousands have been displaced because they lost their livelihoods that rely on agriculture and hunting. The most disheartening aspect is the severe drought that harmed our beautiful marshes.”
Some of the most critical steps that Iraq can take to address climate change include using more solar energy, restoring damaged ecosystems and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The last of these can be done through investments in efficient infrastructure, which reduces emissions.
Other methods include investing in renewable energy plants, recycling more, financing green companies and startups that are involved in renewable and green energy, agriculture, conserving water and upgrading old irrigation methods, and preserving the country’s biodiversity, as well as reducing Iraq’s carbon dioxide emissions.
When it comes to these important fields, the development of domestic, knowledge-based industries has arguably become an urgent necessity, rather than a welcome add-on.
It is worth noting that, as a developing country, Iraq has disproportionately experienced the impacts of loss and damage caused by climate change. This is why it is important to point out that tackling the climate crisis requires all countries, especially the developed ones, to take action. This means that poorer countries need support in order to adapt to and address the climate crisis.
In the long term, if some of the damage from climate change, such as water scarcity and a lack of agricultural resources, continues to increase in Iraq to the extent that freshwater resources are depleted, this will have an impact on national security and political stability. Such devastating impacts can also lead to a decrease in human health.
In addition, a large number of people will be forced to relocate to other parts of the world in order to survive. Damage and losses caused by climate change in Iraq are not solely limited to noneconomic factors. Economic losses in Iraq include the cost of rebuilding communities and infrastructure, as well as decreasing revenues in the agriculture industry.
The development of domestic, knowledge-based industries has arguably become an urgent necessity.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Iraq is witnessing one of the worst drought situations in its history. It is mostly affected by soaring temperatures. According to a recent report by the UN, other factors include “insufficient and diminishing rainfall, intensified droughts and water scarcity, frequent sand and dust storms, and flooding. Compounding this, water policies in neighboring countries have shrunk vital water sources, while rapid population growth, urbanization and inefficient water use by the agricultural and industrial sectors is propelling a demand for more water.”
Another important step that Iraq can take is to cooperate with the Gulf nations and pursue some of their successful policies toward combating climate change. There are several projects and initiatives in the Gulf related to renewable energy. For instance, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have pledged to increase the proportion of their energy mixes that come from renewable sources, while the UAE has committed to a 31 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has announced hugely ambitious plans to build NEOM, the world’s first city without roads — a clear signal of its intention to pursue environmentally friendly development. And Sultan Al-Jaber, the chairman of Masdar, has pointed out that the UAE “aims to play a central role in the emerging green hydrogen economy.”
There are other effective programs, such as the Middle East Green Initiative, which was launched in 2021 by Saudi Arabia. Officials hope it will be able to amplify “impact in the global fight against climate change, while creating far-reaching economic opportunities for the region.”
Cooperation with the Gulf nations in terms of renewable energy will benefit Iraq to a great extent and it will also reduce the fluctuations related to the energy process. It will also help the Iraqi government to diversify its economy by strengthening the private sector, investing in infrastructure and other industries, investing in renewable energy, and attracting more tourists.
These policy changes will not only help Iraq but also the region, which is one of the most vulnerable in the world when it comes to climate change due to its largely arid or semi-arid climate.
In a nutshell, Iraq can ensure a brighter future by combating climate change and putting it at the top of its agenda. It needs to implement sweeping measures to address climate change, such as investing in renewable energy, using solar energy, restoring damaged ecosystems and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. It is also incumbent on developed and wealthy countries to assist Iraq.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.