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Closing the Climate Action Gap: Accelerating Decarbonization and the Energy Transition in MENA

For the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) this is a decisive moment in confronting climate change. As a region characterized by rising temperatures, prolonged droughts, and increased water scarcity, MENA is more vulnerable than others to extreme weather events such as more frequent and severe heatwaves, sandstorms, and flash floods, which have a potential to exacerbate socioeconomic disparities and migrant crises. A major global supplier of energy, MENA holds tremendous potential to take the lead in initiating solutions. Realizing this opportunity will require urgency, ambition, and collaboration.

In this context, the World Economic Forum, together with Bain & Company, has convened a diverse coalition of more than 40 progressive leaders from MENA, including policymakers, business leaders, banks, and industry experts, to form Leaders for a Sustainable Middle East and North Africa (LSM). With Egypt hosting COP27 in 2022 and the United Arab Emirates holding the upcoming COP28 in November–December 2023, this region-specific coalition recognized the unique opportunity at hand to harness the momentum to shape a regional sustainability agenda and meaningfully advance public-private cooperation for climate action in MENA.

This report, developed with the input of LSM members alongside primary research and a vast consumer survey, provides an in-depth analysis tailored to the MENA context. For the purposes of this report, we have focused the analysis on nine major MENA economies: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, and Bahrain, given the challenges of data availability with stock market regulators. It assesses the current state of corporate climate action in the region and identifies targeted strategies to turn risks into competitive advantages across sectors. While MENA countries have demonstrated a growing commitment to climate action through net-zero targets, action from the business community still lags behind that of global peers, and consumers still underestimate their regional vulnerabilities.

Yet despite starting from behind, the region has the necessary conditions to leapfrog others on the sustainability journey and share a new model for bold and coordinated regional action that leaves no one behind on a path to greener growth. MENA holds the advantage in both conventional sources of energy—given its low costs and low-emissions profile for hydrocarbon extraction—and renewables energy generation—noting its solar potential and vast swathes of available land.

Successfully transitioning to a sustainable future will hinge on bold measures from policymakers and companies, raising awareness and increasing the number of multi-stakeholder partnerships. This entails stepping up efforts on decarbonization and emission-related target-setting, and taking bold steps to unlock value from energy transition.

MENA is not a monolith, however—major differences exist between the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and non-GCC MENA countries—and greater regional collaboration is needed to fully realize the opportunity arising from decarbonization and the energy transition. Together, strategic climate action can strengthen diversification, exports, and employment across MENA.

The time for climate ambition is now and the window for decisive action is narrow. Collective action can secure an equitable and prosperous future for the region and the planet.


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