Fighting climate change is an economic opportunity for Iraq


The writer is president of Iraq

Iraq has been rocked by strong winds for the past 40 years. Wars, sanctions, terrorism and internal conflicts have threatened its stability and the well-being of its citizens.

But the potential economic and environmental impact of climate change is by far the most serious long-term threat to the country. According to the United Nations Environment Program, Iraq is the fifth most vulnerable country in the world to climate change.

Very high temperatures are more and more frequent, droughts more frequent and dust storms more intense. Desertification affects 39% of Iraqi territory and increased salinization threatens agriculture on 54% of our land.

Dams on the springs and tributaries of the historic Tigris and Euphrates rivers – the lifeblood of our country – have reduced water flow, leading to shortages. According to the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources, our country could face a deficit of 10.8 billion cubic meters of water per year by 2035.

This will be compounded by a combination of demographic and environmental factors: Iraq’s population is expected to double from 40 million people today to 80 million by 2050, as will our income, which is largely based on the production of oil, will be considerably reduced due to the world’s abandonment of fossil fuels. fuels as it shifts to clean and sustainable energy.

The indirect effects of climate change will be as serious, if not more serious, than the direct effects. The loss of income may very well lead to migration to cities whose infrastructures are still today unable to support the existing population. This migration can very well lead to extremism and insecurity as young people are unable to find jobs that give them a decent standard of living.

The fight against climate change must be an urgent national priority, but it is also an opportunity to diversify the Iraqi economy; support renewable and clean energies; participate in carbon markets; increase the resilience of ecologically and economically vulnerable areas; and provide better and more sustainable living conditions for our citizens.

In January, I ratified our parliament’s decision to conclude the Paris Agreement on climate change and we submitted the Nationally Determined Contributions report for COP26. Iraq also approved the ZEF deal, which commits us to end gas flaring by 2030.

Looking towards a better future, we need to go back to our recent green past. The Mesopotamia Revitalization Project is a set of projects focused on working with the private and public sectors to achieve our climate goals. One of the routes is to carry out a large national reforestation effort in the south and west of the country, mainly by planting palm trees – the cultural symbol of Mesopotamia – and restoring forests in the mountainous and urban areas of Kurdistan. . Other ideas include modernizing water management and increasing the use of solar energy.

Iraq will need the help of its friends in the international community for technical support and for planning and transfer of technology. We will seek to access green funds, private capital markets and international donors to help finance the envisaged investments. We hope this can help shift the Iraqi economy from dependency to once again becoming the breadbasket of the region as well as a major stop on trade routes.

Located in the geographic heart of the Middle East and blessed with rich biodiversity, Iraq has the potential to bring the countries of the region together as we tackle the threat of climate change. We are faced with a daunting task and there is no time to waste. But the fight against climate change also represents an opportunity for Iraq and the region to introduce measures that will leave them on a more solid footing as they face the challenges of the decades to come.


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