As environmental concerns surge, the MENA region’s role in global climate politics takes centre stage. The scheduled COP28 climate conference in Dubai and the expansion of renewable energy in Egypt and North Africa are testament to this evolution. This article delves into the region’s burgeoning energy landscape and the socio-political dynamics intricately tied to it.
Green Ambitions: Pioneering Renewable Projects in North Africa
In 2023, the emphasis on environmental and climate issues in the MENA region is unmistakable. With the upcoming COP28 climate conference in Dubai and the swift growth in renewable sectors in Egypt and North Africa, these regions are becoming significant players in global climate politics.
Morocco, historically an energy-deprived nation, pivoted to renewables to alter its energy dependencies. The Noor Ouarzazate solar mega project, situated at the High Atlas mountains’ base, serves as a beacon of Morocco’s ambition. While the project symbolizes a monumental leap in solar technology, it also masks the local political and social dynamics. As anthropologist Sarah Ryser remarked, projects like Noor Ouarzazate often mask the underlying socio-political issues of the region.
Amid these initiatives, Europe’s quest for alternative energy, especially in light of the war in Ukraine and the consequent global energy crisis, has turned towards North Africa. Projects like the EU-Morocco Green Partnership and start-ups like Xlinks aim to bridge the energy gap. Yet, some argue that this hints at a new form of environmental colonialism, with Europe benefiting at the expense of North Africa’s indigenous populations.
Mediterranean Dynamics: Energy and Politics Intertwined
Egypt’s endeavours to become a regional hub for energy are evident. Discoveries like the Tamar field, Leviathan field, Aphrodite field, and the Zohr field have transformed the eastern Mediterranean into an LNG exporter. The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in 2019, which saw the collaboration of several nations, reflects a regional realignment and hints at the emerging geopolitical hierarchies.
In contrast, Libya, after a decade-long civil conflict, has emerged as a crucial player in the Mediterranean’s energy landscape. Recent deals, like the one with BP and ENI, indicate the nation’s inclination towards further resource exploitation. However, optimists believe that the green transition can help rebuild Libya’s economy and possibly stabilize the country.
Conclusion: The Green Transition and Regional Geopolitics
The narrative surrounding the green transition often presents it as a mere technical matter, focusing on connecting energy producers with consumers. However, this perspective overlooks the intricate politics surrounding renewable energy infrastructure in the MENA region.
As the world embraces the green shift, it’s vital to recognize and address the geopolitical hierarchies and socio-political dynamics intertwined with these changes. Only by understanding the broader implications can the transition to renewable energy be both sustainable and equitable.
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