Just imagine if the future of urban infrastructure followed the lead of caddisfly larvae in using natural materials to construct everyone's homes. Transformation was high on the agenda as day four of the Middle East and North Africa Climate Week (MENA Climate Week 2023), which continued with parallel sessions of the four thematic tracks of the conference and an afternoon plenary session.
A morning event under thematic track 3 on “Land, Ocean, Food, and Water” spotlighted existing and emerging innovations at the nexus of water and food security, land restoration, and coastal area management. Mohammed Qurban, National Center for Wildlife, Saudi Arabia, described early warning systems for monitoring sensitive habitats such as coral reefs in marine protected areas around coastal tourism destinations and the new sustainable city of Neom.
Two events under thematic track 1 on “Energy Systems and Industry” also took place in the morning. Addressing methane emission reductions in the oil and gas value chain, participants highlighted the importance of accountability and transparency. They also discussed how South-South cooperation could support methane emission reductions in other regions through finance, technology transfer, capacity building, and other means of implementation. In a second event, participants discussed the potential for widespread adoption of green hydrogen in key industries in the region, such as cement, steel, and transportation.
Under thematic track 2 on “Cities, Urban and Rural Settlements, Infrastructure, and Transport,” participants spoke about climate-resilient infrastructure systems in adapting to extreme weather events in urbanized areas of the MENA region. Amira Ayoub, World Green Building Council, described the role of sustainable urban infrastructure that follows a biomimicry approach to learn from natural systems, using the example of how caddisfly larvae engineer their homes from local materials.
On thematic track 4 on “Societies, Health, Livelihoods, and Economies,” participants identified potential for a whole-of-society approach in including non-party stakeholders in implementing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the MENA region. Jasmin Blessing, UN Development Programme, noted that 95% of countries planning to submit their NDCs between 2021-2023 have included issues related to women's empowerment.
In a global-focused plenary event, participants attended a screening of the 2023 documentary Between the Rains, which shows the human dimensions of the direct impacts of climate change and the realities of having to adapt to these changing conditions, as seen through the eyes of Kole James, a member of the Turkana community in Kenya.
The day also saw many other events, including side events on localizing climate finance to increase access at the local scale, a global framework for sustainability in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, and climate-resilient and gender-sensitive municipal planning in MENA. Interactive Action Hubs discussed topics such as the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in promoting sustainable development, smart agriculture in desert ecosystems, and the role of Arab youth in climate action. Other topics in affiliated and regional events included the use of tools for evidence-based policymaking to achieve climate action and opportunities for youth involvement in navigating the just transition in the MENA region.