The priority of environment or geopolitical crises

In the last two weeks the leaders and officials of the countries participating in the United Nations Climate Conference known as COP۲۸ gathered in Dubai United Arab Emirates to increase efforts to limit global warming and reduce the role of fossil fuels in the world.
13 December 2023
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Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri

In the last two weeks, the leaders and officials of the countries participating in the United Nations Climate Conference, known as COP28, gathered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to increase efforts to limit global warming and reduce the role of fossil fuels in the world. Although the heavy, inhumane attacks of the Zionist regime on the Gaza Strip have cast a shadow on this conference, this year's dry fall with little rain and the winters with little rain for the past few years remind us that paying attention to climate change and solving its causes and reasons is no longer an unimportant problem, and neglecting it can directly put the food security, well-being and life of the citizens of different countries into trouble. As a result, the governments too to face serious risks.

The reason for holding the COP28 in an OPEC member country, i.e., the United Arab Emirates, apart from the desire and enthusiasm of the Emirati authorities to host important international meetings and gain the prestige and influence resulting from it, can have another reason. The Middle East (West Asia region) is one of the regions that is highly dependent on energy. This region has abundant oil and natural gas resources, and a major part of its economy is based on the sale of these resources. However, dependence on fossil energy and, as a result, the resulting pollution has also brought problems to the region. Among these problems, we can mention air pollution, an increase in respiratory diseases among citizens, a drier climate, and the formation of water tensions within and between the countries of the region.

As a result, in recent years, attention to clean and green energy has increased in the region. However, the key question here is that in a situation where the poorest countries in the world suffer more from the effects of climate change and the world is divided on geopolitical issues regarding the ongoing wars in Gaza and Ukraine, is there any hope for the determination of the countries of the world to form a joint action in the field of reducing or optimizing the use of fossil fuels? What is the future of these energies in the West Asian region?

In response to the first question, it should be said that due to the increasing problems caused by climate changes, which are no longer specific to a certain region and country, and on the other hand, due to the geostrategic security threats caused by the dependence of world powers on fossil energies, it seems that the developed and large countries of the world tend to take positive steps towards clean energy. However, to carry out these actions, they have set a relatively long period to allow planning and investment in this area. Of course, the industries dependent on their fossil energy should not face serious damage and tension early. The decision of the United States and 21 other countries on the second day of the UN COP28 in Dubai to triple the nuclear energy capacity by 2050 can be evaluated in this regard.

However, the other side of this story is that the tripling of the nuclear energy capacity by 2050, along with other plans of developed industrial countries to use wind and solar energy, etc., will help them to reduce their dependence on oil and gas, and this can be a strategic threat for the single-product countries of the West Asian region, whose main source of income and influence in the international field is fossil energy.

On the other hand, the cost of investment for the development of clean and green energy in the West Asian region is higher than that of fossil energy, and naturally, allocating funds for such cases cannot be a priority for countries in this region, many of which are struggling with economic problems. Also, the possibility of attracting foreign investors is not very ready for all these countries. The lack of proper infrastructure, the need to consider the market situation (customers and beneficiaries of clean energy), human resources (the existence of sufficient specialized human resources), primary resources, equipment, and other knowledge infrastructure and key technologies are other problems that hinder the development of clean and green energy in most countries of the West Asian region.

Nevertheless, it must be said that clean energy has many advantages, which make its use beneficial for all countries of the world, including the countries of the West Asian region, in the long run. Reducing air pollution, controlling the alarming trend of climate change (due to not producing greenhouse gases), creating new jobs and the possibility of attracting more labor, and improving security and economic independence due to not depending on income from fossil resources are some of these benefits.

However, perhaps the most important reason why the countries of the West Asian region should go towards clean energy is the need to understand strategic transitions in time and to align, but rather to take the lead in them. At the current stage, with the economic, political, and security problems that climate change creates for different countries every day, the world has come to this understanding and public awareness that it must go through the costly and harmful conditions of fossil energy or at least look for new technologies (such as carbon removal technology) to control their damage.

In such a situation, preparation and planning to take the lead in the optimal use of clean and green energy is a smart policy that all countries should follow in the West Asian region, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. This approach will not only diversify the domestic economy of these countries but can increase the welfare and quality of life of the citizens, increase their social capital and security factor; in the medium term, it will give these countries a kind of soft power and international credibility and in the long run, it frees these countries from the risk of isolation and possible sanctions due to not accompanying the decisions of the international community in the climate field.

Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri, university professor

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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