Sustainability in the Middle East and Africa

November 2021

The MEA region remains divided in terms of sustainability, as Africa continues to lack the financial means to reach Middle Eastern levels in terms of electrification, as well as food and water availability. While Africa benefits from the lowest pollution globally, air, water and municipal waste-induced contamination remain dire issues in the Middle East. The impact of global warming is intensifying throughout the whole region, exacerbating its exposure to climate hazards.

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Key Findings

Fossil fuels dominate MEA energy generation

The majority of electricity output in MEA came from fossil fuels in 2020, with only a few countries stepping up to join a pledge to reduce this dependency. African countries are seeking to increase their electrification rates by investing in inexpensive greener energy alternatives, such as mini-grids.

Pollution remains a serious issue in the Middle East

The Middle East ranked low in the overall Pollution pillar in 2020, owing to poor air and water quality, as well as poor municipal waste management. While several countries within the region, including Saudi Arabia, have ratified the Paris Agreement, the Middle East remained one of the largest polluters globally in terms of CO2 emissions in 2020.

Weak security of Africa’s marine and terrestrial areas threatens its rich biodiversity

Despite large protected areas and a high number of protected species in the region, biodiversity loss continues at alarming rates. The pandemic has created further threats to the security of Africa’s national parks, with law enforcement being unable to tackle an increase in illegal wildlife poaching.

Malnutrition set to worsen in Africa

African countries continued to have the highest poverty rates globally in 2020, with malnutrition remaining a prevalent issue. Amid rapidly growing populations, rising food prices and political uncertainty in several African countries, the number of undernourished people is expected to rise further.

Temperatures continue to rise, with natural disasters intensifying

Africa remains the most vulnerable continent to climate change induced crop loss. Being the poorest region in the world, Africa continued to lack adaptive and coping capacities, with most of the climate-coping resources coming from international aid.



Environmental Sustainability Index

The Environmental Sustainability Index
The six core pillars of environmental sustainability
Key findings


Sustainability weakening most in Algeria, Bahrain and Kuwait
Financial coping capacities allow Middle Eastern countries to lead

Energy pillar Overview

Qatar leads thanks to improved energy equity and availability
Low access to electricity a key drawback
Industrial sector leads in energy consumption
Investment in renewables is intensifying

pollution pillar Overview

No major improvements in mitigating pollution within the MEA

Pollution pillar Overview

The Middle East region is struggling with worsening pollution
CO2 remains elevated in Middle East, despite reduction pledges
High methane emissions in livestock producing countries

Forest and Biodiversity pillar Overview

Kenya improves its rank significantly thanks to growing forest land
Africa ranks low in Forest and Biodiversity, amid weak security
Pandemic caused further threats to the security of national parks
Mining and agriculture exacerbates deforestation

WATER pillar Overview

Middle Eastern countries lead thanks to desalination plants
Water stress continues to destabilise political environment in MEA
Foreign aid to remain key to improving access to water in Africa
Agriculture sector to remain the key water consumer in MEA

Food and agriculture pillar Overview

Ghana’s rank falls significantly due to deteriorating food security
Climate change threatens already weak food supply in MEA
Due to high poverty rates, role of food expenditure remains high
Low food availability and political tensions worsened by COVID-19

Environmental resilience pillar Overview

Rising temperatures drag down rankings of Nigeria, Kenya and Iraq
Natural disasters are more frequent, owing to rising temperatures
Africa lacks coping and adaptive capacities
Hydrological disasters continue to devastate the MEA

Country snapshots

Israel: High levels of environmental resilience
Israel to outpace regional countries by far
Qatar: Technology-driven climate change coping capacities
In Qatar, fossil fuels to play a key role in electricity generation
Saudi Arabia: High climate change coping and adapting capacities
In Saudi Arabia, electricity output from renewables to remain limited
Morocco: Lower pollution levels with moderate rank in other pillars
Despite low pollution, emissions to rise faster than regional average
Jordan: Adaptive capacities to boost environmental resilience
Electricity output from renewables to increase steadily in Jordan
Angola: Poor performance in all pillars, except pollution
In Angola, water to remain a major pain point
Côte d'Ivoire: Poor rank among all pillars other than pollution
In Côte d'Ivoire, e nergy to remain weak amid low electrification rate
Ethiopia: The lowest rank in the Water pillar globally
In Ethiopia, per capita renewable water to lag behind regional peers
Cameroon: Lowest pollution globally, but lags in other pillars
Electricity from renewables to exceed regional average
Kenya: Food and Agriculture remains the worst globally
Food to exceed half of consumer expenditure in Kenya
Nigeria: Poor performance across all pillars
Nigeria to lag behind other regional countries


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