While countries across the Middle East and North Africa have shown growing commitment to climate action with net-zero targets, business adoption continues to lag global peers.
Just 12% of the region’s largest 200 companies have a net zero target, and only 6% have a roadmap on how to achieve these targets, a recently released report by the WEF and Bain finds.
So, what is holding back a region projected to experience warming at twice the global rate?
According to Maryam Telmesani, Chief Sustainability Officer at Jeddah-based MBL - Modern Building Leaders, businesses in the region are facing a number of challenges when it comes to taking action on climate change.
“The ecosystem of sustainability in the region is still developing,” says Maryam, who is Chair board of the Global Compact Local Network Saudi Arabia and was among MEA’s 50 most influential ESG leaders in 2022.
Maryam says there is an urgent need for the public sector to enforce regulations that impose and encourage sustainable practices while spreading the know-how to align expectations. While the private sector must drive change in processes and take concrete action in greening their supply chains and business practices.
Community awareness on climate action must also be elevated, she says, to ensure individual responsibility and create demand for sustainable products and services.
Maryam also points to data management in the region, which is not yet yet mature nor properly linked with global sustainability measures, and which can then lead to “misguided progress” and a lack of urgency.
What’s also lacking is the cascade of “sustainability knowledge down to the lowest level of workers”, Maryam tells Business Chief.
“Businesses need to ensure implementation of sustainable measures and climate risk mitigation actions are taken in both a top-down and bottom-up approach, otherwise, targets won’t be achieved, and risk won’t be identified.”
With the Middle East’s importance and economic impact currently high, and COP28 on taking place this month in the region, there is a responsibility for both public and private sector to respond to the global call for action and a need to “straighten the misconception about the region’s negative impact as leaders in oil and gas by showcasing our sustainability actions and plans”.
Pointing to COP28 UAE, Maryam believes “driving such conversation from the region sends a strong message of commitment and will escalate global attention for investment opportunities”.
So, what are Maryam’s hopes for COP28?
“At last year’s conference, there was a call for ‘closing the gap between ambitions and actions’, so I hope this year we focus on actions and numbers and put in place clear and actionable roadmaps driven by measurable KPIs to track progress of those plans in a transparent way.”
In the run-up to COP28, being held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, Business Chief Middle East and Africa is talking to regional sustainability leaders about the opportunities and challenges facing the region and their hopes for the climate conference.
As well as talking to Maryam, we talk to other regional sustainability leaders – read interviews with Sherif Tawfik, Sustainability Chief for Microsoft Middle East, Africa and Central and Southeast Europe as well as with Samer Kamal, an impact entrepreneur and established thought leader in the environment and sustainability industry who is the first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer of Averda and with Hassan Farrouh, Green Energy and Sustainability Head at TUV SUD in the Middle East.