Environmental Education: Key to a Better Future

environmental-educationTomorrow's leaders need to be equipped for tomorrow's challenges, and we must adequately prepare our children for the future they will inherit. As climate change is being felt across the globe and its long term catastrophic impacts have never been so scientifically clear, environmental education is the key to a better future. In an era where more and more children are disconnected from nature, we should recognize the importance of making a real investment in environmental education and outdoor learning. Studies have shown environmental education engages students in learning, raising test scores, and encouraging youth to pursue career in environmental and natural resources. And not only that: environmental education can help children perform better in social studies, science, language, arts, and mathematics.

Engagement at Different Levels

The secret to environmental education is to act at different levels, engaging the entire school and addressing students, teachers, parents, administrators and all members of the schools community. Eventually, it will link up all the participants within the community. The components of this initiative depend on interaction and participation, with teachers undertaking a guiding role by encouraging students to discover solutions on their own.

At first students should determine and check the extent of their use of natural resources in the school. Through this, they evaluate their efforts in the field of environmental management. 

As a second step, children should set up and run Eco Clubs. Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities. They also serve as a forum through which the students share environmental problems, along with the school staff, parents and the community surrounding the school, in order to work on finding solutions, and promote a positive environmental behavior. In this component the schools can implement internal and external projects, such as introducing efficient methods of irrigation, lowering the volume of waste, reducing the consumption of electricity and water and trying to reduce air pollution.

The third step focuses on organizing training courses for teachers and releasing educational resources in different themes and curricula, helping them to teach environmental concepts in innovative ways and through various educational materials. This will help teachers to adapt and to provide students with information about different habitats, biodiversity, climate change and other issues faced at the local level, as well as faced by the planet on a global level.

The final step should be to connect students to environmental causes and issues, and identify solutions through the provision of field trips. Additionally, such trips can be associated with the educational curriculum as they offer direct learning method. This helps boosting the understanding of various concepts by the students, and increasing the chance of using multiple senses such as eyesight, hearing, etc., which helps to raise their capacity to understand what they have learned. The success and engagement of schools to take on the environment field trips is great and extensive and it represents a set full of amazing adventures of exploration and knowledge.

Undoubtedly, the final and greatest outcome is to educate our children on the importance of becoming good environmental citizens.

Challenges in the Middle East

The Middle East region faces difficult natural conditions, and it is clear that steep population growth, poverty and the consequent degradation of natural ecosystems make it a priority when it comes to Environmental awareness and sustainability goals. One of the biggest challenges is certainly the lack of awareness. 

Most countries are blessed with high levels of education, with a large portion of the population pursuing secondary and higher education. Unfortunately however, human development and wealth are not always synonym with high environmental awareness and interest in sustainability issues… Jordan and Lebanon, for example, have their primary focus in tourism, which mostly contributes to their GDPs.

An interesting survey conducted in the Sultanate of Oman revealed that the environmental awareness of the Omani public was related to education level but also to gender and age. Males were found to have a higher level of knowledge about environmental issues than females. Males were also more environmentally concerned and tended to engage in more environmental behaviors than females. Younger and more educated respondents tended to be more knowledgeable and concerned about the environment than older and less educated respondents.

Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities.

Eco Clubs provide an opportunity to students to participate in environmental projects and activities.

Another challenge that countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar are faced with, is trying to reduce their consumption patterns. Even though awareness levels seem to be higher than in other countries, these nations are notorious for their unsustainable consumption rates. For instance, KSA and the UAE’s water consumption have reached 265 and 550 liters per capita per day respectively, which significantly exceeds the world’s average. 

Participation of Emirati Youth

Educating the UAE youth and preparing them to lead the country’s sustainable future is the first goal in the UAE national environmental awareness strategy and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment encourages the youth to innovate and be part of global environmental efforts.

Recently the UAE has taken a major step including environmental education in all schools: back in November Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, announced that awareness of climate change and how to help save the environment will be taught in classrooms across the country.

Under plans to tweak schools' curriculum to include learning on sustainability, schoolchildren will also be shown how to take energy-saving measures. These include schoolchildren of all ages, including in private sector schools, learning the importance of turning off lights and air-conditioning when not in use, and how to use less water. Each pupil will also be encouraged to spread the message to their family and friends. One of these initiatives, called Sustainable Schools, is an extension of a program that started in Abu Dhabi in 2009.

As a consequence to all these efforts taken by the government, I observed an increase in the numbers of UAE nationals volunteers participating in our programs: we've usually had a majority of Indians and Europeans taking part in our tree planting events or in the anti-pollution awareness drives, but lately large groups of young Emiratis have come forward to participate actively in all our programs and we continue to receive many emails asking to become long term volunteers. This is one of the biggest achievements we could wish for the UAE.

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Food Waste, Ramadan and the Middle East

With the holy month of Ramadan only a few days away, huge food wastage in the Middle East is again hogging limelight. It is a widely acccepted fact that almost half of the municipal solid waste stream in the Middle East is comprised of food wastes and associated matter. The increasing amount of food waste in the Middle East urgently demands a strong food waste management strategy to ensure its minimization and eco-friendly disposal. 

Food Waste in Ramadan

Middle East nations are acknowleded as being the world’s top food wasters, and during Ramadan the situation takes a turn for the worse. In 2012, the Dubai Municipality estimated that in Ramadan, around 55% of household waste (or approximately 1,850 tons is thrown away every day. In Bahrain, food waste generation in Bahrain exceeds 400 tons per day during the holy month, according to Rehan Ahmad, Head of Waste Disposal Unit (Bahrain). As far as Qatar is concerned, it is expected that almost half of the food prepared during Ramadan will find its way into garbage bins.

The amount of food waste generated in Ramadan is significantly higher than other months. There is a chronic inclination of Muslims towards over-indulgence and lavishness in the holy month, even though the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), asked Muslims to adopt moderation in all walks of life. Socio-cultural attitudes and lavish lifestyles also play a major role in more food waste generation in Ramadan in almost all Muslim countries.

Economic Implications

The greater the economic prosperity and the higher percentage of urban population, the greater the amount of waste produced. A good example is the case of oil‐rich GCC which figures among the world’s most prolific per capita waste generators. High-income groups usually generate more food waste per capita when compared to less-affluent groups. Hotels, cafeterias, restaurants etc are also a big contributor of food wastes in the Middle East.

Food waste generation is expected to steadily with the rapid growth of regional economies boom. The per capita production of solid waste in Arab cities such as Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi is more than 1.5 kg per day, placing them among the highest per capita waste producers in the world. These statistics point to loss of billions of dollars each year in the form of food waste throughout the Arab world.

Parting Shot

The foremost steps to reduce food wastage are behavioral change, increased public awareness, strong legislations, recycling facilities (composting and biogas plants) and community participation. Effective laws and mass sensitation campaigns are required to compel the people to adopt waste mimization practices and implement sustainable lifestyles. During Ramadan, religious scholars and prayer-leaders can play a vital role in motivating Muslims to follow Islamic principles of sustainability, as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Ahadith The best way to reduce food waste is to feel solidarity towards millions and millions of people around the world who face enormous hardships in having a single meal each day.

 

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Carbon Capture and Storage: Prospects in GCC

Gulf Cooperation Council countries are burgeoning economies which are highly dependent on hydrocarbons to fuel their needs for economic growth. GCC nations are fully aware of the mounting consequences of increasing levels of CO­2 on the environment, mainly attributed to soaring energy demand of domestic and industrial sector. Regional countries are undertaking concrete steps and measures to reduce their carbon footprint through the introduction of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Among other options, Carbon Capture and Storage, popularly known as CCS, can be an attractive proposition for GCC nations.

What is CCS

Carbon capture and storage (or carbon capture and sequestration) is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere, normally an underground geological formation. CCS is a potential means of mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming and ocean acidification. As at September 2012, the Global CCS Institute identified 75 large-scale integrated projects in its 2012 Global Status of CCS report. 16 of these projects are in operation or in construction capturing around 36 million tonnes of CO2 per annum.

Among notable CCS projects world, In Salah project in Algeria is a fully operational onshore gas field with CO2 injection. CO2 is separated from produced gas and reinjected in the producing hydrocarbon reservoir zones. Since 2004, about 1 Mt/a of CO2 has been captured during natural gas extraction and injected into the Krechba geologic formation at a depth of 1,800m. The Krechba formation is expected to store 17Mt CO2 over the life of the project.

CCS Prospects in GCC

GCC accounts for 0.6% of the global population but ironically contributes 2.4% of the global GHG emissions per capita.  GCC countries are among the top-14 per capita emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. The GCC region is witnessing rapid economic growth and massive industrialization which has led to almost 8% growth in power consumption each year. The region is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons combustion for power generation and operation of energy-intensive industries.

There is an urgent need for carbon abatement measures for the industrial sector in Middle East nations as increasing carbon dioxide emissions will have serious repercussions for GCC and adjoining regions. Some of the potential impacts can be rise in sea level, droughts, heat waves, sandstorms, damage to ecosystem, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity. Carbon dioxide emissions reductions can be achieved from point sources such as refineries, power plants, manufacturing industries etc.

At the regional level, GCC nations have both the drivers and environmental gains to adopt the CCS technologies. Some of the GCC countries are already engaged in R&D initiatives, for example, Saudi Arabia has KACST- Technology Innovation Center on Carbon Capture and Sequestration while Saudi Aramco have their own CCS R&D program for CCS. In Qatar there is the Qatar Carbonate and Carbon Storage Research Center while Bahrain has Sitra Carbon Capture System. Recently, Masdar and ADNOC launched Middle East first Joint Venture for carbon capture usage and storage. On a multilateral level, back to 2007, King Abdullah pledged $300 million to finance a research program on the future of energy, environment and climate change. In addition, a sum of $150 million from Qatar, Kuwait and UAE has been allocated to support CCS research.

To sum up, CCS is a viable option to help GCC countries maintain their hydrocarbons-driven economies while enabling low-carbon electricity generation from existing hydrocarbons powerplants.

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Solid Waste Management in the Middle East – Major Challenges

Middle East is one of the most prolific waste generating regions of the world. Lavish lifestyle, ineffective legislations, infrastructural roadblocks, indifferent public attitude and lack of environmental awareness are the major factors responsible for growing waste management problem in the Middle East. High standards of living are contributing to more generation of waste which when coupled with lack of waste collection and disposal facilities have transformed ‘trash’ into a liability.

Major Hurdles

The general perception towards waste is that of indifference and apathy. Waste is treated as ‘waste’ rather than as a ‘resource’. There is an urgent need to increase public awareness about environmental issues, waste management practices and sustainable living. Public participation in community-level waste management initiatives is lackluster mainly due to low level of environmental awareness and public education. Unfortunately none of the countries in the region have an effective source-segregation mechanism.

Solid waste management in the Middle East is bogged down by deficiencies in waste management legislation and poor planning. Many countries lack legislative framework and regulations to deal with wastes. Insufficient funds, absence of strategic waste management plans, lack of coordination among stakeholders, shortage of skilled manpower and deficiencies in technical and operational decision-making are some of the hurdles experienced in implementing an integrated waste management strategy in the region. In many countries waste management is the sole prerogative of state-owned companies and municipalities which discourage participation of private companies and entrepreneurs.

Though Islam put much stress on waste minimization, Arab countries are among the world’s highest per capita waste generator which is really unfortunate. Due to lack of garbage collection and disposal facilities, dumping of waste in open spaces, deserts and water bodies is a common sight across the region. Another critical issue is lack of awareness and public apathy towards waste reduction, source segregation and waste management.

A sustainable waste management system demands high degree of public participation, effective legislations, sufficient funds and modern waste management practices/technologies. The region can hope to improve waste management scenario by implementing source-segregation, encouraging private sector participation, deploying recycling and waste-to-energy systems, and devising a strong legislative and institutional framework.

Silver Lining

In recent year, several countries, like Qatar and UAE, have established ambitious solid waste management projects but their efficacy is yet to be ascertained. On the whole, Middle East countries are slowly, but steadily, gearing up to meet the challenge posed by waste management by investing heavily in such projects, sourcing new technologies and raising public awareness. However the pace of progress is not matched by the increasing amount of waste generated across the region. Sustainable waste management is a big challenge for policy-makers, urban planners and other stake-holders, and immediate steps are needed to tackle mountains of wastes accumulating in cities throughout the Middle East.

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Environmental Sustainability in Qatar: Perspectives

qatar-ghg-emissionsIn recent years, the concept of environmental sustainability is slowly, but steadily, getting prominence, both in the public and private sectors in Qatar. Mounting environmental pressure has led to the development of new initiatives in several state-owned and private companies. As a major fossil exporter and one of the wealthiest countries, Qatar should do its fair share in reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions and developing strong climate adaptation plans.

Many companies are investing heavily in replacing old turbines, boilers, and furnaces, minimizing GHG and non-GHG emissions, and wastewater discharge. The new companies that were set up in last decade are adopting the best available technologies, and they are on a par of excellence with the global environmental standards. Because of national targets to minimize flaring emissions, all of the oil and gas companies have been marshaled under the national initiative by setting goals, allocating investment and monitoring the yearly changes. So far, this initiative has been remarkably successful. For example, the direct benefit of flaring reduction resulted in savings of natural gas and emissions.

The government should hasten its steps in developing a comprehensive climate policy framework addressing all sectors, with a special focus on energy-intensive industries. The industrial sector is the major contributor to country’s economy and will continue to retain this status for the next several decades. Therefore, the government and the industrial sector must prepare a comprehensive roadmap and strategic framework under the broader climate policy framework, such as “Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy”. The strategy must assess all possibilities of decarbonising the industry and set ambitious goals to minimize GHG emissions for the short and long-term.

In addition, the framework should focus on potential structural changes in the global market, technological dynamics or deployment of disruptive technologies, domestic institutional reforms, and relevant policies that can support decarbonization. The policy should foster the development and implementation of wide-ranging innovative low-carbon technologies, processes, standards, norms and legislations that enable decarbonisation of the sector by 2050. The legislative instruments should include emission caps, internalizing social and environmental costs and taxation on emissions for the industrial sector. This is also echoed in the first Natural Resource Management Strategy.

The government should press ahead with this proposition; expediting the creation of new regulations, developing a strong support system for large and small/medium sized industries and ensuring transparency and accountability. Methane is the second major source of emission from natural gas production and processing facilities. Many companies fail to measure/monitor methane emissions from their facilities. I suggest that the Ministry of Environment undertake a Methane Monitoring Initiative to measure methane emissions from extraction to delivery and also to prepare a standardization method for estimating and reporting emissions from different sources.

The Ministry must create an effective, well-functioning, transparent and less bureaucratic support mechanism for companies (medium/small scale industries or SMEs) that lack technical and financial capacity. There are several piecemeal initiatives started by different companies that are already helping in this direction. However, they are fragmented, lack coherence, monitoring, and reporting. It is important to compile all of the initiatives and develop key performance indicators and analyse the trend. So far, there is only one project accredited under the Clean Development Mechanism (Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project, started in 2007). The government should exploit all possible opportunities with regard to reducing emissions and increasing economic savings. These are remarkable achievements and these companies must be recognized for their activities. Likewise, policymakers should capitalize on these efforts and raise the bar and set definitive goals and strict timelines for implementation.

Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project is the sole CDM project in Qatar

Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project is the sole CDM project in Qatar

According to the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 15 of 2011, the respective agencies must propose policies and action plans to reduce GHG emissions and set up a database within the requirements of the UNFCCC convention and Kyoto protocol. Unfortunately, there was no tangible response to this Resolution. So far, Qatar has published only one national communication. Under the initiative of Qatar Petroleum HSE, many companies started to publish their emission data in their annual sustainability report, however, some companies continue to withhold the data. Since it is a voluntary process, there is no incentive for companies to report.

It is strongly recommended that the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) and Ministry of Energy and Industry (MoEI) issue a joint decree for a mandatory GHG and non-GHG pollution monitoring and disclosure framework. The disclosure framework must include a well-designed surveillance system to ensure transparency and accountability. Additionally, the disclosure framework will be useful in documenting the trend of overall emissions and how the new policies, regulations and technological replacements are shifting the trend. As a result of documenting emission trends, one can notice the effectiveness of energy management initiatives, which provides opportunities and encourage other companies to learn from best practices. Companies that emit more than 25,000 tonnes CO2eq should quantify, verify and publish in a single-window system that can be accessed by other ministries and the public alike.

Progress of Green Building Sector in Qatar

There has been rapid progress in green building sector in Qatar with the emergence of many world-class sustainable constructions in recent years. With the fifth-highest number of LEED-registered and certified buildings outside the U.S., Qatar has valuable experience and inputs to offer on the system’s local relevancy and application. Various countries in the Middle East have been accredited with regards to the LEED system. Of these buildings, 65 per cent (802) are located in the UAE. Qatar is ranked second on the list, with 173 green buildings, followed by Saudi Arabia (145), Lebanon (25) and Egypt (22).

 

Qatar’s Green Building Rating System

Qatar has developed established its own assessment called Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS), formerly known as the Qatar Sustainability Assessment System (QSAS) system specifically developed for the State of Qatar. GSAS is billed as the world’s most comprehensive green building assessment system developed after rigorous analysis of 40 green building codes from all over the world. The assessment criterion takes into consideration various categories related to sustainable development and its impact on environmental stress mitigation. Each criterion elucidates the requirements of reducing environmental stress and a score is then given to each criterion based on the level of compliance. QSAS is assessed on the following eight categories; urban connectivity, site, energy, water, indoor environment, materials, management and operations and cultural – economic values. Qatar has incorporated QSAS into Qatar Construction Standards 2010 and it is now mandatory for all private and public sector projects to get GSAS certification. 

 

Qatar Green Building Council

The Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) was established in 2009 to promote sustainable growth and development in Qatar through cost efficient and environment-friendly building practices. The organisation aims to support the overall health and sustainability its environment, people and economic security in Qatar for generations to come. As one of the 30 members of the LEED roundtable, the Qatar Green Building Council endeavour to prioritise factors such as environmental conditions and its influence on green buildings. For instance, in arid regions such as Qatar, improving a building’s water efficiency in order to reduce the burden on local supply is a priority.

 

Benefits for Qatar

Sustainable development has been identified as one of the top priorities in Qatar’s National Development Strategy. The ultimate objective of green buildings is to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment. This can be promoted by using water, energy and other resources more efficiently as well as ensuring occupant health and improving employee productivity. Green buildings can bring a variety of social, economic and environmental benefits for Qatari residents. Through rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and renewable energy systems, green buildings can promote water conservation, energy management as well as climate change mitigation. Moreover, this can also bring along sizable reduction in operation costs and offer long-term savings. Finally, sustainable buildings in Qatar can improve overall health of the occupants by tackling common issues such as insufficient air circulation, poor lighting and temperature variances. Green buildings emphasize natural ventilation which creates healthier and more comfortable living environments.

 

Qatar National Convention Center – A Shining Example

The Qatar National Convention Center, located in Doha, has recently been accredited for its approach to environmental stress mitigation. The 177,000 square meter structure has been commended for its recognition as one of the world’s most iconic energy-efficient convention centers built to date. The building has 3,500 square meters of its roof areas with solar panels, contributing 12.5% of the building total electrical consumption. Other contributors include, LED lighting, air volume systems and carbon dioxide monitors. The building has also gained recognition for being one of Qatar’s first environmentally sustainable structures which has even been given the gold certification standards under the LEED system equivalent to 6 stars on the QSAS.

 

Conclusion

Structures such as the Qatar National Convention Center will be a benchmark for all future green structure in Qatar. With an increase in population along with an ailing environment, it is absolutely necessary that we begin to take an approach that is suitable to the demands of our time. It is heartening to see that Qatar has recognised the importance of green architecture and lucrative benefits associated with it. 

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Waste-to-Energy Outlook for the Middle East

The high rate of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion in the Middle East is not only accelerating consumption rates but also increasing the generation rate of all sorts of waste. High-income Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait are counted as world’s largest waste producers in terms of per capita waste generation which is more than 2kg per day in some countries. The urban waste generation from the region has now crossed 150 million tons per year which has forced policy-makers and urban planners to look for sustainable waste management solutions, including recycling and waste-to-energy.

Let us take a look at solid waste generation in major countries across the Middle East region:

Country

MSW Generation

(million tons per annum)

Saudi Arabia

15

United Arab Emirates

6

Qatar

2.5

Kuwait

2

Bahrain

1.5

Egypt

20

Tunisia

2.3

Morocco

5

Lebanon

1.6

Jordan

2

In addition, huge quantity of sewage sludge is also generated in the Middle East which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by 25 percent every year across the region.

Conversion Pathways

Municipal solid waste is a very good source of biomass in the Middle East. Municipal solid waste is comprised of organic fraction, paper, glass, plastics, metals, wood etc. Almost 50% of the solid waste is contributed by organic matter.

Municipal solid waste can be converted into energy by conventional technologies (such as incineration, mass-burn and landfill gas capture). Municipal solid waste can also be efficiently converted into energy and fuels by advanced thermal technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis.

At the landfill sites, the gas produced by the natural decomposition of MSW is collected from the stored material and scrubbed and cleaned before feeding into internal combustion engines or gas turbines to generate heat and power. In addition, the organic fraction of MSW can be anaerobically stabilized in a high-rate digester to obtain biogas for electricity or steam generation.

Anaerobic digestion is the most preferred option to extract energy from sewage, which leads to production of biogas and organic fertilizer. The sewage sludge that remains can be incinerated or gasified/pyrolyzed to produce more energy. In addition, sewage-to-energy processes also facilitate water recycling.

Relevance for Middle East

The variety of technological options available means that waste-to-energy can be applied at a small, localized scale primarily for heat, or it can be used in much larger base-load power generation capacity whilst also producing heat. Waste-to-energy conversion can thus be tailored to rural or urban environments in the Middle East, and utilized in domestic, commercial or industrial applications in the entire region.

The world’s dependence on Middle East energy resources has caused the region to have some of the largest carbon footprints per capita worldwide. The GCC region is now gearing up to meet the challenge of global warming, as with the rapid growth of the waste management sector. During the last few years, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have unveiled multi-billion dollar investment plans to Improve waste management scenario. In particular, the establishment of Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre in Qatar has catalyzed public interest in deployment of waste-to-energy systems in the Middle East.

Energy recovery from MSW is rapidly gaining worldwide recognition as the fourth ‘R’ in sustainable waste management system – Reuse, Reduce, Recycle and Recover. A transition from conventional waste management system to one based on sustainable practices is necessary to address environmental concerns and to foster sustainable development in the region.

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Solid Waste Management in Qatar

Qatar is counted among the world’s fastest growing economies. Municipal solid waste management is one of the most serious challenges faced by this tiny Gulf nation on account of high population growth rate, urbanization, industrial growth and economic expansion. The country has one of the highest per capita waste generation rates worldwide which is as high as 1.8 kg per day. Qatar produces more than 2.5 million tons of municipal solid waste each year. Solid waste stream is mainly comprised of organic materials (around 60 percent) while the rest of the waste steam is made up of recyclables like glass, paper, metals and plastics.

Municipalities are responsible for solid waste collection in Qatar both directly, using their own logistics, and indirectly through private sector contract. Waste collection and transport is carried out by a large fleet of trucks that collect MSW from thousands of collection points scattered across the country.

The predominant method of solid waste disposal is landfilling. The collected is discharged at various transfer stations from where it is sent to the landfill. There are three landfills in Qatar; Umm Al-Afai for bulky and domestic waste, Rawda Rashed for construction and demolition waste, and Al-Krana for sewage wastes. However, the method of waste disposal by landfill is not a practical solution for a country like Qatar where land availability is limited.

Waste Management Strategy

According to Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016, the country will adopt a multi-faceted strategy to contain the levels of waste generated by households, commercial sites and industry – and to promote recycling initiatives. Qatar intends to adopt integrated waste hierarchy of prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling, energy recovery, and as a last option, landfill disposal. 

A comprehensive solid waste management plan is being implemented which will coordinate responsibilities, activities and planning for managing wastes from households, industry and commercial establishments, and construction industry. The target is to recycle 38 percent of solid waste, up from the current 8 percent, and reduce domestic per capita waste generation. Five waste transfer stations have been setup in South Doha, West Doha, Industrial Area, Dukhan and Al-Khor to reduce the quantity of waste going to Umm Al-Afai landfill. These transfer stations are equipped with material recovery facility for separating recyclables such as glass, paper, aluminium and plastic.

In this respect, one of the most promising developments has been the creation of Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC) at Mesaieed. This centre is designed to maximize recovery of resources and energy from waste by installing state-of-the-art technologies for separation, pre-processing, mechanical and organic recycling, and waste-to-energy and composting technologies. It will treat 1550 tons of waste per day, and is expected to generate enough power for in-house requirements, and supply a surplus of 34.4 MW to the national grid. 

The Way Forward

While commendable steps are being undertaken to handle solid waste, the Government should also strive to enforce strict waste management legislation and create mass awareness about 4Rs of waste management viz. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recovery. Legislations are necessary to ensure compliance, failure of which will attract a penalty with spot checks by the Government body entrusted with its implementation.

Citizens can play a vital role in improving waste management scenario in Qatar by helping to reduce garbage generation and practicing source-segregation in households, offices etc. Being an influential Muslim country, the government may also take help of leading Islamic scholars to motivate the population to reduce per capita waste generation and conserve natural resources.

Improvement in curbside collection mechanism and establishment of material recovery facilities and recycling centres may also encourage public participation in waste management initiatives. When the Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016 was conceived, the solid waste management facility plant at Mesaieed was a laudable solution, but its capacity has been overwhelmed by the time the project was completed. Qatar needs a handful of such centers to tackle the burgeoning garbage disposal problem.

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Energy Efficiency Perspectives for MENA

MENA countries are facing an increasing challenge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. In case of business-as-usual scenario, GHGs emissions from the energy sector will continue to rise throughout the region. According to a recent report by International Energy Agency (IEA), energy intensity demand in MENA is mainly driven by population and economic growth and reliance of heavy industries on generous energy subsidy. It is projected that primary energy demand in the region will be doubled by 2030 and the region’s share in global oil production will increase from 35% now to 44% in 2030. MENA countries together have 840 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves (57% of world’s oil) and 80 trillion cubic meters of proven gas reserves (41% of world’s natural gas). Population growth and economic expansion have increased energy demand significantly over the past decade; between 2000 and 2011, domestic consumption almost doubled in Oman and tripled in Qatar. 

Growth in energy demand is driven across the end-use sectors: in the residential sector through increased use of air conditioning and cooling units; in the transportation sector through rising vehicle ownership; and in the industrial sector from greater industrial activity, hydrocarbon production and refining, and energy-intensive desalination plants. One of the central reasons for increased GHG emissions from MENA energy sector is the low efficiency of energy resource consumption. The energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) is very high which drives up atmospheric GHG emissions. However it is important to highlight the difference among MENA countries regarding carbon intensity levels where GCC nations are rank higher compared to energy-importing MENA nations like Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon etc. All these facts stress the urgent need to increase energy efficiency in order to precipitate decline in energy intensity and thus reduce GHG emissions.

There is a wide array of measures on both supply side and demand side, to boost MENA energy efficiency levels by promoting stringent environmental, energy saving policies to combat climate change.  Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region. A robust regulatory and institutionalized framework can help to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions through a bundle of non-market based and market-based instruments.

Also known as command and control instruments (CAC), these regulations focus on preventing environmental externalities which is achieved through auditing and monitoring/inspection program and performance-oriented regulations to limit air pollutants. Here are some examples of command and control instruments:

  • Awareness and information campaigns
  • Labeling & training programs to engage end-users to reduce their emissions voluntarily.
  • Information-based programs to spread awareness and encourage efficient consumption patterns.
  • Establishing minimum energy performance standards for appliances, equipment and vehicles as a complement to labelling methods.
  • Building codes and insulation to save the energy loss.
  • Smart reductions such as smart meters, energy audit, energy saving plans etc.
  • Phasing out of inefficient lighting like incandescent bulbs and CFLs.

Market-based instruments are defined as a policy instrument that use market, price to provide incentives for polluters to reduce or eliminate their emissions (negative environmental externality). Building regional cap, carbon trading platform and grants/rebates/tax exemption/rewards to encourage efficiency measures are good examples of market-based incentive program that may be implemented in the Middle East.

Conclusion

On account of its huge fossil fuel reserves, MENA has a great role to play in the international efforts towards green economy and sustainable development. Recently, the GCC has embarked on ambitious policies and projects across different sectors which may, explicitly or implicitly, mitigate impacts of GHG on their economies and development priorities. 

Adoption of energy efficiency-based energy policies in commercial, industrial and domestic sectors is integral to climate change mitigation in the MENA region. It is imperative on MENA governments to create an environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation for all kinds of energy users. The Middle East electricity market is growing at a rapid pace due to higher consumption rates in the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors which underlines the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.

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Understanding Carbon Footprint

With rising awareness of global warming and effects of emissions on the environment, corporates and individuals alike are rising to tackle environmental issues. Carbon footprinting, the first step to reduce carbon emissions, is the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly or indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product. The main reason for calculating a carbon footprint is to inform decisions on how to reduce the climate change impact of a company, service or product. Carbon footprints are measured by undertaking a greenhouse gas assessment. Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a strategy can be devised to reduce it.

Why Carbon Footprint?

Growing public awareness about climate change and global warming has resulted in an increasing interest in ‘carbon footprinting’. The global community now recognizes the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change. The most popular methods to reduce carbon footprint include use of alternative energy, reforestation, waste reduction and energy efficiency. Population, economic output, primary energy mix and carbon intensity are the major parameters in determining the carbon footprint of a particular country.

Carbon footprint is the foremost indicator of environmental responsibility and helps to identify climate impacts and lower them cost-effectively by strategic and operative planning, constructing a climate policy, environmental reporting etc. In addition, carbon footprint promotes positive, environmentally conscious company image and can boost the marketing of an organization and its products.

Types of Carbon Footprint

There are different types of carbon footprint, e.g. for organisations, individuals, products, services, and events.  Different types of carbon footprint have different methods and boundaries. The various approaches and types of greenhouse gas assessment are discussed below.

  • Product Carbon Footprint is suited for organizations which have distinct products and services. It delivers a view of GHG emissions specific to a single product or service. This can then be scaled up to the entire organization. Product Carbon Footprint can be assessed to capture either business-to-business view (cradle-to-gate) or business-to-consumer view (cradle-to-grave).
  • Corporate Carbon Footprint is suited for organisations wishing to take an overview of the carbon footprint of the entire organization. The process starts off by identifying the business goals for the GHG inventory, setting up suitable organizational boundaries, selecting an appropriate baseline period; data collection and finally preparing plan for data quality management.
  • Value-Chain Carbon Footprint includes activities associated with the product or services of an organization over entire value chain.  This accounts for emissions arising from raw material procurement to the end of product life. Value-chain carbon footprint provides an aggregate view of all the products and services of the company.

Carbon Footprint in the Middle East

The world’s dependence on Middle East energy resources has caused the region to have some of the largest carbon footprints per capita worldwide. Oil and gas industry, electricity production, transportation, industrial heating and air-conditioning are responsible for most of the carbon emissions from the region. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. Infact, carbon emissions from Qatar are approximately 50 tons per capita, which is more than double the US per capita footprint of 19 tons per year. 

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Green Buildings Certification in MENA – Issues and Challenges

Green building rating systems are increasingly gaining attention in the building industry in the MENA region. During the last 15 years, there has been a regional trend in developing and applying green building ratings systems. In several countries such systems have been developed in an attempt to follow the international green movement. For example, the Pearl Building Rating System (PBRS) was founded in UAE in 2007, the Green Pyramid (GPRS) and ARZ Building Rating System in Egypt and Lebanon respectively were founded in 2008, the Edama was proposed in Jordan in 2009 and Qatar Sustainability Assessment System (QSAS) was founded in 2010. 

A new study compared four regional rating systems in the Middle East, in addition to LEED and BREEAM. The study found that the problem with most emerging rating systems is that they imitate the LEED or BREEAM rating systems and are not enough adapted to local environmental, cultural, historical, societal and economic context. Thus certification systems must be adapted to meet the needs of the Middle East regional climate, social, environmental and economic conditions.

The study, conducted in 2013, compared four rating systems (GPRS, SI 5281, QSAS and PBRS) and a cross analysis study was used to answer questions about the strength and weakness of the systems. The four systems use score point system for assessment. The four tools provide programs involving the building life cycle process – pre-design, design and post-design (occupation). There are many common criteria and categories between the four examined rating systems; such as limiting the consumption of energy and water in the building, improving the environmental quality in both indoor and outdoor, resources and material conservation, service quality, and site strategies. The four rating systems operate from an ecological foot print minimisation paradigm. At the same time, each rating system focuses on certain aspects more than the other ones according to the country’s local context. Surprisingly, there is no agreement on weighing the different environmental criteria.

Problems of Rating Systems

The study found that the examined rating systems are proposing theoretical models that needs to move to effective market implementation politically (government) and economically (NGOs & private sector). The rating systems require more adaptation to local and regional context. Rating systems should differentiate themselves from well-established rating systems.  For example, the study believes that water scarcity should be the most important category together with human wellbeing. Already LEED and BREEAM programs are considered the most fairly comprehensive in scope – from registration to calculation to building certification. In the case of the four rating systems, the initiation approaches were bottom down and not bottom up approaches.

Therefore, the uptake and market penetration is slow compared to LEED or BREEAM. In the four countries, there is no encouragement/engagement in the form of working out incentives or law enforcement to apply the four rating systems except for PBRS. In fact, each country in the region is looking to achieve those criteria individually. The entry of the LEED and BREEAM rating system into the Middle East property market coincided with increasing demand for regional and local ratings systems. As a result, different systems were developed under serious time pressure in the last ten years. The four compared systems are based on American and British standard. In the same time, there are currently no standardisation efforts working at local level to quantify and assess sustainability.

Towards Harmonised Systems

Green Building Councils in the Middle East will have a long way; they have to manage to position themselves as leaders promoting green buildings in the countries where they operate. By comparing and evaluating the four rating systems lesson could be learned and problem could be avoided. Therefore, the study author believes that a harmonised system within the Middle East would have distinctly better chances if the following issues are addressed:

Institutional Setting

Since the oil embargo of 1973, Western countries developed local codes and standards, which are revised annually, for the built environment. Those codes correspond to their context and are strongly linked to practice and buildings industry. However, in the four examined countries, the (b) local codes and standards are still not mature when compared to American or British ones. So there is a regulation problem on the institutional level. More importantly, (b) energy and water are heavily subsidized in most of the four countries.The comparison revealed that the certification rates are low and the feesstructure is very high (registration, certification, auditing).

Thus the whole political regulation landscape regarding resources efficiency is contradicting with the rating systems scope and objective. Therefore, it is important to address the (a) efficiency regulations and (b) subsidies policies on the institutional level and avoid the dependence on Western standards, codes and rating systems. This should be done through facilitating the adjustment and upgrading for the specification of environmental assessment factors in a dynamic, flexible and simple way.

Scientific Rigour and Priorities

Developing an assessment framework should be based on in-situ building performance research and technical knowledge. Technical rigour is very important in this case, for example setting benchmarks and measuring the performance. Furthermore, the investigated rating systems are located in hot climates, with scarce water resources which require a different approach and credits focus. Issues like solar protection, water conservation, life style, solar cooling and urban planning should be more strongly addressed in future developments. This includes advancing environmental footprint issues, like climate change.

Regionalisation

The assessment framework should suite the local context of each country in the Middle East, depending on its culture, issues, stakeholders, practices and institutions. Surprisingly, SI 5281 is the only rating system that was written in a native language, thus it is essential for each country, to design its own indicators to serve its goals in local language. This includes the development of local criteria to quantify the social part of sustainability that includes tradition and culture.

Providing a Platform

Multi-stakeholders should participate in developing rating systems, since they require participative and collaborative work process. Experts, designers, elected officials, working group, agency players, and others should be introduced as key participants in this process. The building industry should be encouraged to get into sustainable track to achieve a real transformation, regarding water and energy. There is a need to link those rating systems to grass root initiatives rather than developing them within academia or elite practicing companies.

According to the study, the examined certification systems need strong adaptation to meet the needs of the Middle East regional climate, social, cultural, environmental and economic conditions. Also there must be a harmonisation effort between regional rating systems aiming to develop and implement a common, transparent regional building assessment methodology. Otherwise, there will be a proliferation of immature systems without accumulated and unifying experience. 

Conclusion

There is still a long way before those examined systems examined become mature and widely usable.  Despite that the development of the examined rating systems is intended to facilitate the assessment of sustainable design in MENA; they fail to suit the local context culture issues, resources, priorities, practices and economic challenges. The GPRS, QSAS and PBRS systems neglect the interpretation of essential local sustainability measurements in their assessment set and normative standards. The study concludes that the existing rating system needs to increase the technical rigor and to put more weight on the most important categories, mainly water, IEQ, pollution and energy. The study suggests a number of recommendations to develop a harmonised green building assessment system in the MENA region. The usefulness of rating systems in the future depends on their flexibility and ability to measure the merits of buildings.

Note: The original version of the article can be viewed at this link.

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Women Entrepreneurship in MENA: An Analysis

Women entrepreneurship is an important unexploited source of economic growth in almost all parts of the world. Unfortunately women in MENA have the lowest rates of Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) at merely 4% of the population. The highest rates, globally, are in sub-Saharan Africa, at 27%. Latin American and Caribbean economies also show high levels (15 percent). In just seven economies (Panama, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, Nigeria, Mexico, and Uganda), women had equal or slightly higher levels of entrepreneurship than men. For the rest, women represented a smaller share of the entrepreneur population.

Current Situation

The recent interest in women entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa region has spurred a number of studies that aim to explain MENA’s very low female participation in the workforce and political life, at  both the inter-regional and the intra-regional scales and  to identify the challenges facing women entrepreneurs. The comparative data shows that the MENA region has made strong gains in human development: Literacy increased to 69 percent, average schooling (for those above 15)  rose  to  5.2  years,  child mortality  rates  plunged  to  around  46  per  thousand  births,  and  life  expectancy  has climbed to  reach  68  years.”. However the level of unemployment among women remains high throughout the region. Of course, there is enough evidence to show that culture and social norms — not religion since countries with the same religion clearly show different rates — have a great deal to do with it.

The MENA region, more than other regions, faces specific barriers for women to interact in the public sphere and to access vital resources. This poses constraints that need to be addressed with specific measure in access to technology, financing and access to information which is a necessity in a globalized world. Some of the main barriers and constraints identified in hampering women entrepreneurs from entering the economic mainstream are as follows:

  • Gender specific barriers: Despite the fact that MENA nations have made considerable efforts to narrow the gender gap, much remains to be done to raise the social welfare of women in the region.
  • Cultural norms.
  • Civil law: Prevalent laws tend to enforce certain customs and social norms and, in doing so, institutionalize and legitimize certain behaviors.
  • Access to financial services and resources.
  • Barriers in the business environment.
  • Lack of research and data to inform an effective advocacy strategy.

Inter-regional Disparities in MENA

The difference of Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) rates among countries in the MENA region is well explained by the heterogeneity and diversity of their historical development, social makeup and system of governance as well as  the  key  indicators  of  human  development  such  as health, education and living  standards.  It is quite difficult to make generalizations across the MENA region as the region  includes super-rich oil economies, a relatively small population and a large expat population such as Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; mixed oil economies such as Algeria, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and  Syria  and non-oil economies  like  Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Malta and Cyprus. This further complicates attempts to explain variations in the character and gender aspects of employment and entrepreneurship.

Thus, each country in the Arab world is confronting constraints and barriers to women entrepreneurship in different contexts. The profile of barriers for each nation is shaped by inter-connectedness of intrinsic and extrinsic factors specific to each country. Some studies have attributed MENA’s low rates of female labor force participation in oil-exporting countries of MENA (the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) to oil. It has been argued that the economic structure, social norms, and institutional characteristics of oil-rich economies discourage women from formal sector work. Ross (2008) argues that oil production “reduces the number of women in the labor force, which in turn reduces their political influence.” Oil-rich countries tend to have undiversified private sectors characterized by male-dominated employment and large public sectors. Consequently, employment opportunities for women often are highly concentrated in the public sector

Oil is a significant source of income for some MENA countries, especially GCC nations, and has definitely limited the growth of non-oil sectors. Nevertheless, it is notable that many countries in the region are net oil importers but still have rates of female labor force participation as low as those of oil-rich MENA countries. In contrast, oil producers outside MENA such as Norway and the Russian Federation have higher rates of female labor force participation.

Ways to Enhance Female Entrepreneurship

Targeted, coordinated efforts are needed on multiple fronts to increase women’s participation in the economic and political spheres, and these efforts must be specific to country context. These efforts include changes in policies to secure women’s equality under the law, to bridge the remaining gender gaps in health and education, to redress the skills mismatch in the job market, and to promote women’s civic and political participation, and changes in economic policies by adoption of more nuanced labor taxation systems, more targeted social welfare benefits, tax credits, public financed parental leave schemes and promotion, better flex-work arrangements, enhanced access to finance and training for female entrepreneurs.

All these policy options and more can narrow the gap between men and women in economic life, and can trigger a momentum of growth and job creation that can support much higher rates of GDP and ensure prosperity for all.

Furthermore, the economic and political environment arising from the Arab Spring has created an unprecedented window of opportunity for change. Given the growing labor, demographic, and fiscal constraints, and the changing aspirations in the Middle East and North Africa region, policy reforms are urgently needed to boost job creation for all.

 

References:

  • Donna J. Kelley, Candida G. Brush, Patricia G. Greene, Yana Litovsky, GEM 2012 Women's Report
  • Ebba Augustin, Ruby Assad & Dalila Jaziri, 2012, Women Empowerment for Improved Research in Agricultural Development, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer in the West Asia/ North Africa Region, AARINENA Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa 
  • Leyla Sarfaraz, Nezameddin Faghih and Armaghan Asadi Majd 2014, The relationship between women entrepreneurship and gender equality, The Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (JGER)
  • Michael L. Ross, 2008, “Oil, Islam, and Women.” American Political Science Review 
  • OECD-MENA Investment Programme, 2013, Gender inequality and entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa : A statistical portrait
  • World Bank, 2007, The Environment for Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa Region

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