How Middle East, North Africa work towards decarbonization

STORY: The Middle East and North Africa are making moves towards decarbonization.

While the share of greenhouse gas emissions from the Arab region is considered to be low,

CO2 emissions have still increased by 81 percent between the years 2000 and 2014.

That's according to the UN’s Habitat climate change strategy for the Arab region.

A quarter of these emissions are produced by the transport sector.

With a current lack of affordable public transport, many people get around in private vehicles….

leading to clogged up roads and clogged up air.

Reuters spoke to some of the individuals, companies and governments

that are working to reduce the region’s carbon footprint.

Lebanese film director Saad Kadri is doing his bit by traveling around Beirut on an electric scooter.

He says it’s more affordable, greener and a time-saver.

"I have been using an electric scooter for almost two years, I tried a couple of different models until I settled on this one. I use it for many reasons, one of them is that I like driving scooters as a hobby, another thing is for environmental purposes and for sure due to the economic situation in Lebanon, I don’t queue in front of gas stations, and I save a lot of time since most of my work anyway is inside Beirut in nearby neighborhoods."

Beyond individual choices, some private companies are also playing their part to reduce emissions in the region.

Uber's Global Sustainability Strategy Lead, Christopher Hook, says the ride-hailing company is working with

governments to overcome the challenges of switching to electric…

including in Cairo - one of their biggest markets.

"What we think are the barriers to adoption for drivers in a particular market, and how we do we start to bring those down and accelerate it. And they tend to be three things; access to vehicles - are the vehicles actually available in the market -, price of those vehicles - how affordable are they compared to their internal combustion engine (ICE) equivalents, and then access to charging - a lot of people feel like 'I would like to get one of these vehicles, I'd like to do my bit, they're often cheaper to run, cheaper to maintain, but how am I going to charge it.’

Hook also says Amman and Dubai are among the top 10 countries in Europe and the Middle East in terms of adoption of electric vehicles for Uber’s fleet.

In Cairo, the government has announced several public transport projects,

including subway lines, a monorail, and a high-speed train, meant to lower congestion on the streets.

Egypt’s capital is known for its traffic jams and associated pollution….

with one of the city’s main highways catering to approximately 78 million vehicles annually.

That’s according to Abdallah Abu Khadra – a professor of highway engineering at Egypt's Beni Suef University.

"The budget that was announced for the switch to green transport was 837 billion Egyptian Pounds, out of a total of 1.7 trillion Egyptian Pounds to develop the entire transport system. This is a huge budget, and the lion's share was reserved for green transport which is being implemented with deals with the world's largest companies.”

While decarbonization and the phasing out of fossil fuels has been top of the agenda at the UN climate change conference,

activists and climate scientists say there’s still much more to be done.