Rapidly worsening climate change in the Middle East and Central Asia have lead to 1-2% decline in annual economic growth in per capita, highlighting the crucial need of stronger climate adaptation policies.

The frequency and severity of extreme weather events is rapidly rising in the Middle East and Central Asia, posing a huge risk of rising climate-related losses to life and impeding economic growth in the region, according to a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) paper. 

The latest publication by the international financial institution found that climate-related disasters have “killed more than 2,600 people, affected 7 million others, and caused USD$2 billion in direct material damage” every year since 2000 across the globe.  

“Droughts in North Africa, Somalia and Iran. Epidemics and locust infestations in the Horn of Africa. Severe floods in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The list of disasters is quickly getting longer,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Analysis of data from the past century showed that temperatures in the Middle East have risen by 1.5C, which is double the global increase of 0.7C. Coupled with significantly reduced precipitation in the already arid conditions, the region is more vulnerable to climate change than any part of the world.

Extreme weather events and worsening climate change in the Middle East have also cost annual economic growth by 1-2% per capita. For every 1C temperature increase, five of the hottest countries – Bahrain, Djibouti, Mauritania, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – could suffer an immediate decline in per-capita economic growth of about 2 percentage points. ​​In the Caucasus and Central Asia subregion, however, extreme weather events have caused a permanent loss in GDP level of 5.5 percentage points.

Much like the most recent IPCC report stresses, Georgieva says that climate adaptation is crucial in the coming years, from renewable and green investments to adopting carbon markets and pricing.

So far, Saudi Arabia, a world leading producer of oil and gas pledged to reach net zero by 2060 and plans to adopt a carbon circular economy including carbon capture and storage, direct air capture, as well as hydrogen and low-carbon fuels. The UAE also promises to invest in more than USD$160 billion in renewable energy to meet net zero by 2050.

But much more needs to be done. Georgieva suggests that public infrastructure investment needs could amount to 3.3% of GDP per year for individual countries in the region over the next decade, more than twice the average for emerging market economies.

Overall, countries must include climate adaptation policy in national economic strategies to ensure investments in climate resilient infrastructure such as flood protection to avert economic losses.

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