Sustainability isn’t just some passing fad. Rather, this concept of preserving the natural environment so that it continues to support future generations has become an evolution that is sweeping across the world, and the Middle East is no exception. Established in Abu Dhabi in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a regional political organization that counts Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates as members. Together, these energy rich monarchies are, per capita, among the richest nations in the world. For over twenty-five years they have worked together to achieve common goals in the areas of economics, business, science, and now, the environment. 1
Understanding the importance of sustainability and seeking to diversify their economies away from volatile oil and gas commodities, the GCC and the UN Environment has entered into a partnership agreement to find solutions to pressing environmental challenges. Per the agreement, the signatories will develop a unified system for chemical management, guidelines to protect coastal ecosystems, standards for collecting and evaluating air quality data, and an assessment of the current and future state of the environment within the region. To finance this work, the GCC nations have agreed to contribute USD $1.34 million over a four-year period. 2
Instability within the oil and gas markets coupled with rising populations is compelling Gulf countries to wean their economies off petroleum reserves and embrace the going green movement. As such, Islamic bonds, also called green sukuk investing, have become popular vehicles for financing green initiatives, renewable energy and climate change projects. Green sukuk is built on a foundation of socially responsible, ethically sound, and Shariah-compliant financing. The sukuk market has emerged as the go-to source for securing capital to fund green projects in the Middle East, and even infrastructure projects in Asia. 3
While adoption of green technologies developed slowly in the GCC, the progression towards creating more sustainable urban infrastructures has gained considerable traction over the last three years. Developers now understand the importance of environment-friendly design in attracting today’s consumers who value sustainability. The United Arab Emirates stands out as the GCC leader in green building practices, with Abu Dhabi even developing its own program, Estidama, to assess sustainability across the life of a building 4. The rise in green initiatives in the Gulf indicates a strong commitment by GCC member-nations towards achieving a net zero energy future.
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