Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East Climate Change Initiative of the Cyprus Government

Executive Summaries

of the Reports of the Climate Change Thematic Task Forces on

The Physical Basis of Climate Change

Energy Systems The Built Environment

Health Water Resources Agriculture and Food Chain Education and Outreach

Migration Tourism

Enabling Technologies Green Economy and Innovation

Cultural Heritage

October 2021 | Nicosia, Cyprus

Copyright © 2021 by The Cyprus Institute Copying allowed under CC BY-ND license


Published in Cyprus by The Cyprus Institute, www.cyi.ac.cy

The Cyprus Institute, Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East Climate Change Initiative, Executive Summaries of the Thematic Task Forces

ISBN: 314159265358979

Disclaimer: The information contained in the present publication of the executive summaries of the reports of the thematic Task Forces of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East Climate Change Initiative of the Cyprus Government represents the views and opinions of the authors of each one; it does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of The Cyprus Institute nor those of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.


Coordinating Climate Change Actions in the Eastern Mediterranean & Middle East iii

  1. The Physical Basis of Climate Change 1

  2. Energy Systems 5

  3. The Built Environment 9

  4. The Effects of Climate Change on Human Health 13

  5. Water Resources 19

  6. Agriculture and Food Chain 23

  7. Education and Outreach 27

  8. Migration 31

  9. Tourism and Climate Change in the EMME Region 33

  10. Enabling Technologies 37

  11. Green Economy and Innovation 41

  12. Cultural Heritage 45

  13. EMME Climate Change (EMME CC)

Policy Framework 49


Coordinating Climate Change Actions in the Eastern Mediterranean & Middle East

Recent studies from prominent institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization have classified the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME) region as a global “climate hot-spot” with particularly high vulnerability to climate change impacts. Research

conducted by The Cyprus Institute (CyI) and its partners, has provided significant insights on the climate change impacts on agriculture, public health, ecosystem development, tourism, water resources and on humanitarian and security issues, including induced mass migration of environmental refugees. The findings have caused international concern, as the resulting geopolitical instability in the EMME region with a population of almost 500 million people will have global ramifications.

In May 2018 CyI organized an international Conference on “Climate Change in the Mediterranean and the Middle East” that took place in Cyprus under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Cyprus. The Conference examined in detail these findings and initiated a debate on how to address the forecasted crisis and its consequences. The Conference drew international attendance by eminent scientists and policy makers from thirty countries as well as leaders of global stature. One of the principal conclusions of the Conference was that regional concerted action is urgently needed.

All EMME countries have underlined their serious concerns about regional and national climate change impacts and expressed their willingness to comply with the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, the EMME region suffers from lack of a) Detailed environmental observations and climate modeling predictions, both of which are necessary for formulating accurate mitigation and adaptation strategies to climate change, and b) Coordinated policy actions, sharing of good practices to implement such actions and joint activities for capacity building and knowledge transfer.

Following the Conference, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, H.E. Nicos Anastasiades decided that the Cyprus Government shall spearhead an international ini-

tiative to coordinate the efforts of EMME region to ameliorate climate change and its impacts. He communicated this to the Governments of the EMME Region and all the leaders of the EU Mediterranean Countries, as well as to all European Countries, the EU Parliament, and the UN.

Utilizing Cyprus’ excellent relations with the countries of the region, the Presidential initiative has a dual goal, namely, to initiate or enhance:

EMME-focused Research of regional and international research institutions towards: a) a detailed understanding and accurate forecasting of regional climate change impacts b) the development of a science-based policy toolkit for the amelioration of the impacts of such phenomena including a dedicated Hub for the provision of climate services on sectors of the economy and the society (e.g. energy, agriculture, tourism, education, health, cities, cultural heritage, etc.), as well as a concerted outreach effort and c) identification of the appropriate per sector and application area (e.g. sub-regional, urban, etc.) adaptation and mitigation measures.

EMME-specific Policies in coordination with transnational and multinational stakeholders (EU and UN) and organizations (WMO, FAO, WHO) to address the overall impacts of climate change with the aim to: a) to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement and National Plans, b) to adopt specific action programs for distinct sectors related to the economy and society, and c) to investigate specific techno-economic scenarios to mitigate climate change effects in the EMME countries. An indispensable component is the identification of the necessary resources for the implementation of such a program.

To achieve the above objectives a detailed plan to produce a series of scientific, policy and techno- economic studies, which will feed ministerial meetings leading subsequently to a summit meeting of the EMME countries has been developed.

The program and work plan are characterized by in-clusiveness. The expanding bi-lateral, tri-lateral and


multi-lateral initiatives of the Cyprus Government along with the UN, EU, GCC and other international initiatives and organizations are being used and engaged maximally towards achieving success in this initiative. The complexity, diversity and varying development of the countries of the region present both a challenge and an opportunity, which will be taken into account.

The scoping of the white papers which has been produced by the thematic Task Forces assembled to address topics of interest follow below. Their summaries are included in this pre-publication.

The Task Forces

A major part of the first phase of the Initiative, is carried out by thirteen Task Forces, engaging in excess of 220 Scientists. Three quarters of the scientists engaged in the Task Forces are from the EMME region. The Task Forces also engage scientists and policy makers from other countries, which are experts in the region, as well as representatives of International Organizations. Member distribution by region is illustrated in Figure 1, whereas member distribution by country of origin (EMME region only) is depicted in Figure 2.

Figure 1 & 2: Geographical representation in the composition of Task Forces

iv | Executive Summaries of the Reports of the Climate Change Thematic Task Forces

The work is coordinated by the Cyprus Institute under the leadership of Prof. C.N. Papanicolas, the Advisor and Special Envoy on Climate Change to the President of Cyprus. The thematic Task Forces have the following scientific foci:

  1. The Physical Basis

  2. Energy Systems

  3. Built Environment

  4. Health

  5. Water resources

  6. Agroforestry and Food Chain

  7. Marine Environment/Resources

  8. Education and Outreach

  9. Migration

  10. Tourism

  11. Enabling Technologies

  12. Development of Green Economy and Innovation

  13. Cultural Heritage


1. The Physical Basis of Climate Change

Task Force Coordination

Jos Lelieveld, Jean Sciare

Cyprus Institute Liaison Scientist

George Zittis

Task Force Members

Mansour Almazroui Pinhas Alpert Philippe Ciais Wolfgang Cramer Yara Dahdal

Diana Francis Panos Hadjinicolaou Fares Howari

Amna Jrrar Dimitris Kaskaoutis Markku Kulmala Xin Lin

Nikos Mihalopoulos Yinon Rudich Georgiy Stenchikov Elena Xoplaki

The human influence on the Earth’s climate, including its atmosphere, ocean and land components, is unequivocal (IPCC, 2021). Since the Industrial Revolution, the volume of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted into the atmosphere has grown at an accelerating pace, in addition to land-use

changes (e.g. extensive deforestation and urbanisation), causing a significant increase in the global surface temperature, as well as changes in other meteorological factors such as rainfall. Regional responses to the climate forcings caused by GHG emissions are not linear or uniformly distributed. Because of geographically specific climate feedback mechanisms, some regions warm more rapidly than the global mean. One such climate change hotspot is the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME) region.

According to the latest observations, the EMME region is currently warming almost two times faster than the global average and more rapidly than most other inhabited parts of the world (Figure 1), especially during the summer season. In the past four decades (19812019), the observed temperature trend was about 0.45°C per decade. Over the course of the 20th century, precipitation variability in the region was high, with pronounced fluctuations between drier and wetter periods. However, in recent decades, there are indications of a general decrease in precipitation and a transition to a drier climate regime. The combined impacts of warming and drying in this already environmentally stressed part of the world are of great concern.

The regional sea-level rise of the Mediterranean and Red seas and the Arabian Gulf follows the average global rate (23 centimetres per decade), posing challenges to coastal infrastructure, agriculture and ecosystems. Besides the observed changes in mean climatic conditions, the

Figure 1. Temperature anomalies since 1901: the EMME region vs. global (left panel) and regional (right panel) time series

Source: Based on gridded observations over land (annual values: thin curves; cubic smoothing splines: thick curves).

Note: Linear trends are presented for the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME) region, Europe (EUR), the United States (USA), Africa (AFR), Australia (AUS), South America (SAM) and the globe (GLOBAL).


frequency and severity of extreme weather events in the EMME region have increased in the recent past. Regional high-impact events include intense heatwaves, prolonged droughts and, though more rarely, torrential rainfall events that can trigger flash floods that damage infrastructure and cause loss of life.

GHG emissions in the EMME region increased fivefold over the past several decades. Today, regional emissions are comparable to those of the European Union + United Kingdom or of India, and a strong upward trend suggests that the region will shortly become one of the world’s dominant emitters. Carbon dioxide and methane together account for about 95% of the region’s anthropogenic GHG emissions over the past five decades. More than 90% of these gases have been emitted by the fossil fuel energy sector.

Regional climate projections indicate that the overall warming trend will continue for the rest of the 21st century. A strong mitigation pathway (e.g. Representative Concentration Pathway [RCP] 2.6) might stabilise the regional warming levels slightly, to 1°C over the reference period (19862005), equivalent to 2°C more than the pre-industrial era (Figure 2). A business-as-usual pathway (e.g. RCP 8.5), implies warming levels close to 5°C by the end of the century (Figures 2 and 3). In such a scenario, the coolest years in the future will be comparable to the very warmest years of the reference period. Mountainous climate zones with snow will likely diminish by the end of the century, with consequences for river run-off and water supply.

Figure 2. Probability density curves of annual temperature anomalies (with respect to the 1986–2005 mean conditions), averaged across the region

These temperature projections refer to annual mean values. As a result of several climatic feedbacks (e.g. soil moisture interactions and atmospheric circulation changes), the warming will be strongest during summer. Large increases in both the intensity and duration of heatwaves are expected. This is a robust outcome of all emission scenarios and climate model projections. Depending on the scenario, heat extremes have the potential to become societally disruptive, as the EMME region will likely be subjected to unprecedented heat extremes. In parts of the Middle East, peak temperatures during heatwaves could exceed 60°C, particularly in urban environments.

Business-as-usual pathways for the future imply a northward expansion of arid climate zones at the expense of more temperate Mediterranean zones. Precipitation will likely decrease by up to 2030% in many regions, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean (Figure 3, right panel). While moderate increases in precipitation are projected for parts of the Arabian Peninsula, these changes are associated with a low level of statistical significance, and their contribution to the replenishment of water resources will be minor. The combination of an overall decrease in precipitation and strong warming will likely contribute to severe meteorological and hydrological droughts. In combination with the rapid growth of population and water demand, significant water shortages may be expected. This will also be the case for regions where moderate precipitation increases occur.

The frequency, duration and severity of dust storms, which are a common natural hazard across the region, are expected to increase under a warmer and drier climate. Such changes might further degrade air quality in the region and affect ecosystems, agriculture and human health.

The regional mean sea level is projected to rise at a rate similar to that estimated for the global mean, with a possible outcome of more than 1 metre above the present level by the end of the 21st century (under high-end scenarios). This would imply severe challenges for coastal communities, critical infrastructure and agriculture, and lead to the salinisation of coastal aquifers in the EMME region.

Virtually all socio-economic sectors will be critically affected by the projected changes. Human health and well-being will be directly affected, especially among underprivileged people, the elderly, children and pregnant women. Sectors that will likely be critically affected

2 | Executive Summaries of the Reports of the Climate Change Thematic Task Forces

Figure 3. Projected end-of-century changes (END: 20812100) of mean annual temperature (left panel) and annual precipitation (right panel), with respect to the control reference period (CTL: 19862005) for the business-as-usual pathway RCP 8.5

include public health and security, agriculture, water and energy management, and likely more. Our multimodel and multiscenario approach confirms that the magnitude of climate change and its impacts during the second half of the 21st century and beyond strongly depend on the assumed increases of GHG emissions.

The region is currently contributing about 10% of global GHG emissions, and this share is expected to increase if emissions continue at the current rates. Thus, immediate and effective climate change mitigation measures are required. These include the decarbonisation of economic sectors such as energy production, industry and transportation. Furthermore, local communities in urban, rural and coastal areas of the EMME region will need to adapt to the increasingly challenging environmental conditions, especially related to heat extremes, prolonged droughts and sea-level rise. Adaptation solutions relevant to the region include the use of non-conventional water resources, the introduction of more heat- and water-stress-tolerant

cultivars, the implementation of land restoration and afforestation projects, the development of early warning systems for extreme events, urban greening, the design of coastal erosion protection measures and more. Slowing down the regional manifestation of global warming through mitigation can help provide the time window needed for natural and human systems to adapt.

Many countries in the EMME region rely on climate data and analysis, modelling and assessments from countries outside the region. The region will need to strengthen its own research capacity, enhanced by regional collaboration and networking, to conduct independent climate mitigation and adaptation assessments and to verify policies. Since many of the regional outcomes of climate change are transboundary, improved co-ordination among the countries of the region is indispensable to cope with the expected adverse impacts. This will lead to synergies that are vital to achieving timely mitigation targets and concurrently ensuring energy, food and water security.

  1. The Physical Basis of Climate Change | 3

  2. Energy Systems

    Task Force Management Board

    Prof. Theodoros Zachariadis, The Cyprus Institute

    Dr. Kamal J. Araj, Independent Consultant & Former Vice Chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC)

    Dr. Rabia Ferroukhi, International Renewable Energy Agency Cyprus Institute Liaison Scientist: Dr. Nestor Fylaktos

    Members of the Task Force

    Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, Arava Institute, Israel

    Dr. Mohammad A. Al-Ramadhan, Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, Kuwait

    Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli, Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies, Bahrain

    Prof. Derek Baker, Middle East Technical University, Turkey Prof. Manuel J. Blanco, The Cyprus Institute, Cyprus

    Prof. Steven Griffiths, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, United Arab Emirates

    Prof. Sameh Nada, Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology

    Prof. Holger Rogner, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria

    Dr. Jan Steckel, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Germany

    Dr. Christos Tourkolias, Centre for Renewable Energy Sources, Greece

    Dr. Sara Vakhshouri, SVB Energy International, Washington, DC

    Dr. Eric Williams, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre, Saudi Arabia

    Editorial Review and Assistance

    Dr. Constantinos Taliotis (lead), Dr. Marios Karmellos, The Cyprus Institute

    Dr. Arslan Khalid, Gerardo Escamilla, Diala Hawila, Costanza Strinati, International Renewable Energy Agency

    József Kádár, Arava Institute, Israel

    The Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME) region comprises countries at various stages of economic development. The region possesses a great many resources and faces diverse political and economic challenges. Located in a climate change hotspot, however, the countries of the region are projected to face major threats to their welfare in the coming decades. Today, the region hosts 5.5% of the global population, produces 4.7% of the world’s economic output, but generates more than 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Several EMME countries emit many times more carbon dioxide per capita than the world average while others are below the average. Considering population trends, economic growth prospects and emission projections, almost all of the main emitters are far off the trajectory required to stabilise the global climate, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The energy system produces about three-quarters of these emissions in the region, and half the atmospheric pollution. So it must bear most of the burden of decarbonisation efforts to bring the region in line with the requirement for global climate stability. Apart from being fundamental for climate change mitigation, the green energy transition will also help nations adapt to worsening climate conditions and build climate-resilient societies.

    The Task Force on Energy Systems has reviewed the socio-economic and technological trends in energy systems of the region and highlighted gaps in policy and knowledge that must be addressed rapidly. Its full report depicts the evolution of energy supply and demand in EMME countries, both in aggregate terms and by main energy carrier – oil, gas, renewables, and nuclear energy. The region sits on huge reserves of crude oil and natural gas, while it enjoys a substantial (and until now largely unexploited) renewable energy potential. Some countries are building capacity in nuclear power.

    The report also reviews the landscape of energy and climate policies in the EMME region. It starts with an overview of existing national strategies and decarbonisation plans and delves into individual aspects of such policies: regulatory approaches for the uptake of clean energy and energy efficiency investments; market-based instruments to abolish fossil fuel subsidies and adopt carbon pricing


    schemes; and institutional reforms, infrastructure investments and cross-cutting policies that can enable the clean energy transition. This review identifies gaps in the design and implementation of appropriate decarbonisation policies, both in energy supply (power generation and production of clean fuels) and energy use.

    Based on these findings, the Energy Task Force has set up a decarbonisation agenda for the EMME region’s energy systems, recognising that because time is limited, substantial progress on decarbonisation is required.

    The path to low-carbon economies requires a two-pronged intervention that reduces energy demand while satisfying the lower demand with energy a low or net-zero carbon footprint. Above all, it requires political willingness to design a low-carbon economy achieved through clean energy transition plans with actionable policies over the medium and long terms. Regional cooperation and collaboration can greatly contribute a regional Green Deal by sharing technical expertise and best practices in policy implementation, but also with mutual capacity building.

    The energy sector exists as part of the entire socioeconomic system. It cannot be considered in isolation from it. Fundamental for a transition, therefore, is the energy sector’s interaction with the economy, along with social and environmental sectors. Indeed, an energy transition requires a systems approach that meet challenges across all aspects of the transition (economic, social, and environmental sectors) and the dynamics among them. This means that policies to scale up deployment and integrate larger shares of zero-carbon energy need to be supported by cross-cutting, enabling policies on industry, skills and labour, society and finance – formulated from a holistic perspective. With the components of these comprehensive policy frameworks in place, the transition will achieve global climate goals while producing millions of jobs, broader economic development and significant gains for health and welfare.

    In this context, the report identifies three pillars of the clean energy transition that need immediate and simultaneous attention from the EMME region’s governments:

    • Planning the transition with robust data, analyses and research.

    • Mitigating growth in energy demand and promoting the uptake of green technologies and practices by consumers and firms.

    • Ensuring the supply of competitive, low-carbon energy.

      Figure 1 outlines the major elements of each pillar and further elaborates them in the full report of the task force.

      To achieve progress in this ambitious decarbonisation agenda, the need for regional co-operation cannot be overstated. Co-ordinated actions like sharing and co-de-veloping energy infrastructures and networks, facilitating technical exchanges and capacity-building activities and conducting regional integrated assessments are essential elements towards decarbonisation.

      In accordance with the gaps in knowledge and the policy proposals identified, the report outlines a wideranging regional research and innovation agenda that is urgently needed and should encompass the following topics:

    • Technologies (clean fuels such as hydrocarbons and hydrogen, green desalination processes, zero-carbon power generation, energy storage, carbon capture and utilisation)

    • Enabling infrastructure (inter-connections, energy communities)

    • Digitalisation (smart grids, vehicle-to-grid systems, automation)

    • Circular economy (impact of resource efficiency and waste prevention on the carbon footprint of industries and households)

    • Attitudes (lifestyle changes and behavioural aspects to lower energy demand and adopt sustainability practices, especially after the pandemic)

    • Policies (simulations of inter-connected/liberalised markets, decarbonisation pathways and their impact on economic growth and social equity)

      Out of this research agenda, each country can choose the options that best fit its natural resources, accumulated expertise, and comparative advantages. It is important to emphasise that, regardless of national strategies, regional co-operation can accelerate research and innovation in the region. This can be enabled by targeted initiatives such as the creation of highly capable regional energy/ climate/economic modelling networks, which will not only involve research institutions but also establish strong links with national decision makers to enable a policy-relevant decarbonisation agenda for the EMME region’s energy system.

      6 | Executive Summaries of the Reports of the Climate Change Thematic Task Forces

      Figure 1. EMME energy systems: The policy priorities for decarbonisation

      Planning the Energy Transition

      • Formulate a vision and a roadmap for a low-carbon economy

      • Ensure proper governance of energy data and policies

      • Collect and report adequate energy statistics and costs

      • Perform energy projections for the medium and long term

      • Implement, monitor, and revise clean energy plans

      • Adopt enabling policies in industry, labour market, social protection, education and skills, and finance

      Mitigating Growth in Energy Demand

      • Promote energy efficiency in all end-use sectors (buildings, industry, transport) by facilitating investments and removing financial barriers

      • Promote water conservation to reduce the energy needs of water supply

      • Understand socio-economic aspects (e.g. poverty and energy access) that affect the adoption and acceptance of energy saving measures

      • Stimulate behavioural change in the population to promote energy

      conservation; institutionalise post-pandemic low-energy lifestyles

      Ensuring Low-Carbon Energy Supply

      • Promote electrification of end-use sectors

      • Invest in low-carbon electricity and sector coupling (e.g. waste heat of power plants to be used in industry and residential heating/cooling)

      • Enable infrastructure investments (interconnections, smart grids) and institutional reforms (flexible tariffs, energy communities) to allow increased penetration of low-carbon electricity

      • Exploit opportunities to produce clean fuels (including hydrogen) for sectors hard to decarbonise (e.g. cement and steel industry, aviation, shipping)

      Finally, the report provides a detailed policy toolkit for decarbonising energy systems. It comprises more than 30 possible interventions across the entire spectrum of public policies: regulations, institutional reforms, removal of investment barriers, green fiscal measures, infrastructure investments and information initiatives. Some tools are more relevant for some countries, while other policy instruments may be more suitable for others. Yet common features apply: satisfying a large portion of energy needs with zero-carbon electricity and heat; utilising the region’s natural resources to provide low- and zero-carbon fuels like synthetic hydrocarbons and hydrogen; improving

      energy efficiency in industry, buildings and transport and aligning the economic and research priorities of the countries with the strategic vision of a low-carbon future.

      Geography and climate make it imperative for EMME countries to address their common energy future in a co-ordinated manner. Policy makers can combine the available international knowledge with regional resources to facilitate the transition of energy systems to climate neutrality, which will improve the well-being of all people in the region.

      1. Energy Systems | 7

      2. The Built Environment

        Task Force Management Board

        Prof. Salvatore Carlucci, The Cyprus Institute

        Prof. Manfred A. Lange, The Cyprus Institute and Future Earth MENA Regional Centre

        Cyprus Institute Liaison Scientist

        Prof. George Artopoulos, The Cyprus Institute

        Task Force Members

        Prof. Hanan M. Albuflasa, University of Bahrain

        Prof. Margarita-Niki Assimakopoulos, University of Athens Prof. Shady Attia, University of Liège

        Prof. Elie Azar, Khalifa University of Science and Technology Prof. Erdem Cüce, Recep Tayyip Erdogan University

        Dr. Ali Hajiah, Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research Prof. Isaac A. Meir, Ben-Gurion University

        Prof. Marina Neophytou, The University of Cyprus

        Dr. Melina Nicolaides, Activate Non-profit Arts Organisation Prof. Despina Serghides, The Cyprus Institute

        Prof. Aaron Sprecher, Technion Israel Institute of Technology

        Dr. Muhieddin Tawalbeh, National Energy Research Centre, Royal Scientific Society.

        Editorial Review and Assistance

        Ms Ioanna Kyprianou, The Cyprus Institute Ms Stavroula Thravalou, The Cyprus Institute

        The climate-related risks faced by the built environment of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME) region are summarised here.

        Yearly mean ambient temperatures are 1.4°C higher in the region than in the late 19th century, averaged across the region (Cramer et al., 2018), and the intensity, length and number of heatwaves have increased by a factor of six to eight since the 1960s in the Eastern Mediterranean (Kuglitsch et al., 2010).

        Under certain climate scenarios, parts of the Mediterranean region are predicted to become uninhabitable by some species of the biosphere, including humans (Lelieveld et al., 2016). Since 1985, the Mediterranean Sea has been warming by about 0.4°C (Nykjaer, 2009) and

        rising by about 3 centimetres per decade (Tsimplis et al., 2013). Ozone and aerosol air quality limits are often exceeded, with photochemical episodes mainly occurring in summer (EEA, 2018). These phenomena, as well as land-use changes, increasing pollution and compromised biodiversity, have aggravated several ongoing environmental problems in the area. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization have classified the EMME region as a global “climate hotspot,” exceptionally vulnerable to climate change impacts (Giorgi, 2006; Stocker et al., 2013).

        The vulnerability of urban structures to climate change is determined both by the magnitude of climate-induced impacts and by the adaptability capacity and exposure of a given site. As cities in the EMME region are exposed to various climate hazards, depending on their geographical position and morphology, their physical and socio-eco-nomic characteristics influence their adaptability capacity and, ultimately, their vulnerability (Figure ES.1). While climate change is a global phenomenon, and its mitigation through the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions requires an international effort, its impacts are local and must be tackled in each geographical context considering site-specific features.

        The EMME region is characterised by rapid population growth and urbanisation. Expanding cities and suburban areas are challenging the social cohesion and environmental regenerative capacity of some areas of the region. Several megacities in the region, such as Cairo and Istanbul, are home to more than 10 000 000 people, and, according to the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, more than 40% of the region’s population can be classified as poor or vulnerable (Abu-Ismail, 2018). Furthermore, shifts in population density towards urban centres and changes in lifestyle have been accompanied by heedless land use, unplanned urban development, increased consumerism and energy consumption, along with higher GHG emissions. Traditionally, the EMME region has played a small part in global emissions; however, should current trends continue, this is likely to change. Sustainable development strategies are urgently needed in the region, across the built environment in general and in the construction industry in particular.


        Figure ES.1 Vulnerability map of countries in the EMME region, November 2020

        Source: Authors’ compilation based on information from the ND-GAIN website.

        The built environment is the human-made setting for human activity (Roof and Oleru, 2008). As a complex and tangled global system, with multiple scales ranging from buildings to neighbourhoods to cities (Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, 2020), it encompasses the great variety of places and spaces created or modified by people. These include green spaces; infrastructure like transport, energy transmission, water supply and sewerage networks; and public, residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Buildings in particular are increasingly recognised as significant sources of both peak energy demand and GHG emissions. In the race to transform current practices, local authorities can be catalysts of change. Backed by deep knowledge of the characteristics and needs of their communities, they are in a good position to design and implement adaptive actions in line with major international agreements such as the Paris Agreement, the New Urban Agenda, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It is particularly urgent that adaptive measures be implemented in urban centres. While in 1950, cities hosted about 30% of the world’s population, today they host nearly 55%, and this share is projected to reach 70% by 2050 (Department

        of Economic and Social Affairs, 2019). Urban adaptation is also necessary from an economic perspective. Urban areas are focal points of economic activity, generally characterised by high gross domestic product per capita (Lavalle et al., 2017) and industrial clusters. Indeed, urbanisation implies economic growth, with about 80% of global gross domestic product generated in cities (Grübler and Fisk, 2012), a share expected to grow. The importance of urban resilience to climate change is emphasised in key international agreements, frameworks and policies, including the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2015).

        An analysis of the policy landscape related to climate change mitigation and adaptation actions already adopted in the countries of the EMME region identified major gaps in the degree to which climate change mitigation and adaptation actions are being implemented across countries in the region. Regulatory inertia hinders the smooth enactment of mitigation and adaptation measures and climate policies where available. This is possibly due to the lack of institutional co-ordination among different agencies or ministries, or non-obligatory regulations. Also,

        10 | Executive Summaries of the Reports of the Climate Change Thematic Task Forces

        decarbonisation is not always a political priority. Overcoming a technocratic approach and moving towards a people-centred approach with seamless integration of the built environment and natural resources require greater awareness among both citizens and policy makers about environmental issues, together with more state and private investments to support the deployment of mitigation strategies (meetMED, 2020). The Global Sustainability Assessment System is an example of an instrument aiming to improve the built environment in the region. It has already been adopted by some countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and could serve as a blueprint for a regionwide body of rules and regulations to achieve energy efficiency in the built environment across the EMME region (GORD, 2019).

        While synergistic relationships between researchers and relevant stakeholders are furthering knowledge, public awareness and relevant policy across the EMME region, few tangible adaptive measures have been carried out. Robust resources, accessible and applicable at the local level, are needed to fully grasp current and projected climate threats. High-quality data are required for accurate vulnerability assessments.

        Adaptation in the context of the EMME region, especially in urban settings, has arguably started taking place. However, an evaluation of current adaptation strategies across the region suggests that progress varies by country (UNEP, 2018). This report considers that variation while providing a comprehensive overview of urban and local governments’ adaptation efforts. Cities of the EMME region need to address the following characteristics of the built environment:

    • Urban sprawl – manage urban population pressures on agricultural and natural land and deal with the soil-sealing trend due to urban sprawl, especially in coastal areas.

    • General co-ordination – promote information and communications technology readiness and open access to city data (monitoring of infrastructure operations).

    • Port cities – manage environmental, cultural, spatial, economic and social peculiarities.

    • Coastal cities – manage soil erosion, urbanisation and industrialisation of coastal areas.

    • Lowland, continental cities – overcome insularity.

      Moreover, providing open access to secure, high-qual-ity, time-relevant and consistent demographic and environmental monitoring data is essential for planning and implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Improvements in real-time monitoring of civil data and information systems, state-of-the-art capacity for analytics of urban big data, remote-sensing technologies, satellite observations and geo-referencing are necessary actions to manage pressing urbanisation challenges and provide grounds for the development of timely responses. An example of an information and communication technology application combining information from various governmental services, as well as external resources, is the National Statistical Data Program “Masdar”. This programme aims to create a comprehensive database with information that can be accessed through an interactive data portal and also through smartphone applications (UN, 2018).

      Lessons learned span several thematic axes: integration and co-ordination of mitigation and adaptation measures; regulatory inertia and carbon lock-in; new forms of co-ordinated management of city-regions; alignment between national and local levels on climate response and institutional co-ordination in the development of climate responses. Moreover, based on current knowledge, five main directions may drive advances in research on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the built environment: urban planning and design, built infrastructure, sustainable consumption and production, finance and informality.

      Mitigation strategies to address the abovementioned challenges include the creation of low-energy, sustainable and resilient buildings and neighbourhoods while applying circular economy principles in the construction sector. In addition, urban design and land-use planning are focal in the mitigation of excessive heat and the urban heat island phenomenon, whereas sustainable mobility technologies will aid in the decarbonisation of local environments. As for climate change adaptation strategies, four approaches have been recognised: technology-, ecosystem-, commu-nity- and policy-based strategies.

      The EMME region urgently needs holistic and co-ordi-nated actions, developing consolidated evidence-based strategies for cities that aspire to be resilient in the near and far future, cities able to absorb environmental shocks induced by climate change and offer safe and equitable lives for urban dwellers and commuters. Co-operation among countries and cities of the EMME region is vital,

        1. The Built Environment | 11

          Figure ES.2 Five policy topics to address in efforts towards urban sustainability

          Sustainable and resilient cities and communities: A pathway towards 2050

          Topic 1:

          Urban design, planning and sustainable development

          Topic 2: Governance and policy integration

          Topic 3: Economic support and access to finance

          Topic 4: Technology-enabled and data-driven communities

          Topic 5: Resilient and equity communities

          and harmonisation of climate actions is indispensable. Practical policy recommendations towards achieving sustainable and resilient cities and communities by 2050 focus on five topics (Figure ES.2) and are addressed to policy makers and relevant stakeholders of the region.


          Abu-Ismail K (2018) Poverty and Vulnerability in Arab States. Beirut, Lebanon

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          Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2019) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision

          EEA (2018) Air quality in Europe — 2018 report No 12/2018

          Giorgi F (2006) Climate change hot-spots. Geophys Res Lett. https:// doi.org/10.1029/2006GL025734

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          Grübler A, Fisk D (2012) Energizing sustainable cities: Assessing urban energy

          Kuglitsch FG, Toreti A, Xoplaki E, et al (2010) Heat wave changes in the eastern mediterranean since 1960. Geophys Res Lett. https://doi. org/10.1029/2009GL041841

          Lavalle C, Pontarollo N, Batista E Silva F, et al (2017) European Territorial Trends – Facts and Prospects for Cities and Regions

          Lelieveld J, Proestos Y, Hadjinicolaou P, et al (2016) Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century. Clim Change 137:245–260. https://doi.org/10.1007/ s10584-016-1665-6

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          12 | Executive Summaries of the Reports of the Climate Change Thematic Task Forces

        2. The Effects of Climate Change on Human Health

Summary of the Report of the Health Task Force

Marco Neira, Climate and Atmosphere Research Centre, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus

Kamil Erguler, Climate and Atmosphere Research Centre (CARE-C), The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus

Hesam Ahmady-Birgani, Faculty of Natural Resources, Urmia University, Iran

Nisreen DaifAllah AL-Hmoud, Bio-Safety and Bio-Security Centre, Royal Scientific Society, Jordan

Christiane Diehl, European Academies Science Advisory Council Robin Fears, European Academies Science Advisory Council

Charalambos Gogos, School of Medicine, University of Patras, Patras, Greece

Maria Koliou, University of Cyprus Medical School, Nicosia, Cyprus 6,

Leontios Kostrikis, Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus

Jos Lelieveld, Climate and Atmosphere Research Centre, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus; and Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany

Azeem Majeed, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom

Shlomit Paz, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

Yinon Rudich, Faculty of Chemistry, The Weismann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Amal Saad-Hussein, National Research Centre, Giza, Egypt

Mohammed Shaheen, Centre for Development in Primary Health Care, Al-Quds University, Palestine

Volker ter Meulen, European Academies Science Advisory Council; Inter-Academy Partnership

Aurelio Tobias, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Spanish Council for Scientific Research, Barcelona, Spain

George Christophides, Climate and Atmosphere Research Centre, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus; Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom

Corresponding authors: Marco Neira, m.neira@cyi.ac.cy; George Christophides, g.christophides@cyi.ac.cy,

Climate change is predicted to affect many aspects of human life in complex and interconnected ways. The impacts of climate change on human health and wellbeing can be both direct (e.g., exposure to extreme and unusual temperatures, drought, and flooding) and indirect (e.g., changes in air quality, food and water availability/ quality, and patterns of infectious disease transmission). These effects are further compounded by a variety of biological, ecological and socio-political factors.

An extensive body of research has identified several factors that can adversely affect the vulnerability of human health and wellbeing to climatic factors, including age, gender, geographic location, socio-economic status, occupation, health status and housing conditions, among other. Climate change is predicted to exacerbate these vulnerabilities, especially in the lower-income countries and resource-limited settings of the EMME region, which is also characterised by high rates of population growth, urbanisation, political tension and migration.

In this report we summarise the current knowledge regarding the effects of climate change on the health of the people of the EMME region. We provide recommendations regarding research priorities and relevant policies, which can help increase the region’s resilience to human health challenges set to be imposed by climate change.

Extreme heat

Exposure to extreme heat is associated with heat stroke, kidney injuries and myocardial infarction in adults, especially the elderly, as well as electrolyte imbalance, respiratory conditions and renal problems in children (Figure 1). Extreme heat has also been linked to mental health problems, sleep disturbances and increased suicide rates. Factors such as air pollution, elevated humidity and urban heat islands can further compound the negative effects of heat stress on human health.

A large share of the population of the EMME region is already acclimated to high ambient temperatures. However, future heatwaves in the region are predicted to be increasingly severe and disproportionally affect vulnerable population groups including the elderly, people living in poverty, those with disabilities or chronic health conditions and individuals that regularly work outdoors (Figure 1). Thus, areas of the EMME region with large susceptible


Groups particularly vulnerable to extreme heat:

The elderly

(65 and older)

People living

in poverty

Individuals working outdoors or

in environments where environmental temperature is not regulated

People with disabilities or pre-existing

chronic health problems

Inhabitants of areas with temperatures bordering on the limits tolerated by

human physiology

Figure 1. The effects of increasing environmental temperatures on human health

Rising temperatures and increasingly frequent, intense, and lengthy heat waves directly threaten human health, as higher environmental temperatures make dissipating the heat produced by metabolic processes more difficult

Elevated environmental temperatures enhance the risks of:

In Adults

  • Heat stroke,

  • Kidney injury

  • Myocardial infarction

    In Children:

  • Electrolyte imbalance

  • Fever

  • Respiratory disease

  • Renal problems

Heat waves are also associated with increased rates of mental and behavioral issues

Environmental 'wet-bulb' temperatures (a type of measurement that combines temperature and humidity) exceeding 35ºC are considered unsustainable for human survival.

populations, such as urban areas, will be particularly affected by future extreme heat events.

Water shortage

Human health is dependent on the availability of safe, reliable and accessible water supplies. The EMME region comprises some of the countries with the lowest water availability in the world, with nine out of 15 countries in the Middle East considered to experience absolute water scarcity.

The health consequences of freshwater scarcity (Figure 2) can be both direct and indirect and include diarrheal and parasitic diseases, chronic health issues, increases in

the incidence of vector-borne diseases and nutritional deficiencies, among other. Reduced agricultural productivity due to water scarcity is expected to cause drops in export revenues in many of the EMME countries that range in the billions of dollars, potentially impacting health services and infrastructure.

Several countries in the region have successfully implemented strategies that allow them to increase the productivity of their water resources and obtain usable water through nonconventional means such as desalination and wastewater re-use. Unfortunately, the high costs associated with some of these processes currently limit their widespread use.

14 | Executive Summaries of the Reports of the Climate Change Thematic Task Forces

Air pollution, dust events, and wildfires

In Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, around 1 million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. Increased particulate matter concentrations in ambient air from energy generation, industrial pollutants, traffic, domestic energy use and wildfires are implicated with increases in the incidence of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as higher mortality rates. These health problems are aggravated by the growing abundance of desert dust, especially in the EMME region. Vulnerable groups include the very young and elderly, as well as people with chronic cardiopulmonary diseases.

The strong urbanisation trend in the EMME region is another direct effect of climate change and contributes significantly to the worsening of air pollution in urban areas. The byproducts of fossil fuel burning include greenhouse gases, particulate matter and various hazardous gases. Because heat facilitates the formation of some of these noxious reaction products, urban heat islands and heatwaves also contribute to the deterioration of air quality.

Vector-borne diseases

Infectious diseases transmitted by arthropod vectors, known as vector-borne diseases (VBDs), are particularly susceptible to climatic variability due to the complex structure of their natural cycles. The biology of mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks and other disease vectors is profoundly influenced by factors such as temperature, rainfall and humidity, creating a direct link between climate change and the epidemiology of VBDs.

Variation in climate and other environmental factors can also affect physiological parameters of vector-borne pathogens, altering their transmission patterns. Human interventions such as increased urbanisation and the disruption of natural ecosystems can further enhance the potential for VBD transmission.

Ecological and socio-economic factors currently found in the EMME region create the appropriate conditions for the local transmission of several VBDs, including dengue and Chikungunya fever, leishmaniasis, West Nile fever, and malaria, among others. Future climatic change is expected to influence the epidemiological landscape of these diseases by altering the vector geographic distribution, seasonality, abundance and capacity to transmit disease.

Population displacement

In the past 50 years, the displacement of human populations in the EMME region increased significantly due to complex environmental, economic and socio-political

issues. Climate change can stimulate population displacement in several ways, including increases in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, loss of land to sea-level rise and deterioration of lifesustaining ecosystems and aggravation of armed conflicts.

Several EMME countries are listed among those with the largest shares of migrants in the world. As of 2019, Syria and Iraq were among the 10 countries with the highest number of internationally displaced persons, while Turkey, Iran and Lebanon were hosts to some of the largest refugee populations.

The distinct sanitary conditions of refugees, often housed in densely packed, makeshift dwellings and lack appropriate access to basic resources, such as running water and waste disposal, render this group extremely vulnerable to factors such as extreme temperatures, water scarcity, nutritional deficiencies, infectious diseases, maternal

/neonatal morbidity and mortality and, importantly, mental health issues. The lack of resources and uncertain legal status associated with displacement can place the most vulnerable individuals (largely women and children) at an elevated risk of being the target of sexual violence and exploitation. Access to medical and psychiatric health care for refugees is limited, with some aspects (such as mental and reproductive health) being particularly difficult to address amid logistic and cultural challenges.

Research gaps

During the drafting of this report, we have identified several areas where additional research is required to either better understand or better address the health challenges posed by climate change. These include:

  • Empirical evidence on exposure-response functions involving climate change and specific health outcomes: Our current understanding of the specific effects that climate exerts on several health conditions is relatively poor. Areas where further research is required include the impact of dust exposure on chronic health conditions, the development of tools to accurately evaluate the psychological effects associated with forced displacement, the effects of air pollution by wildfires on respiratory and neurologic health, and the effects of climate change on overall children’s health, among others.

  • Assessment of the effects of climate change on ecological determinants of human health: There is a dearth of empirical data about the influence of changing climate on ecological factors that can ultimately

    4. Health | 15

    Figure 2. Direct and indirect impacts of freshwater scarcity on human health