Reflections on UKERC’s Participation in the International Conference on Climate Change in Iraq

23 Nov 2023

As part of the UK Energy Research Centre engagement with the international energy research communities, Dr. Ahmed Gailani was invited by the Iraqi Institute for Dialogue to participate in the 3rd International Conference – Iraq and Climate Change. The conference is attended by the Iraqi President Rashid and several ministers to discuss the climate change challenges facing Iraq and the solutions needed.

Iraq is facing grave physical climate change risks (water scarcity, droughts, and sandstorms) as well as transition risks (being an oil-dependent economy). These risks may lead to internal as well as international conflicts affecting Iraq’s national security and stability.  The conference, therefore, is timely to discuss how Iraq can be resilient against these risks and deign the right policies to mitigate its emissions in line with its ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ and adapt to climate change.

Reflections on security and development

The conference had a very busy schedule with talks and discussions from high-profile Iraqi officials led by President Rashid along with representatives from international NGOs and think tanks. President Rashid said that we should learn from Iraq’s rich history and the ‘Meslilim treaty’ to solve climate change challenges. The ‘Meslilim treaty’ dated in the 25th century B.C, is the first legal agreement on boundary water resources which managed the water conflict between two Mesopotamian states Lagash and Umma. He iterated the need to raise climate change awareness amongst the Iraqi citizens and across all educational settings starting from the primary school.

The minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research, Dr. Al-Aboudi said that we are working to embed green environmental practices and encourage climate change research in all of Iraq’s higher education institutes. He also announced a climate change research competition opened for Iraqi researchers to submit research papers related to climate change.

The minister of Environment, Dr. Nzar Amedi, said that this conference represents close relationship between Iraqi government and academic institutions such as the Iraqi Institute for Dialogue. Dr. Amedi announced the establishment of an Iraqi company to facilitate carbon trading and carbon credits.

Mr. Abbas Al-Ameri, Head of the Iraqi Institute for Dialogue, said that this conference represents an opportunity for the Iraqi government to show its efforts to mitigate climate change risks facing the Iraqi people and called for Iraqi researchers and institutes to work collectively to achieve this purpose.

“We very much welcome the participation of Dr. Gailani in the conference and hear about his current work with UKERC and the Climate Change Committee and we are looking forward to learn from UKERC research efforts and experience to help Iraq manage climate change risks”, Mr. Al-Ameri said.

The need for evidence-based policy making in Iraq

In my talk, I called for evidence-based climate policymaking in Iraq. Drawing on my experience about decarbonising the UK’s industrial sector with UKERC, the Climate Change Committee, and the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, I called for the establishment of a central body that have the right tools and models to represent the entire Iraq’s energy and non-energy sectors. These integrated assessment models can be used to generate insights for Iraqi policy makers to understand the impact of climate transition and physical risks on the Iraqi economy and people. They can also be used as a tool for the Iraqi government during COP negotiations to show the impact of different global pathways on Iraq’s economy.

Ahmed Gailani on panel at The 3rd International Conference of Iraq and Climate Change

Ahmed Gailani on panel at The 3rd International Conference of Iraq and Climate Change

Key conference outputs and UKERC reflection

I think managing a conference about the climate change impacts and consequences in a country where its economy relies significantly on oil export is a great first step towards engaging the public on the wider impacts of climate change on our environment and the adaptation and mitigation actions needed. The conference was not only attended by high government officials and international researchers – which has certainly attracted media attention – but also from students from the University of Baghdad who engaged with the participants and asked several questions about their future and the future of Iraq in line with the climate change challenges.

However, there is more to be done in terms of the climate mitigation and adaptation actions needed from the Iraqi government as well as the people. Therefore, the key outputs from the conference are:

  • Recommendation to the Iraqi government to assess climate change transition and physical risks across all economy sectors quantifying the impact on people, country growth, national security, and sustainable development.
  • There is an urgent need to prioritise government actions on energy and water security by reforming the water sector policies to enhance water use efficiency and diversifying energy sources by relying on renewable energy sources to ensure reliable electricity supply. Similarly, methane abatement in the oil and gas sectors should continue to be at the top of government priorities.
  • Recommendation to the Iraqi government to take urgent action to protect vulnerable people from the physical impact of climate change such as the current water shortage, flooding, and sandstorms.
  • Promote private sector participation in green finance projects and create the necessary regulatory framework to ensure the validity, and permanence of these projects.

By Ahmed Gailani (UKERC Research Fellow), Abbas Al-Ameri (Head of Iraqi Institute for Dialogue)