Iraq is the fifth most vulnerable country in the world to climate change and is the most vulnerable country to changes in climate in the Middle East and North Africa region. Temperature increase and water scarcity are both affecting Iraq’s economic and social stability. Over the past four decades, average temperatures in the country increased by over 2.5 degrees Celsius. By 2050, Iraq is expected to be the ‘hottest’ country in the region, with average temperature exceeding thirty-six degrees Celsius, followed by Kuwait, Egypt and Libya. Increased temperatures are expected to severely affect labor productivity in Iraq, with the agriculture and construction sectors being the most affected. Thirty-five percent of Iraq’s labor force in the agriculture and construction sectors are facing extreme heat conditions with temperatures exceeding fifty degrees Celsius.
At the same time, growing water scarcity and more frequent extreme weather events have increasingly affected socio-economic conditions in Iraq through the exacerbation of electricity shortages and reduction of economic output in various sectors of the economy, including the agriculture sector. Based on World Bank predictions, the widening gap between water supply and demand is expected to increase from around five billion to eleven billion cubic meters by 2035. Water scarcity and low water quality can significantly reduce crop yields and affect agri-food systems, threatening food security and adversely impacting the country’s GDP.
Iraq also has one of the highest levels of carbon intensity (emissions by GDP) in the region. Most of the country’s total carbon emissions are attributed to the energy sector (electricity, oil, and gas operations and transport). Annual CO2 emissions in Iraq have more than doubled over the past decade, reaching 185 million tons by the end of 2021, compared to 61 million tons in 2007.
To address these combined challenges, the World Bank prioritizes climate action in Iraq in three focus areas: i.) adaptation, with a focus on the water-agriculture-poverty nexus; ii.) mitigation, with a focus on decarbonizing Iraq’s energy value chain; and iii.) managing the macro-fiscal implications of the transition to a low-carbon economy. The World Bank’s Country Climate and Development report estimates that Iraq would require around $233 billion in investments by 2040 to respond to its most pressing development gaps while embarking on a green and sustainable growth pathway.
In recognition of these challenges, the government of Iraq ratified the parliament’s decision to enter into the Paris agreement on climate change and submitted its first Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) report in 2021. The Iraqi government has also endorsed the ZEF agreement, which aims at ending flaring of gas by 2030.
Key environment indicators
Key Impact Areas
- The World Bank – Iraq Country Climate and Development Report
- United Nations – Migration, Environment, and Climate Change in Iraq
- World Health Organization – Health and Climate Change Iraq Profile
Relevant Publications and Reports
MENASource Jun 23, 2022
Iraq’s sandstorms are threatening life in the Fertile Crescent. It’s time the Iraqi government takes a stance.
By Muhammad Baqir Muhyedeen
The Iraqi government and population can take the necessary steps to protect their country from the changing climate and safeguard Iraq for future generations.
Event Recap May 9, 2023
Reimagining a way forward: Iraq’s economy and energy sector in the post-invasion era
By Amna Haider and Mahnaz Vahdati
On April 24, 2023, the Atlantic Council’s Iraq Initiative convened a hybrid panel discussion to examine Iraq’s current economic and energy landscape, and their future trajectory. The panel discussed Iraq’s significant progress in rebuilding its economy and energy sectors that have suffered since the 2003 US invasion of the country, despite facing various challenges such […]
Report Sep 26, 2022
Amman-Baghdad-Cairo (ABC) Agreement: A new path for economic integration
By Racha Helwa, Barik Schuber, and Ibrahim Saif
Since 2019, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan have held multiple summit meetings to discuss trilateral agreements to formalize and deepen economic integration. By cooperating among themselves, the three countries can represent a united political and economic front. This report explores the potential benefits and pitfalls to avoid from the perspective of each country: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq.
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