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Air Pollution Costs MENA Region $141 Billion Annually: World Bank

February 11, 2022
Cairo, Egypt covered in smog air pollution
Cairo clouded in smog | Wikimedia
Cairo, Egypt clouded in smog | Wikimedia

The cost of air pollution and sea degradation is estimated to be over three percent of GDP in some of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to a newly published report by the World Bank.

In the MENA region’s largest cities, air pollution levels rank highly on a global scale. The report states that, on average, an urban resident will breathe in air that exceeds over 10 times the level of pollution deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Air pollution reportedly results in 270,000 deaths a year — more than traffic accidents, diabetes, and more common causes for death combined — and the average MENA resident falls ill for at least 60 days in their lifetime to due air pollutant exposure.

The report reveals that the annual economic cost of air pollution in the MENA region is also devastating, at an estimated USD 141 billion.

Sea degradation accounts for a significant percentage of pollution in the region, with the average annual cost of marine plastic waste pollution ranking at 0.8 percent of GDP, as per the World Bank report.

Pollution not only degrades the region’s environmental status, but the residents’ physical, social, and economic wellbeing. As the MENA region attempts to recover from the devastation of COVID-19, it will also adopt a more sustainable approach to growth with fewer emissions leading to pollutants.

Some examples of current initiatives in the region include Saudi Arabia aiming to lighten its dependence on oil through a strategic framework for economic diversification, entitled ‘Vision 2030’, pushing revenue from other sectors including tourism. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is hosting this year’s UN MENA Climate Week 2022, attracting visitors from around the world to discuss sustainable development goals and actionable plans.

The report also cites Egypt’s progress in curbing agricultural waste burning, stating that “strengthening regulation, enforcing penalties, and creating prices and markets for agricultural residue have proven to be key in reducing agricultural waste burning in Egypt.”

Meanwhile, Egypt will host the highly anticipated 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh later this year and is looking to collaborate with UN bodies to bolster international environmental initiatives. The UAE has been selected to host COP28 in 2023.

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