Full Title: The Unique Promise of Environmental Cooperation in the Gulf
Author(s): Will Rodman, Lubna Yousef, Minnah Abdelwahab
Publication Date: July 15, 2023
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Environmental issues hold unique promise for fostering negotiation and cooperation in the Gulf. Many forms of action on climate change and the environment would provide broad benefits, from efforts to combat sand and dust storms to marine conservation. In addition, international collaboration is necessary to respond to these challenges, as unilateral action by any single state is inadequate to address them. Climate change and environmental issues have also gained increased public attention in the Gulf in recent years. They have not been as politicized as other issues, meaning environmental diplomacy is both a growing priority and a relatively soft issue.
Until now, policymakers have underestimated the utility of environmental diplomacy. Dialogue on shared environmental concerns is low cost, would normalize contact between former rivals and build trust, and could serve as the foundation for cooperation on other shared issues. And if environmental diplomacy fails, it will demonstrate the limits of regional collaboration in the current geopolitical environment, providing greater clarity on diplomacy’s ability to de-escalate harder security issues.
The United States has a key but indirect role to play in fostering such a dialogue and an interest in its success. Greater U.S. engagement on environmental issues would help the United States remake its image, demonstrate that it can play a productive regional role, and support its strategies of advancing regional integration and promoting de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East. The United States should encourage its Arab Gulf partners to engage in regional environmental dialogue and help connect experts and civil society members around the Gulf to deepen the understanding of shared environmental concerns and solutions.