BY: Wael Abdul-Shafi and Jan Hanrath
The repercussions of climate change and environmental challenges pose enormous risks to Iran and Saudi Arabia alike. While there are differences in geography and climate in both countries, they also have many environmental challenges in common. Problems such as sand and dust storms or diminishing water resources are border-crossing phenomena that no country can deal with alone; therefore, cooperation is key. At this point in time, however, willingness to cooperate is utterly lacking in a region marked by geo-strategic rivalries, ongoing military conflicts and deep-rooted mutual distrust between regional rivals, and between Saudi Arabia and Iran in particular.
CARPO and the EastWest Institute initiated a meeting of experts from Saudi Arabia and Iran as part of their "Iran-Saudi Track 2 Initiative." The participants discussed environmental challenges to reach a better understanding of the political context and to identify opportunities and limits for Iranian-Saudi cooperation in the field of regional environmental policy. Participants agreed that climate change and ecological deterioration pose a major challenge to their countries and the region.
Fully aware that the current political situation makes cooperation very difficult, participants discussed potential avenues of exchange below the level of national governments and proposed initiatives for cooperation on a regional and international level.
The "Iran-Saudi Dialogue" project is funded by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) with resources provided by the German Federal Foreign Office. This latest brief follows three previous ones: Iranian and Saudi Perspectives on the Refugee Crisis, Know Your Enemy — Iranian and Saudi Perspectives on ISIL, and Envisioning the Future: Iranian and Saudi Perspectives on the Post-Oil Economy.