When it comes to climate change, we have a host of paradoxes in the southern neighbourhood: on the one hand, it is by now common knowledge that the region will be the hardest hit in the world, but it is, at the same time, one of the least prepared to face this, and its publics do not perceive the problem as such. These points, taken together, are one of the reasons why the topic appeared prominently not just in the Survey but also in the Joint Communication released in February 2021. To make matters more puzzling, the region receives a daily abundance of sunshine but generates only 0.4% of its energy mix from solar power.
This means two things: on the one hand, there is considerable work to do to “future-proof” the region for what will come its way but, on the other, the untapped potential to do so is equally considerable. If leveraged well, climate change – or rather, measures to avoid it – could therefore become a crucial driver for modernisation in the region. Three areas can be identified in this order of priority: firstly, publics in the southern neighbourhood need to be urgently made aware of the problem that they are facing, while states in the region need to prepare for those effects of climate change that can no longer be avoided; secondly, it will have to prepare for the coming energy transition in order to benefit from it; and, thirdly, it will have to decrease CO2 emissions in order to avoid even worse consequences.