IE GPA x RAIA Summer Research Program 2022

This page displays six climate leaders that students from IE University’s School of Global and Public Affairs have researched under RAIA supervision and with RAIA’s methodology ahead of the COP27. Each profile is divided into introduction, their Stake, their defining moment, their solutions, their impact and conclusion. “Their stake” analyses the key environmental challenges and issues a leader faces, “their defining moment” highlights the key moments that are pivotal to a leader becoming a climate leader, “their solutions” examines the policies and initiatives a leader provides  and “their impact” analyses how effective a leader implements the proposed solutions and how impactful they are. 

Mohamed bin-Zayed

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (MBZ), president of the UAE and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi is a significant climate leader in the MENA region.Two main reasons illustrate the importance of MBZ’s environmental agenda. Firstly, the UAE is one of the main petroleum producers in the world, recognizing the effects of climate change and preparing for the consequences- although it is against their direct interests. Secondly, MBZ is spearheading a leadership role for the UAE in the Arab world on environmental issues, when this was not initially a policy priority. To find out more, read Quynh Dinh Da Xuan’s report.

As a country with the seventh-largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world, the UAE generates nearly 4 million barrels of oil per day and derives approximately 30% of its GDP from oil and gas production. The profits and royalties from the oil industry have long been a major source of revenue for the government. This heavy reliance on oil is posing two major threats to the Gulf country: a global effort in oil phase-out in the short term and the inevitable depletion of oil in the long term.

Between 2014 and 2016, the world witnessed one of the sharpest declines in oil prices in modern history when “prices (on a monthly average basis) fell from over US$100 per barrel in July 2014 to less than half that by January 2015”. According to the World Bank, “the 70 percent price drop during that period was one of the three biggest declines since World War II, and the longest lasting since the supply-driven collapse of 1986”. There are two main reasons for this oil price drop: the growth of US shale oil production and the low demand from the oil-importing markets.

As a major petrostate in the world, the UAE is currently facing two enormous problems: a global effort in oil phase-out in the short term and the inevitable depletion of oil in the long term (See Part 2: “Their Stake”). To counter such challenges and prepare the UAE for a post-oil world, MBZ has been carrying out a range of policy solutions to reduce the country’s heavy reliance on this natural resource. MBZ’s general approach to the disappearance of oil focuses on clean energy transition and economic diversification which both aim at reducing the contribution of the oil sector to national GDP.

Since joining the Paris climate deal, MBZ and the UAE have been increasingly vocal about its ambition of transforming from a petrostate to a major renewable and hydrogen powerhouse in the world. Although the Gulf state launched clean energy projects more than 15 years ago, the renewables generation was only accelerated after the ratification of the Paris Accords: indeed, the proportion of renewables jumped from well below 0.5% in 2015 to over 3.5% in 2020 (Figure 1). In breakdown, most of the renewable energy was used for residential and commercial purposes, each of which accounted for 44% while the industrial sector consumed only 9% in 2019.

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Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer are two of the most known faces of the youth-led and -organized climate movement Fridays For Future (FFF). To find out more about them, read Covadonga Gafo’s report.

Greta Thunberg has become notorious for the blunt-speaking manner of her speeches, which presents a clear picture of her attitude towards the climate issue. Her activism is based on street protests and public speeches in order to pressure government representatives and multilateral bodies to create new and ambitious policies to tackle the climate crisis and its potential consequences. The goals she wants to accomplish with her activism are in line with the ones stated in the Paris Agreement signed in the framework of the UN Climate Change Conference of 2015.

Greta Thunberg´s defining moment in her environmental journey was her first act of activism she undertook in 2018: her daily sit down in front of the Swedish parliament to protest against the lack of action to tackle global warming. That first strike sparked what would become an international youth movement for the climate, known as Fridays For Future (FFF). It inspired not only the younger generations, but also forced senior officials and politicians to intensify efforts to combat global warming.

As previously stated, Greta Thunberg does not have a specific environmental focus area. Her activism encompasses all aspects of efforts to combat manmade global warming, and therefore it can be argued that her overall objective is to help mitigate the effects of global warming. Nonetheless, even though she has not proposed any particular policy to mitigate the effects of global warming at the legislative level, her activism led her to launch several projects to increase the awareness of the general public on the climate issue. 

Greta Thunberg has become the most widely recognised climate activist of modern times. She has been a speaker at international summits and has helped organize youth-led strikes all around the world. Her popularity and her persona as the embodiment of the climate fight has been denominated as the “Greta Thunberg Effect”. Her success can be attributed to her proclamations of hope and the possibility of a real change taking place at the highest level. She has enabled people from all segments of population to feel empowered to demand and create change within the climate debate by challenging powerful leaders and institutions.

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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed has announced a wide array of climate policies for Ethiopia aimed at economically developing the country. Ethiopia is a country very vulnerable to global warming and short-term climatic threats, its current development does not give much room to respond appropriately.  

When understanding Abiy Ahmed’s stake in climate action, three main motivations arise: firstly, the poor macroeconomic crisis threatening Ethiopia’s development and social stability; secondly, the country’s vulnerabilities to climate change, causing internal displacement and food insecurity; thirdly, the leader’s (and the regime’s) need to gain favorable public approval for its systemic survival. 

The Nobel Peace Prize win elevated Abiy Ahmed’s international recognition, highlighting his Medemer ideology and its impact, while also holding him accountable for subsequent actions that raised complexities in his leadership.

The environment is intertwined with several spheres of his government: the regime’s survival, the need for economic development and the challenges posed by unexpected, yet recurrent, climatic catastrophes. Furthermore, politically, he is undergoing an internal crisis,  leading a civil war against one of the strongest ethnic groups in Ethiopia. These events influence his agenda prioritization, and, thus Abiy must not only mind traditional governmental issues such as economics and politics, but he must also put a great emphasis on dealing with the dissenting group; as well as responding to the negative criticism received by international organizations for his “violent and illiberal” handling of the crisis. 

This section, draws the last point in the evaluation of Abiy Ahmed’s environmental leadership: an impact assessment of his sponsored initiatives. To do so, the order of the previous section will be followed, analyzing firstly the effectiveness of the Green Legacy Campaign, then that of the SCALA program, the consequences of the Scaling-up Renewable Energy agreements and lastly, the implementation of the GERD. 

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Annalena Baerbock is the first female foreign minister of Germany and the first foreign minister who appointed global warming as her central policy issue and pledged to put international climate policies front and center.

Baerbock’s ideological outlook consists of three main points. First, climate action is an interconnected fight that encapsulates solutions to numerous international issues. Second, climate protection requires radical action. Third, good policy making requires acknowledging reality as it is to change it for the better. These three points compress the essence of how Baerbock approaches making her political ideology a reality.

Annalena Baerbock’s election as the co-chairperson to the Greens in 2018 initiated her journey as a climate-action-oriented politician and a climate leader. This became a pivotal moment in Baerbock’s career as it instigated the rise of both her political career and the Green Party as a political party. It sheds light to Baerbock’s key moment that was essential to her becoming a climate leader and understanding the role of climate action in her political and policy outlook.

Her policy focuses on two main goals: increased collaboration and phasing out fossil fuels. Baerbock consistently pursued these objectives as Greens’ co-chairperson and Germany’s foreign minister. While co-chairperson, she prioritized ending coal energy and supporting renewables. In the foreign ministry, she emphasized collaboration among states and departments to enhance global climate policies and achieve fossil fuel phase-out.

The impact of Annalena Baerbock’s policies have been transitional to Germany’s political outlook, both domestic and foreign, regarding designating climate action as a wider category that encompasses the future policies and initiatives.

Under the leadership of Ayuda en Acción (Aid in Action), the IE School of Global and Public Affairs joined the pan-European 1Planet4All project that empowers young visionaries to make an impact in the ongoing climate crisis.

1Planet4All is a project that seeks to promote the active participation and commitment of European youth in the fight against the climate emergency. It is part of the DEAR program of Education for Development and Awareness, an initiative of the European Commission Commission and with the support of 14 development and humanitarian aid NGOs—including Ayuda en Acción (Aid in Action)—the 1Planet4All project seeks to bring together young individuals to help achieve the 2023 objectives.