The Regional Initiative for the Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Socio-Economic Vulnerability in the Arab Region (RICCAR) is the outcome of the first Arab Ministerial Declaration on Climate Change (2007), which recognized the potential impacts that climate change may have on development in the Arab region. The Declaration called for a comprehensive assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable developing countries, including Arab States, as well as the need to identify priorities and implement climate change adaptation and mitigation programs at the national and regional levels.
A series of successive resolutions followed. This included the resolution adopted by the 25th Ministerial Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) calling for the preparation of an assessment of socioeconomic vulnerability caused by the impacts of climate change on water resources (Sana’a, May 2008). The Arab Summit for Economic and Social Development also approved a project to examine the impacts of climate change on water resources in the Arab region (Kuwait, 2009).
These events led to the launching of RICCAR in 2009 and its endorsement by the Arab Ministerial Water Council as a regional initiative contributing to the implementation of the Arab Strategy for Water Security in the Arab Region to Meet the Challenges and Future Needs for Sustainable Development 2010–2030.
RICCAR is implemented through an inter-agency collaborative partnership involving 11 partner organizations, namely ESCWA, the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the League of Arab States Secretariat, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Cairo Office, UN Environment, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
In addition to the resources provided by the partner agencies, funding is provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), which financially support RICCAR through the Adaptation to Climate Change in the Water Sector in the MENA Region (ACCWaM) project.
Three climate research centres were consulted under the regional climate modelling component of the initiative, namely the Center of Excellence for Climate Change Research at King Abdulaziz University (Saudi Arabia), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) and the Climate Service Center (Germany). The Cyprus Institute (Cyprus) and the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (United Arab Emirates) were also consulted during the technical review of the RICCAR Arab Domain, which was subsequently adopted as the Middle East North Africa (MENA) Domain by the Coordinated Regional Climate Modelling Experiment (CORDEX) of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP).
Commitment and support for the initiative have been further articulated by Arab States through follow-up resolutions adopted by the Arab Ministerial Water Council (AMWC), Arab Permanent Committee for Meteorology (APCM) and the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE). The ACSAD Board of Directors, comprised of Arab ministers of agriculture and the ESCWA Committee on Water Resources, have also continued to mandate the work being conducted under RICCAR. The regional initiative is also referenced in the Arab Strategy for Water Security in the Arab Region to Meet the Challenges and Future Needs for Sustainable Development 2010–2030 and its Action Plan, the Arab Framework Action Plan on Climate Change, and the Arab Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction 2020 and its Implementation Plan.
The regional initiative aims to assess the impacts of climate change on freshwater resources in the Arab region and to examine the implications of these impacts for socioeconomic and environmental vulnerability based on regional specificities. It does so through the application of scientific methods and consultative processes that are firmly grounded in enhancing access to knowledge, building capacity and strengthening institutions for climate change assessment in the Arab region. In so doing, RICCAR provides a common platform for assessing, addressing and identifying regional climate change challenges, which, in turn, inform dialogue, priority setting, policy formulation and responses to climate change at the Arab regional level.
The implementation framework of RICCAR is structured around four pillars of work consisting of: a baseline review and set-up of a regional knowledge hub; an integrated assessment consisting of impact assessment and vulnerability assessment components; awareness-raising and information dissemination; and capacity-building and institutional strengthening. ESCWA served as coordinator of the regional initiative, and provides regular reporting to AMWC and APCM on RICCAR-related activities.
The initiative has also contributed to the establishment of an Arab Climate Outlook Forum (ArabCOF) and a regional knowledge hub, which will continue to support and deliver on RICCAR’s four pillars of work.
The Arab Climate Change Assessment Report presents a comprehensive picture of the impact that climate change is expected to have on freshwater resources in the Arab region and how this will affect the vulnerability of water resources, agriculture, natural ecosystems, human settlements and people until the end of the century. The results are based on the outcome of a region-specific integrated assessment that generates regional climate modelling and hydrological modelling projections for the Arab region and for selected subdomains, including some of the region’s major shared surface water basins. These outputs are then used to inform an integrated vulnerability assessment that considers how exposure to climate change over time will affect the vulnerability of five key sectors and nine subsectors in the Arab region, in the absence of adaptation or any mitigating measures.
The development and application of the RICCAR methodological framework were pursued through iterative consultations with Arab States and international experts, the designation of national hydrological focal points and regional consultations organized through expert groups, workshops, working groups and task forces. Five stages of analysis were agreed upon.
Step 1. Select RCPs to adopt and review available global climate models (GCMs).
Step 2. Generate ensembles of regional climate modelling (RCM) projections over a defined Arab Domain.
Step 3. Interface regional hydrological models (RHM) with RCM outputs to analyse climate change impacts on water resources.
Step 4. Conduct a vulnerability assessment (VA) based on the impact assessment findings across the Arab region in targeted sectors and sub-sectors
Step 5. Complete the integrated mapping (IM) of the assessment for facilitating regional policy analysis and dialogue
In addition, impact assessment studies focusing on extreme climate events, the agricultural sector and human health provide additional insights on how climate change is projected to impact Arab States. In so doing, the report identifies vulnerability hotspots and vulnerable sectors across the Arab region and illustrates how the relative resilience of Arab communities and strategic sectors will be affected unless collective, coherent and coordinated action is taken to address the root causes of vulnerability and adapt to climate change.
Considering the limited availability of long-term quality-controlled climate and water data in the Arab region, RICCAR efforts were focused on using observed national station data, when available, coupled with data from regional or global sources to ensure the use of harmonized and reliable datasets that are comparable across Arab States.
A description of the meteorological data, water resources related data, topography and other terrestrial data, in addition to the socioeconomic related datasets used to inform the climate, hydrological and vulnerability assessments are described in detail in the main report.
A series of selected essential climate variables, extreme climate indices and socioeconomic and environmental parameters were used for presenting the outcomes of the integrated assessment. Three time periods were selected for presenting results, namely:
- Reference period (1986–2005)
- Mid-century period (2046–2065)
- End-century period (2081–2100).
The analysis is elaborated based on two representative concentration pathways (RCPs):
- RCP 4.5 – generally describe a moderate-emissions scenario
- RCP 8.5 – generally describes a high-emissions or “business as usual” scenario.
Regional climate modelling and hydrological modelling outputs presented in the report were generated based on a 50 km x 50 km grid, while other scales of analysis were applied when conducting some of the impact assessment case studies and during the preparation of the integrated vulnerability assessment.
The Arab Climate Change Assessment Report and its technical annex serve as a reference document which extensively describes methods, outputs and conclusions generated from the assessment. The methodological framework is also further elaborated in a series of publications focusing on various components of the integrated assessment.
It is expected that results and findings from the initiative will provide a regional, science-based assessment of climate change impacts and vulnerability based on uniform and harmonized datasets and assumptions, which can inform further climate change research and foster dialogue among Arab States about priority issues, challenges and opportunities for collective action. Ultimately, it also provides a regional baseline, regional datasets and assessment outputs that can, in turn, be used to inform and prepare smaller-scale assessments at the sub-regional, national and local levels.