How Bahrain is building a green economy for the future

Today marks World Environment Day 2024, which focuses on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience. Creating a sustainable, nature-positive future requires concerted action for the long term. Here’s how Bahrain’s national action plan, ‘Blueprint Bahrain’, is transforming its economic and natural landscape.

As Bahrain works towards a carbon-neutral economy, the island nation is taking a multifaceted approach, investing in and committing to greater sustainability across energy, technology and infrastructure. Sustainability has been one of the principles guiding Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2023 focusing on a range of areas such as sustainable water and energy management, urban development, waste management, marine conversation and biodiversity, among others.

During the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), Bahrain reaffirmed its commitment made in the Paris Agreement and has continued its efforts to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2035 and reach net zero by 2060. Within the conference, the Kingdom announced a National Action Plan called “Blueprint Bahrain” to achieve carbon neutrality through three tracks: climate change adaptation, low-carbon economy, and creating sustainable opportunities in the green economy.  

Investing in nature for a greener future

Bahrain’s focus goes beyond the built environment: the island nation is investing in nature-based solutions to nurture resilient forest and mangrove ecosystems.

These resilient nature-based solutions are at the heart of Bahrain’s efforts to protect the country’s environment. At COP26 in 2021, the country announced a bold afforestation goal: to double its trees by 2035, from 1.8 million to 3.6 million. A dedicated taskforce was set up to select plant species capable of surviving in desert climates. Bahrain planted 150,000 trees the following year, meeting 110% of its annual goal. In 2023, the Kingdom went even further, planting 160,000 trees. A study was also conducted to identify and prioritise urban heat islands, where trees would be most beneficial to help mitigate the impact of heat on humans, reduce energy consumption and protect infrastructure. 

To help preserve and strengthen the nation’s precious coastline, Bahrain committed at COP26 to quadruple its mangrove trees by 2035, increasing their number from 400,000 to 1.6 million.The initiative aims to protect and restore 15 million hectares of mangroves by 2030.  An expert taskforce was established, to conduct surveys and select ideal locations for the large-scale planting of these tough saltwater thickets, which protect the shoreline and enhance biodiversity. In 2022, the government expanded nursery capacity 100-fold – resulting in 1 million seedlings – and planted 110,000 mangrove trees across the country’s coastal areas — a target which was doubled the following year.

Investing in a low-carbon economy

Underpinning the ‘Blueprint Bahrain’ framework is a National Energy Strategy (NES), focusing on improving Bahrain’s energy efficiency, diversifying the island nation’s power mix and decarbonising heavy-emitting sectors through carbon abatement technologies.

A prime example is the award-winning Bahrain International Airport (BAH), which continues to make strides towards complete carbon neutrality through its carbon management initiatives, becoming the second airport in the Middle East to reach Level 4 in the Airports Council International Accreditation program. 

APM Terminals Bahrain is also setting a sustainable example, with an ambitious solar power project in motion to make the Khalifa Bin Salman Port (KBSP) the first solar-powered seaport in the region. Another solar-powered flagship for the region is the nation’s racing circuit, Bahrain International Circuit (BIC). It has made the Bahrain Gulf Air Formula1 Grand Prix a carbon-neutral event by storing enough solar energy to power all three days of its Formula1 weekends. 

To encourage industry leaders to embrace more sustainable practices and circular initiatives, the government has launched a green incentive scheme: factories which meet certain environmental standards are eligible for special financing, and enhanced access to international markets. For example – in a first-of-its-kind in the region – Aluminium Bahrain’s $37.5-million, zero-waste Spent Pot Lining (SPL) Treatment Plant transforms 35,000 tonnes of waste per year into valuable products that are then used in industrial supply chains. 

Combining economic and natural capital for sustainability

The ‘Blueprint Bahrain’ model encourages nature to thrive in a desert setting and encourages both the public and private sectors to transition to more sustainable practices. It is a whole-systems approach to sustainability, working towards a prosperous green economy within a healthy, resilient natural environment. 

Bahrain has always been a leader in driving technological advancements within the region. During COP28, Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company (Mumtalakat), the sovereign wealth fund of Bahrain partnered with Investcorp to launch a $750 million climate investment platform which will invest in nascent climate technologies to accelerate the global transition to net-zero. 

In parallel, Bahrain launched a voluntary carbon-offsetting platform, Safa, to help businesses and individuals better understand, manage and offset their carbon footprints by financing certified climate projects.  

At a national level, Bahrain provides an ideal hub for businesses to test and deploy innovative climate technologies. From manufacturing and logistics to information & communication technology, financial services, and tourism, the Kingdom’s size, resilience, and agile business environment give it a strong position to support environmental transformation within each sector. 

As the world marks World Environment Day, governments are acknowledging the scale of the challenge ahead in protecting and restoring our natural world while collaborating towards building a greener and sustainable future.

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