Unlocking the power of partnership to build climate resilience in fragile and conflict-affected states

Climate change is one of the most pressing and complex global challenges of today. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has stated that “climate change is here, and it is just the beginning” as communities are faced with the impact of heatwaves, droughts and floods – destroying both lives and livelihoods. With climate vulnerability now an urgent global issue, swift and comprehensive action is required to mitigate the impacts of climate change and build resilience to climate shocks.

Work to strengthen global climate resilience must engage actors across the public, private and third sectors. Governments and businesses in particular have a fundamental role to play in responding to this global call to action. Multi-sector and multi-stakeholder collaboration, fusing knowledge, expertise and influence, is vital to anticipate climate risks, implement solutions that will build resilience, and ultimately achieve sustainable development.

This requirement for action is particularly urgent in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS), where the consequences of climate change are already severe and profound. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), around one in five countries around the world are considered FCS.

Climate impacts

Although FCS often contribute the least to climate change, they suffer more intensely from climate shocks due to factors including geographic location, conflict, overreliance on climate-dependent economic activities, insufficient infrastructure, and limited access to sanitation and safe drinking water. Climate change poses a threat to FCS all over the world. Countries like Yemen, Sudan and Somalia suffer disproportionately from floods, droughts, storms and other climate-related shocks.

Climate change is inflicting further detrimental impacts on food security in FCS, with extreme weather events decimating agriculture and food production. Volatile weather patterns and rising temperatures have a serious impact on crops and livestock, impacting the livelihoods of those whose income relies on natural resources. According to the UN Environment Programme, South Sudan is among the most climate vulnerable countries in the world. Since the 1970s, annual rainfall in the country has decreased by 10-20%, causing significant strain on the 86% of rural households whose livelihoods depend on rainfall to maintain livestock and agricultural production.

Conflict also undermines the ability of FCS to mitigate climate shocks. According to the IMF, in Somalia, food insecurity caused by the prolonged drought in 2021-22 was exacerbated by conflict, which blocked the delivery of humanitarian assistance. In the Middle East, Yemen is already facing a dire situation in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises. This is compounded by nine years of devastating conflict, food insecurity – with 17 million Yemenis considered food-insecure – and water scarcity due to increased evaporation, declining precipitation and flooding.

GDP losses due to climate shocks will also continue to increase in FCS, since in the long term, worsening environmental conditions will cause incomes to fall further behind other countries. The IMF has stated that financing climate adaptation in fragile states is less costly than financing frequent disaster and humanitarian relief, but international financing for climate resilience in FCS has fallen short of what is required.

Therefore, the need for interventions from public and private actors to enable climate financing and implement climate change mitigation solutions grows increasingly urgent.

Mitigation and resilience-building in action

As Yemen’s largest private company, HSA Group has embraced this imperative to respond. The organisation is one of the largest multinational conglomerates based in the Middle East and the leading importer and distributor of food, household goods and essential commodities in Yemen. We continue to play a leading role in tackling climate challenges in FCS, building capabilities to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and the green transition.

At HSA Group, we believe private sector actors should adopt a three-pronged approach to mitigating climate change and building resilience in FCS:

  • First, minimising and mitigating the environmental impact of its own operations. For example, we are implementing innovative technologies to minimise our waste production, including the installation of waste heat recovery systems which limit our usage of coal. We are also investing in renewable alternatives, adapting existing facilities to utilise solar energy to power our operations and exploring how geothermal energy can provide heat for our production processes.
  • Investing in short and medium-term projects which support climate vulnerable communities. At HSA Group, we have been working to provide more sustainable sources of drinking water in Yemen through upgrading local water infrastructure; funding a water trucking project as part of an extensive Water, Sanitation & Health (WASH) programme, which has delivered almost two billion litres of clean water to those who most need it.
  • Collaborating with partners to drive long-term sustainable development. Collaborations between corporate partners and public sector actors are a necessary means to build climate resilience and should focus on initiatives that harness innovative technologies to respond to the most pressing challenges brought on by climate change, including agricultural and food systems challenges.

The private sector’s unique in-market expertise, coupled with the resources and scale of the public sector, can provide critical support to those most in need and enable long-term sustainable development. That is why HSA Group and Yemen’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Climate Change Unit (CCU) initiated the country’s first public-private climate action coordination mechanism at COP28.

Through this coordination mechanism, which is the first public-private partnership in Yemen, we will collaborate closely with Yemen’s EPA and CCU to support vulnerable communities, mitigate ongoing climate change challenges, and promote development projects and climate financing. This will help build long-term climate resilience and will also support our activities in Yemen to integrate policies and pursue new investments in technologies, by utilising multilateral climate fund resources such as Green Climate Funds, to enhance operational efficiency and address climate change challenges.

Looking to the future, HSA Group will continue to further integrate and implement policies in line with the UN SDGs and the Paris Agreement, hopefully encouraging other private sector organisations to follow suit.

The power of partnership

We firmly believe in the power of partnership. While the private sector has a key role to play in building climate resilience, we cannot act alone. We will continue to partner with leading organisations across the public, private and third sectors to deliver a wide range of humanitarian, education, public health and climate change mitigation programmes, harnessing the strength of multi-stakeholder expertise to support and empower local communities.

Climate change has already had a severe impact on FCS, affecting all sectors and resources as well as communities. By combining the expertise and resources of multi-sector actors we can mitigate the climate issues facing vulnerable states.

The future of those living in FCS depends on these collective efforts to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change and protect the environment. As HSA Group charts its plans for growth in the future, we will continue to take action to create a more sustainable future that is fit for the generations that will follow.

Nabil Hayel Saeed Anam is the managing director of Hayel Saeed Anam (HSA) Group

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