World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

 < NOT_DEFINED backto Politics

Climate, Energy, and Food Security in the 21st Century: Middle East Perspectives (123) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: The University of Sydney (Australia)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Leanne Piggott

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The aim of this panel is to examine three inter-related ''non-traditional'' security issues that impact on the Middle East today: energy, food, and climate change. The first two papers will focus on the policies pursued by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in an effort to address the challenges of food shortages. The third paper will examine current efforts in the region to establish a clean energy architecture and effective climate change financing, and will draw on issues related to food and energy security. The final two papers will address energy related issues, namely, the political economy of Iran’s gas production, and the impact of a pending low-carbon economy on the oil-producing economies of the GCC.

Chair: Astrid Boening (University of Miami)

Paper Presenter: Deborah Wheeler (United States Naval Academy), “Food (In) Security in the Gulf: A View from Kuwait”
According to the manager of Kuwait's new Dean and Deluca, Kuwaiti households spend more money on food than anywhere else on the planet'' (Interview June 28th, 2009). How could an oil rich, food crazed nation like Kuwait have food security issues? What measures are being taken by the state to mitigate vulnerabilities associated with food dependency? These two questions are at the heart of this analysis. Based upon three field research trips to Kuwait 1996-7; summer 2009 and summer 2010 (pending), this analysis explores four layers of Kuwait's food (in) security problems: 1. Dependency; 2. Market volatility; 3. Economic stress on state and society; 4. Potential for public unrest. Ever since the trauma of food insecurity experienced during Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Kuwaitis have been made painfully aware of the security risks involved with food dependency. In spite of this knowledge, Kuwait continues to import more than 80% of its foodstuff. The global rise in commodities prices has increasingly placed a financial burden on the Kuwaiti state to subsidize food costs in order to stabilize pricing in local markets. Given the volatility in oil markets, and the impact of the global economic downturn, the state’s capacity to do so is decreasing over time. Inflation is increasingly impacting local consumers. This rise in local food prices is especially difficult for Kuwait's ex-patriot communities, which make up two thirds of the country's population. The potential for unrest among disgruntled workers is an overt problem. This paper will investigate whether or not there is a link between rising food costs and the growth of petty crime, illicit activities such as selling drugs and alcohol, and increased violence in Kuwait. In sum, this analysis will illustrate how Kuwait is responding to global and local food (in) security.

Paper Presenter: Benjamin Shepherd (The University of Sydney), “Above carrying capacity: Gulf States heading abroad to feed growing domestic populations”.
The Gulf States all look externally to meet significant proportions of their food demands. Rapidly growing populations combined with difficult and increasingly expensive conditions for domestic agriculture, mean they are more dependent on foreign sources of food than ever before. Recently, the Gulf States, led largely by Saudi Arabia, are going beyond trade as the source of food imports and are embarking upon programs to secure food producing resources in other countries for the purposes of growing food crops to export back home. The food price shocks of 2007 & 2008 which caused uncertainties in the availability of food on the international market illustrates the prudence of this approach. Moreover, the Gulf States and some approving observers have argued that the procurement of these resources in developing countries offer impressive economic development opportunities in the form of employment, technology transfer and infra-structure building. However these strategies have also been criticized by detractors as a ‘modern form of colonialism’. Using Saudi Arabia as a case study, this paper will examine the food deficit faced by the Gulf States in order to assess the validity of the claims for current food security strategies currently being undertaken in Africa and elsewhere. It will then examine some key foreign agricultural investments intended to mitigate Saudi Arabia’s food insecurity and assess their likely effectiveness. It will conclude by weighing up the pros and cons of the strategy of acquiring food producing resources abroad in comparison to traditional trading policies, for the perspective of both the Gulf States and their foreign hosts.

Paper Presenter: Dan Millison (Manager, Transcendergy, L.L.C.), “The Road from Copenhagen: Towards a New Architecture for Clean Energy and Climate Change Finance”.
As the economic and financial turmoil of the last 2 years temporarily eclipsed climate change negotiations, energy and food security have become more obvious drivers of national decision-making, especially for developing and middle income countries. Against the backdrop of the UN-sponsored climate change conference in Copenhagen (COP 15) in December 2009, two recent developments indicate that an alternative international architecture to finance climate change mitigation is possible: (i) the rapid development of the MASDAR initiative in Abu Dhabi, and (ii) the progress to date on the multi-donor Clean Technology Fund (CTF). MASDAR is a $20+ billion investment program comprising clean energy and carbon-neutral urban development, and investment outside of Abu Dhabi in various greenhouse gas mitigation programs. The CTF is a $5 billion initiative to co-finance multi-lateral bank programs for climate change mitigation in developing countries during 2009 - 2012. These 2 initiatives are converging in some instances, e.g., financing new wind power development in Egypt. The CTF is expected to be fully committed to about 15 countries and regional programs by mid-2010. A possible outcome at COP 15 would be an agreement to replenish the fund as a principal mechanism for funding mitigation in developing countries. MASDAR is expected to proceed with its own momentum and might expand its external investment activities with additional backing from the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund. As the US and China remain constrained in a state of economic and financial symbiosis, prospective synergies of CTF and MASDAR give renewed hope for expanded financing of sustainable low-carbon development.

Paper Presenter: Jennifer Hunt (The University of Sydney), “The Promises of Natural Gas: Cleaner, Safer, Stabilising: The impact of natural gas on Iran’s political economy”.
As the original case study for rentier state theory, Iran remains dependent on oil for a significant share of its GDP and in turn government expenditure. However, its oil fields are maturing and lack of reinvestment in the sector means extraction is inefficient and expensive, thus hastening decline. Further, Iran has suffered economically and politically from oil price volatility over the past few years, having to manage the expectations from peak prices of US $147/barrel in 2008 against significant loss of income when prices fell by 60% in 2009. As the second largest holder of natural gas reserves in the world, what prospect, then, do Iran’s extensive gas supplies have to offer in regard to the security of Iran’s state-society contract and its rentier economy upon which the former depends? In the light of the fact that at present, oil and gas prices tend to move in tandem, it is possible that a similar framework of analysis used to assess the impact of oil prices on Iran’s political economy might also be applied to gas rents. Accordingly this paper seeks to analyse the potential impact of rent price volatility on Iran using insights from rentier state theory and prospect theory. In doing so, it hopes to offer a new way to conceptualise the role of expectations and choice framing in decision-making, in particular, how gas rents might impact on Iranian government policy aimed at political security. Specifically, the utilisation of prospect theory suggests that steep rent price declines place decision-makers in a domain of losses which encourages risk-taking, using evidence from the recent unrest in Iran following the 2009 Presidential elections.

Paper Presenter: Leanne Piggott (The University of Sydney), “Energy Security and Low-Carbon Economies: Implications for Regime Security in the Oil-Economies of the Middle East”.
While some governments have focused on curtailing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to try to mitigate climate change, concerns regarding energy security have led the large energy importers to pursue alternatives to fossil fuel, in particular oil, which is the major source of energy for the transportation sector. The emerging trend towards low-carbon economies presents a ‘Catch-22’ for the oil-exporting Gulf states, especially those which face challenges in providing sufficient energy, food and water for their growing populations. Alternative fuels and less external demand for oil will enable the Gulf states to use more of the oil they produce for generating energy to help satisfy their peoples’ domestic needs. But to the extent that their oil production is not exported, this will undermine the entrenched dependence upon oil rents that currently bind state-society relations in the region. The potential loss of regime legitimacy, and in turn security, that would follow the concomitant loss in oil revenue portends future instability, both within and between states in the region. This paper will first assess the current trend towards low-carbon economies, though from an energy security perspective, which is relatively free of the controversy involved in the current climate change debate. It will then identify what impact the move to alternative energy sources, particularly for transportation, might have on the oil-economies of the Middle East. The focus will be on the Gulf countries, whose political economies are heavily dependent upon oil revenue for regime security. It will conclude by raising possible antidotes to insecurity in these states by their addressing much needed economic reform.