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Addressing the Urgent Climate and Development Issues Facing Tunisia: Finding Solutions for the Future

The World Bank’s Tunisia Country Climate and Development Report paints an ominous picture for Tunisia if the country fails to manage the risks arising from climate change, writes Dhafer Saidane.

The Tunisia Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) from the World Bank has just been released on the eve of COP28. In a rather alarmist tone, the 80 pages take us away from the image of beautiful Tunisia, the one anchored in the collective imagination.

The tone is dry and uncompromising. Climate change is impacting us inexorably.

2050: Will everything change for the Tunisian citizen?

2050 appears to be a fateful date when everything will change. First, the simultaneous increase in the frequency of extreme climate risks. Added to this is major water stress since the water demand will exceed the supply by 28%!

Then the coastal erosion of 70 cm per year and the submersion of the land due to the rise in sea level and the floods are chilling.

The report clearly and coldly states, “If Tunisia does not urgently manage these risks linked to climate change, the economy could contract by 3.4% in terms of GDP by 2030 (nearly 5.6bn DT [$] per year in net present value.”

Tunisia is held by its CDN: but where can we find the means?

Tunisia is bound by the NDC that it defined. The NDC, or “nationally determined contribution”, is a climate action plan aimed at reducing emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change. Tunisia, to achieve its NDC, needs around $19.4bn over the period 2021-2030, but the country’s annual budget does not exceed 25 billion. In other words where to find this money?

An absence of climate governance

However, Tunisia still has weak climate change governance functions: no framework law, no risk assessment, no climate spending planned in the budget, etc.

With the state already numbed by economic and social crises, action on the climate in Tunisia appeared in second place or even a luxury barely three years ago. Today the issue of climate and CSR (corporate social responsibility) in general are addressed in a dispersed manner. Everyone has their vision and “sound of a bell” mixing public and private organisations, in short, a cacophony amplified by a profusion of self-proclaimed CSR experts.

What funding?

When it comes to strengthening infrastructure, protecting, decarbonising, and improving energy efficiency, the report takes few risks and remains very classic in its suggestions.

The eternal idea of reducing spending, including energy subsidies, is mixed with the idea that a number of areas will still depend on public investment. This involves investment in public infrastructure such as water supply, coastal management, etc.

But at the same time, the report suggests that it is important to rely on private, bilateral, multilateral, and international financing essential to meet the important climate investment needs.

Finally, banks to finance and manage climate risks are not forgotten, likewise the financial market.

These are beautiful, respectable ideas. But faced with an unprecedented and urgent situation, we cannot continue to use the same conventional instruments. And then what about training beyond the technical training mentioned in the report? What about ESG experts, ecological and digital transition analysts, and specialists who will define solutions adapted to the country, particularly in terms of financing? Who will train them?

Suffice it to say that several links in the transition chain are missing. The merit of this report nevertheless remains that of launching a structuring debate commensurate with the issues that affect this beautiful country day after day.


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