Morocco- On path of sustainable development and ecological transition

BYYasir Rehman


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Located at the crossroads of cultures and civilizations with its multiple African, Mediterranean and Muslim identity, Morocco emerged, during the last decade as one of the leading countries in the field of sustainable development and ecological transition.

The inauguration of the biggest solar plant in the world – Noor 1- situated near Ouarzazate in February 2016 overwhelmed world observers and constituted a first step towards establishing the future “Green Hub” of the continent.

Noor Complex is the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, located in the Sahara Desert. The project has a 580-megawatt capacity and is expected to provide electricity for over 1 million people once completed by 2020.

The challenges related to climate and ecological transitions are huge for this country of 34 million inhabitants. Lacking hydrocarbons, despite the massive reserves of neighbouring countries, Morocco relies on other strategies to further enhance its economy.

Noor 1, the first phase of the three-part project provides 160 MW of the total 580 MW capacity and has already reduced the country’s carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of tonnes annually, since it was switched on in 2016.

The choice of making of Morocco a champion in terms of renewable energy has not been dictated by provisional urgencies, but rather by a clear vision under the leadership of the King who considers climate action as one of the Kingdom’s priorities. In this regard, initiatives such as the ban on plastic bags, reasonable water management and the promotion of an ambitious energetic mix and the solar strategy illustrate the serious approach taken by the Kingdom of Morocco.

This importance attached by the Sovereign to the fight against climate change is not fruit of coincidence as 25 years prior to the organisation of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change; He attended, as Crown Prince at that time, to His first biggest international event, the 1992 historical Summit of Rio in Brazil.

A global challenge impacting, above all, the African Continent

In 2050, 9 billion people, including 2.5 from Africa will co-habit in our planet. The increasing demographic pressure and the acceleration of climate change make the scarcity of resources more visible. Nowadays, all actors including civil society have started to undertake the necessary arrangements to ensure an efficient ecological-transition.

Since the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994, the international community spared no effort to find solutions by announcing the Paris Agreement in COP 21 and calling countries to ratify it in the framework of COP 22 held in Marrakech, Morocco.

Highlighting the necessity of reaction and to commit to the ecological transition, COP 22 has been the opportunity to place the African continent, the Pacific Island Countries and the most vulnerable regions to climate change at the core of preoccupations.

If Africa produces less gas emissions, it is, however, the main victim of climate change as 7 out of the 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change are situated in the African continent.  With more than 232 million people suffering from malnutrition and a rain-dependent agriculture, food insecurity threatens seriously the stability of the continent and its external relations (conflicts due to fight for resources, population displacement, uncontrolled migratory waves out of Africa…)

Aware of the necessity to tackle these issues at a continental level, the Kingdom of Morocco has committed itself to an inclusive and global reflection in favour of ecologicaltransition and to a sustainable growth at the political, economic and social levels.

Ecological transition: a project for society in Morocco

Since the beginning of the years 2000, HM Mohammed VI, King of Morocco has put a special emphasis on the instruments ensuring the responsible management of natural resources.  The launching of the National Action Plan for Environment (2002) was one of the first steps taken, reinforced, later on, by the Law 11-03 on the protection and valorisation of environment.

In Morocco, all actors, including the government, the parliament, the local authorities, university researchers, Unions as well as civil society members have participated collectively in the drafting of the National Charter for Environment and sustainable development which was adopted in 2009.

Zenata EcoCity is a sustainable urban development project. First phase is set to be completed in 2020

This has also led Morocco in 2014 to reaffirm the charter’s value and provide further legal instruments aiming at supporting and reinforcing the Moroccan achievements, within the framework of its international commitments, when it comes to Environment protection.

The 2011 Constitution has also reiterated the importance of sustainable development policies. Moroccan citizens have equally seen their rights reinforced by the article 31 which provides them with the right of access to water and healthy environment. The Constitution has also added a new scope of attributions to the Economic and Social Council created in 2010, becoming, therefore the Economic, Social and Environmental Council.

The holding of the COP 22 in the Moroccan city of Marrakech constitutes another proof of Morocco’s adherence to sustainable development and ecological transition as part of its strategic vision and leading role in the continent.

A realistic and pragmatic vision guided by principles:

The establishment of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development in 2017 comes to reinforce the process of ecological transition in Morocco.  This strategy is crucial for the accomplishment of the Environment objectives, fixed by the Kingdom for the upcoming decades.

The Kingdom aims to ensure a systematic follow-up of Environment problematics, develop its renewable Energy Sector and ensure a coherent social and human development, by taking into consideration the cultural and geographic specificities such as the country’s natural ecosystems.

In order to guarantee a successful transition to a resilient, inclusive and sustainable economy, the Kingdom of Morocco has committed itself to make of private sector an important factor in this process.

Aware of the current and upcoming challenges, Moroccan private sector companies take into account the required transformations in favour of environmental and societal commitments of the country (Contribution to the National Initiative for Human Development launched in 2005, the societal responsibility of enterprises, inclusive policies in conformity with international regulations).

This is illustrated, first of all, through the Adaptation strategy in the Agricultural sector. The successful experience of Morocco’s Green Plan has enabled the Kingdom to promote, during the COP 22 as well as in the framework of the African Union Summit in 2017, the initiative for Adaptation of African Agriculture (Known as triple A initiative).

The Moroccan Green Plan aims to support the projects of sustainable agriculture, with access to international funds and public/private sector expertise, through programs established by the competent development agencies in this field.

The concept of circular economy in Morocco covers equally the industrial sector, notably projects of industrial acceleration and the integration of green initiatives ensuring growth             (renewable energy, water purification, energy efficacy, recycling and biodiversity). As an example, the Renault plant in Tangier is a project which prioritizes the ecological dimension of the industry.

While accelerating energetic transition, Morocco adopts a successful approach in terms of renewable energy through the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN). It is in charge of implementing the famous NOOR plan aiming at producing 14% of solar energy by 2020 (minimum capacity of 2,000 MW).

By 2030, the Kingdom’s ambition is to offer an energy mix that is composed of 52.2% of renewable energies. Aware of the threat that constitutes environmental mismanagement, the country shall address the issues of the ecological transition as a whole. In this regard, Morocco has brought ambitious sustainable development programs to develop rural areas and to adopt responsible management of urbanization.

A continental pioneer in terms of the development of Renewable Energy:

The Kingdom of Morocco by implementing the National Strategy for Sustainable Development and ad-hoc structural projects ambitions to become a platform of reference and  a green hub in terms of exportation of renewable energy to Africa.

The Kingdom has established a legal framework that will enable, alongside the contribution of the private sector and the creation of structures and giant projects, to position the country at the vanguard of continental ecological transition.

The country’s solar, wind and hydroelectric strategy has made it possible today to reach, in terms of installed capacity, the threshold of 700 MW for solar energy with 5 plants, 1,012 MW for wind with 10 farms and 1,770 MW for hydroelectricity produced by 29 dams and pumped energy transfer stations.

The Noor Ouarzazate complex has become following the synchronization of Noor Tower Ouarzazate III, the largest multi-technology solar complex in the world. The project has a 580-megawatt capacity and is expected to provide electricity for over 1 million people once completed next year.

The Stations Noor Laayoune I and Noor Boujdour I, both launched in 2017, came to reinforce the position of Morocco. Similar projects are expected with a capacity going beyond 800 MW. The country’s wind energy strategy also intends to increase the number of existing wind farms in the country, the largest being the Midelt project, with an expected capacity of 180 MW.

In addition to a positive environmental aspect, this project will contribute to the creation of many job opportunities as part of the wind turbines will be produced in Morocco. Regarding hydropower generation infrastructures, two new pumped energy transfer stations are planned for 2021 and 2025(Abdelmoumen, with a capacity of 350 MW for 2021 and Ifasha-Chefchaouen with a capacity of 350 MW for 2025).

Moreover, Biomass is another renewable resource of Morocco. The potential for exploiting energy from biomass, estimated at 11.5 million MWh / year and reaching 17 million by 2030, is a major asset for the country.

Thanks to its dynamism and attractiveness in terms of renewable energies and ecological transition, Morocco has ranked first among African countries that make the mostvisible progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Considered as “Energy Hub” at the crossroads of Africa, Europe and the Middle East, the country has developed a “green diplomacy” in support of sustainable development projects in Africa. This status is in line with its re-joining ofthe African Union, the role it has played as an associate member of the International Energy Agency and through itscontribution as host country of the COP22 in November 2016.

The country plays, currently, a leading role in mobilizing and raising awareness among Heads of State and Governments in Africa to respond positively to the challenge of sustainable development

Following the African Summit of Action organized by His Majesty the King on the sidelines of the COP22, several initiatives have been launched in African countries, notably: the establishment of the Blue Fund for the Congo Basin, drafting of the Green Gabon Plan, development of the Senegalese solar strategy … all inspired by Moroccan initiatives (AAA Initiative, Morocco Green Plan, Noor Solar Plan piloted by MASEN..)

Taking into account all the issues of the ecological transition, the positioning of African countries in the renewable energy sector is increasingly remarkable.

In order to overcome their lack of experience in this area, the model of a tripartite partnership seems relevant given the complexity of the proposed projects. This requires capitalizing on both the technical expertise of the private sector, the capacity of a country like Morocco in the collection of funds and finally the adaptation of governance modes of these projects.

The Technical training and assistance is, for its part, vital when it comes to fulfilling the objectives of continental ecological transition. The project led by the Centre of competences on climate change aims to bring together, in the framework of South-South Cooperation, the work of experts in the area of fighting global warming. This project is inspired by Moroccan achievements in the creation of jobs and sustainable industrialization.

The role of local public actors is undeniable in introducing the culture of sustainable development into the different regions and territories. Morocco has already taken the lead in this respect by proceeding to the training of the future administrative and political leaders of the continent and by emphasizing on the importance of good governance.

Morocco has demonstrated, during the recent international conferences and events on this subject, its commitment in favour of facing the environmental challenges.  In this regard, Morocco, relying on its experience and expertise, never ceases to prospect opportunities of transferring know-how to its peers in the south.

More than a green hub, Morocco has become, from the perspective of the continent, both a platform of expertise in the field of sustainable project management and a qualified player in setting up financing solutions and associated partnerships.

Morocco has several assets, notably its ability to enhance technical, financial and social innovation to contribute to the progress of the continent and the accomplishment of the 2030 objectives of the Green Agenda in Africa.

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