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Globalization, the environment and the future “greening” of Arab politics

Tausch, Arno (2015): Globalization, the environment and the future “greening” of Arab politics.

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The pressures of globalization, rising ecological footprint and shrinking biocapacity and concomitant global value change will contribute towards an increase of the importance of environmental issues in the Arab world in the coming years. Without question, already the time series data from available indices – like the KOF-Index of Globalization (2015) and Ecological Footprint Network data on ecological footprint and biocapicity - all point in the direction that in objective terms the Arab World will be confronted by a synchronous increase of these phenomena in the coming years. In addition, the newly available opinion data from the recently released World Values Survey (6) for twelve members of the Arab League (Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Tunisia, and Yemen), containing almost 70% of the population of the countries of the Arab League show to us that membership rate environmental organizations, participation in environmental demonstrations and giving priority to protecting the environment over economic growth are already a factor in those countries. Their weight will increase in the years to come, given the general and very robust underlying tendencies.

Our article analyzes the empirical relationship between rising globalization and ecological performance by establishing the global long-term, structural macro-quantitative determinants of environmental performance in the world system with cross-national data. In multiple standard OLS regression models, we test the effects of 26 standard predictor variables, including the ‘four freedoms’ of goods, capital, labor and services, whose weight will all increase in the Arab world in the coming years, on the following indicators of sustainable development

- avoiding net trade of ecological footprint gha per person

- Carbon emissions per million US dollars GDP

- CO2 per capita

- Yale/Columbia Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

- Global footprint per capita

- Happy Life Years

- Happy Planet Index

- ln (number of people per mill inhabitants 1980-2000 killed by natural disasters per year+1)

Our research shows that the apprehensions of quantitative research, critical of neo-liberal globalization are fully vindicated by the significant negative environmental effects of the foreign savings rate. High foreign savings are indeed a driver of global footprint, and are a blockade against a satisfactory Happy Planet Index performance. The new international division of labor is one of the prime drivers of high CO2 per capita emissions. The penetration of economies by foreign direct investments by transnational corporations, which is the master variable of most quantitative dependency theories (MNC penetration), blocks environmental performance (EPI-Index) and several other socially important processes. Worker remittances have a significant positive effect on the Happy Planet Index, and Happy Life Years.

In attempting to draw some cautious predictions for the Arab World, the article then evaluates the performance of the Arab countries in this context with our cross-national data and with our analysis of World Values Survey (6) data for the region. While the documented data for the region from the Yale/Columbia EPI Index, which is the best single-shot available global environmental quality indicator today, and the Ecological Footprint Network time series data about rising ecological footprint and shrinking biocapacity in the Arab countries clearly indicate the sharply mounting and pressing environmental policy priorities in the region, the “greening” of Arab civil societies towards a higher degree of environmental consciousness and activism already is also becoming a considerable factor. The overall publics in Qatar and Libya are in the lead, while in the other Arab countries, environmental policy issues will gain considerably in importance in the public mindset as well. Decision makers would be well advised to channel already now these future environmental debates and movements to be expected in a way compatible with the overall well-being, prosperity, democratization and stability of the region.

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