Sustainability Initiatives in Morocco


The COP22 is being held in Marrakesh, Morocco from November 7-16, 2016. COP stands for the ‘Conference of the Parties’. It was established as the “supreme decision making body” of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), which came into effect during the 1994 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. Each year, the COP meets to revise and structure progress in climate change. As of March 2016, the Convention of the Parties consists of 196 states and the European Union. Representatives from all 197 parties are expected to attend COP22.

Morocco Impacting the Environment

Over the past few years, Morocco has initiated efforts to help make the world a greener place. It has participated in many global initiatives and is helping to reduce its emissions of CO2 and other harmful chemicals by developing an environmentally friendly plan which includes the construction of a huge solar power plant, a ban of the manufacture and distribution of plastic bags, and close supervision of the fishing and farming industries.

Morocco averages over 3,000 hours of sun per year, with the Sahara region receiving even more. Given Morocco’s 7% annual increase in energy demand and its high dependence (97%) on imported energy, Morocco’s solar energy plan includes the construction of a huge solar power plant close to the city of Ouarzazate, bordering the Sahara. In February 2016, King Mohammad VI officially inaugurated the first section of Noor 1, named after the Arabic word for “light”, which is currently the world’s largest solar plant. This first phase alone covers thousands of acres of land and is capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of electricity. It works by using 12-meter tall parabolic mirrors that focus the solar energy to heat up fluid in adjoining pipes to 393 degrees Celsius. Even at nighttime or on cloudy days, the solar plant continues to deliver energy because of hot fluid stored in tanks of molten salt.

The project is expected to be completed in 2018, will be the size of Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, and should produce 580 megawatts of electricity for over 1.1 million people. The plant is currently providing 650,000 locals with solar power from dawn until after sunset. During the upcoming COP22, Morocco plans to disseminate its ambitious plans to source 52% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. The Noor solar plants are expected to save 760,000 tons of carbon emissions annually, or more than 17.5 million tons over the next 25 years.

On July 1, 2016, the manufacture and distribution of plastic bags became illegal in Morocco. Prior to the ban, Morocco was the second largest consumer of plastic bags after the United States, using 3 billion plastic bags annually, or an average of 900 plastic bags per resident per year. Violations of this ban on the manufacture of plastic bags can have steep consequences for producers who can be fined between 10,000 and 500,000 Moroccan dirhams for breaking the law, and although shopkeepers across the nation attempted to stock up on plastic bags in the weeks before the bill came into effect, it is obvious that a transition away from plastic bags is inevitable. Though the change has not been easy or cheap, it continues to become easier for consumers and vendors alike. Paper and reusable fabric bags have become common, and some customers rely on cardboard boxes, flour sacks and woven traditional bags to carry home their purchases from supermarkets and souks (traditional markets). This blanket ban on plastic bags marks an enormous step to fulfilling Morocco’s green ambition.

In the past, some of Morocco’s greatest problems have been related to its energy use, unplanned urban development, toxic waste disposal, and water management. City expansion has led to unprecedented and uncontrolled rubbish dumps and indiscriminate deforestation. The World Bank reports that only 10 percent of Morocco’s annual waste is disposed of in an environmentally friendly fashion. Tons of untreated household and industrial waste is dumped regularly into fishing waters, which has damaged Morocco’s fishing industry. Given that fishing is a major source of income for Morocco, it is important for Morocco to raise awareness about the importance of safe toxic waste disposal methods. Furthermore, a growing issue in Morocco is the disregard for the environmental toll of activities such as mining (which is a huge source of CO2 emissions), and public and private transportation, especially in urban areas. A staggering number of gas inefficient and environmentally harmful vehicles are still in use, which is detrimental to the reducing the level of CO2 emissions. Though leaded gasoline for vehicles was phased out in the early 2000s, it is still used in the ceramics industry.

Solar Power

Morocco’s Ban on Plastic Bags

Initiative to Make Mosques “Greener”

Wind Power

Water Resources

Green Growth in Morocco

According to the UNEP, a green economy “is a clean, environmentally friendly economy that promotes health, wealth, and well-being.”  As such, decisions are based on the full cost of any actions, taking into account the economic, environmental, social, and cultural toll of those actions.

Morocco is making enormous strides to becoming a green economy through the promotion of green growth. It was ranked 81st out of 178 countries in the Environmental Performance Index (2014), 5th in the Performance Index of the 2014 World Energy Architecture, is the Arab world leader in the development of renewable energy in the AFEI (2013) and climate change control, and its capital city, Rabat, was among only 15 other cities named a “green city” in 2010.   Further, Morocco is part of the Global Green Growth Institute, the Partnership for Action on Green Economy, and the Greco Initiative, and it also leads a project within the OECD’s Green Growth and Territorial Development focus group.

There are areas in which a focus on green growth can significantly improve the current financial situation. Over the last 10 or so years, Morocco’s diverse industry has been creating jobs much too slowly to improve economic growth. Only about 75,000 jobs have been created in the last decade, and the agricultural sector remains highly dependent on imports. Further, current economic activities play a major part in Morocco’s overall pollution. For example, currently, 90% of industrial waste is dumped into its coastal waters. Left unchecked, this will continue to have detrimental effects on the environment and will also impact its fisheries, a major source of income.

Innovation to support “green growth” has been lacking, partially due to funding but mostly due to lack of coordination. To this end Morocco has created an innovation support fund of 380 million dirhams (approximately 38 million USD), has started to develop technopoles (areas with high-tech industrial research and development facilities), has revised construction policies to promote innovative cities, and has launched the Innovative Fund for Agriculture to support new diverse methods in the industry.

Morocco recently began to alter its national public policy through a National Charter and Model Law to suit the National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS), whose mission is alter state law and climate change policies to create a wholly green economy. Renewable energy, energy efficiency, liquid sanitation and waste management, and aromatic and medicinal plants are all industries Morocco is mobilizing with its policies to stimulate economic growth.

Based on a study conducted by the Centre for Environmental Science & Engineering (CESE) it plans to invest a total of 20 million euros in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and solid waste management and sewage industries, with an expectation of creating over 90,000 jobs by 2020. The Acceleration plan is projected to raise Sector GDP by 23% and create over 500,000 jobs, particularly for Moroccan youth.

Through the Confédération Générale des Entreprises du Maroc (CGEM), Morocco is changing business attitudes towards the environment. It has created the Green Economy Commission, which is meant to improve corporate dedication and responsibility to the environment by providing technical and fundraising support. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to business practices involving initiatives that benefit society. Companies with this designation are inspected every three years by accredited specialists and are rewarded according to their inspection results. There are currently over 55 companies in Morocco that have been awarded this distinction, a high number both in Africa and the Arab world.

Furthermore, a new financing scheme has been put into effect, with investments of 390 million Euros to support public lighting, construction and industry, as well as the implementation of an environmental tax on packaging that went into effect 2015. Morocco has made environmental responsibility a priority in the business world and is laying the groundwork for Moroccans to compete in industry on a global scale.