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COP26, Climate Change and Saudi Arabia’s Commitment to Climate Solutions

COP26, Climate Change and Saudi Arabia’s Commitment to Climate Solutions

Wednesday, 10 November, 2021 - 13:15
Dr. Fahad Alturki
Dr. Fahad Alturki is Vice President of Research at King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC).

There can be no doubting that this year's highly anticipated United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) carries immense implications. Its significance has earned it a billing as the World’s “Moment of Truth”, serving as a five-year progress report on nations' commitments to the targets set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.


COP26 serves as a platform where countries have an opportunity to review the progress of their carbon mitigation journeys and to reconsider how they plan to attain their long-term net-zero objectives. As the first cycle of progress evaluations is coming to an end, the world is expecting that the countries at COP26, which collectively represent more than 80% of the world’s carbon emissions, demonstrate positive intent to keep the hope of preventing temperature rises alive. It is the time for serious reflection, reconciliation, and change.


Sharing the same environmental concerns with the rest of the world, Saudi Arabia recognizes the urgent need to flatten the global carbon emissions curve and speed the transition to a low-carbon economy. For its part, the Kingdom recently pledged to achieve net-zero by 2060, allocating more than $180 billion to the effort.


Saudi Arabia’s net-zero plan was announced during the launch of its Saudi Green Initiative, ahead of its participation in COP26. Praised by world leaders and environmentalists, the initiative positioned Saudi Arabia among the top climate action leaders as it committed to reducing the annual carbon emissions by 278 million tons by 2030 and joined the global pledge to reducing methane emissions by 30%. These bold reductions not only double the Kingdom’s prior pledge but also help raise worldwide ambitions.


In addition to offsetting carbon emissions — and following the COP26 target of ending global deforestation, the Saudi Green Initiative also committed to capture 200 million tons of carbon emissions by planting 450 million trees and rehabilitating eight million hectares of degraded land by 2030.


Notwithstanding, the Kingdom’s green ambition supports the international community in combating environmental challenges and unlocks attractive opportunities for energy investors and quality jobs for the Kingdom’s next generation of leaders.


Yet, looking ahead, the Kingdom is aware that the threat of global change is a concern that knows no borders. Saudi Arabia has therefore proactively committed $1 billion for climate change efforts as part of a $10.4 billion regional fund to cut carbon emissions in the Middle East. These initiatives include plans to establish a regional carbon capture and storage center, a regional early storm warning center, a regional cloud seeding program, and a regional climate change hub.


The Kingdom, being pragmatic, recognizes that the ultimate net-zero goal will take a long to time to achieve. Even though over 180 countries, today, share the same net-zero goal, there is admittedly no one size fits all solution due to countries’ complex differences.


To manage these complexities Saudi Arabia, through its Ministry of Energy and the Saudi Energy ecosystem have placed the Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) framework at the heart of its climate change strategy. The CCE framework, pioneered by the Kingdom and endorsed last year by world leaders during the G20 summit, enables countries to manage their carbon emissions in their own way, at their own speed, whilst taking into account their own national economic, political and social circumstances. The framework’s four pillars— reducing, recycling, reusing and removing carbon emissions and products serve as a holistic guide for achieving net-zero through gradual cost-effective steps.


In order to keep track of the gradual, incremental changes that are fundamental steps for a longer-term, sustainable goal, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) developed the CCE Index. The index, which was unveiled to COP26 participants in Glasgow, paints a universal portrait of the different energy systems by unifying and ranking nations’ carbon management performances, through the use of common metrics.


While KAPSARC is keen on driving environmentally-conscious practices across nations— the CCE Index is also an asset for the international business community which, undoubtedly, has big role to play in the global transition to net-zero. Today, more than 200 companies, who jointly produce over $1.8 trillion in annual revenues and employ over 7 million people across 26 industries in 21 countries have committed to removing 1.98 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2040 — this is equivalent to 5.4% of current global annual emissions.


With that in mind, our researchers have produced more than 20 developmental models, 1,800 datasets, and 14 research tools that examine the full spectrum of energy-related issues. We are ready to support decision-makers, across governments and businesses, foresee future economic and energy concerns and form energy policies for a sustainable future and ultimately support the net-zero commitments embraced by the world.


On a final note, Saudi Arabia’s full participation and support of COP26 demonstrates the Kingdom’s commitment to both combatting climate change and environmental protection. It is consistent with its own Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy away from a dependency on oil.


Together, KAPSARC, the Saudi energy ecosystem, and COP26 attendees will be exploring attainable and workable solutions to the global net-zero equation. We will be looking for what it takes to drive the difference – the need to decarbonize industries, consign coal power to history, achieve fiscal sustainability, and end deforestation.


We share one planet and we each have our own voice. It is critical that everybody’s voice is present and heard, and that everybody works together to build a climate-resilient future for all. COP26 must be a collaborative effort, and all parties must rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working, intelligently and diligently, together.


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