In a recent study titled “The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Circular Carbon Economy: Progress and Potential,” The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries’ internationally communicated climate plans.
The study is based on KAPSARC’s recently launched CCE Index, which comprises 47 indicators that measure different areas of energy, emissions and the economy. The Index was developed for use by energy and climate policymakers and stakeholders to quantify and compare countries’ current performances on various CCE metrics and their future potential to reach CCEs.
Efforts to align economic growth and prosperity with globally agreed climate goals are gaining increasing momentum in the region. The next two major United Nations climate summits, COP 27 and COP 28, will be held in Sharm El Sheikh and Abu Dhabi, respectively.
Over the past year, all six GCC countries have updated their medium-term greenhouse gas emission targets by submitting revised Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. Saudi Arabia Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain, have also announced mid-century net-zero emission targets.
The circular carbon economy (CCE), developed by KAPSARC and its partners, is a new concept to fight climate change. The Guide to the Circular Carbon Economy was a joint effort between KAPSARC, the International Energy Agency, the OECD, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Nuclear Energy Agency, and the Global CCS Institute.
The KAPSARC study focused on how GCC countries are currently managing their energy and emissions, and how they are positioned to progress toward circular carbon, or net-zero, economies. In the first edition of the Circular Carbon Economy Index, the GCC countries rank from twelfth to twenty-seventh out of 30 countries, with the UAE ranking the highest and Oman the lowest.
The study found that, although each country will have its own, unique pathway to net-zero and CCE initiatives, the GCC countries share several structural and other similarities, which create opportunities for shared lessons and cooperation on the road to net-zero emissions.
One opportunity could be collaboration on major carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) initiatives and hydrogen exports. There are also major complementarities that a strengthened market around the GCC Interconnection Grid could bring. Such a strengthened market could help scale up renewable and other forms of clean energy and increase the rate of electrification across the region.
The CCE Index results suggest that, although as a group the GCC countries outperform their non-OECD peers and neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa region in most areas measured, they should undertake further efforts if they wish to improve their overall rankings in the global CCE Index.
Mari Luomi, a fellow in KAPSARC’s Climate and Sustainability program and a co-author of the paper, pointed out that using the circular carbon economy concept can help all countries to become more ambitious in their climate targets and targeted action because it broadens the scope of available technology options. In the Gulf region, the circular carbon economy can help foster buy-ins from many industries that have limited cost-effective options to decarbonize without using fossil fuels.
Fatih Yilmaz, another co-author of the paper, noted that in the area of finance, a key enabler of circular carbon economies, the GCC countries’ average is higher than their non-industrialized peers, but lower than those of the world’s top-20 oil producers. There are also major differences among the GCC countries, with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait scoring higher marks on access to finance, one of the five finance indicators, and the UAE and Oman scoring higher on international financial connectedness.
Thamir Alshehri, the third co-author of the paper, noted that Saudi Arabia achieves higher scores than other hydrocarbon producers on various indicators relating to the oil and gas sector’s emissions performance. This means Saudi Arabian hydrocarbon exports will have a competitive edge as the country pursues full circularity, or net-zero emissions.
KAPSARC is an advisory think tank within global energy economics and sustainability, providing services to entities and authorities in the Saudi energy sector.
This story was originally published on Gulf News