The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change reports have highlighted that “Rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure including transport and buildings and industrial systems is needed to achieve climate goals”. Global emissions would need to be carbon neutral or net-zero by 2050 to stabilize global warming at the target level of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Enerdata is a leading provider of data tracking CO2 emissions used by KAPSARC to understand the energy economy in Saudi Arabia and globally. Its “Global Energy & CO2 Database” brings together one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date energy databases, covering all fuels by sector from 186 countries.
In 2018 G20 countries accounted for around 80% of global emissions. While Saudi Arabia is the 10th largest emitter of CO2, it has historically had one of the fastest-growing rates of CO2 emissions from fuel consumption among the G20 countries averaging around 5% per year. What is significant is that in 2016 emissions stabilized and in 2018 fell significantly for the first time, declining by 4.4%.
This shift means that Saudi moved from having one of the fastest growing emissions from fuel consumption in the G20 to being the third fastest reducer of greenhouse gasses behind Brazil and France and but faster than Germany and Japan who rounded out the top five reducers of CO2 for 2018.
An analysis conducted by KAPSARC using Enerdata data traces the reduction to 2 main factors:
A strong fall of 5.48% in the economy’s energy intensity, or the amount of energy consumed per unit of GDP, which was responsible for 81% of the reduction in CO2 emissions. This was the fasted rate of improvement in energy intensity in the G20 group which reflects the level of energy efficiency in the economy and the share of energy intensive versus less energy intensive economic activities.
A fall of 1.3% in the carbon intensity of the energy supply, calculated by dividing the emitted CO2 by the total energy consumed, which was responsible for 19% of the reduction and due to an increase in the use of gas compared with oil.
These changes can be traced back to the transformational changes brought by Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, especially regarding new energy efficiency programs and energy price reforms. These policies have been the first step in supporting country’s plan to move towards a circular carbon economy as its pathway towards lower or net zero emissions.
Saudi Arabia’s CO2 emissions are produced by its three main energy consuming sectors: the transportation, industry, and buildings sectors.
The industrial sector is the largest sector consuming around 44% of the Kingdom’s total energy consumption. Buildings are the second largest consumer of energy in the Kingdom, accounting for around 29% of all energy consumed and most of the electricity consumption, 70% of which goes to powering air conditioning. The third largest sector is transportation which accounts for around 21% of the country’s total energy consumption.
From the regulatory side, the Kingdom has brought in around 80 energy efficiency initiatives, managed by a number of governmental ministries, authorities, private sector entities, and overseen by The Saudi Energy Efficiency Center. The implementation of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Program has facilitated these initiatives, focusing on the three main energy consuming sectors.
In transportation, many initiatives were launched to decrease CO2 emissions, like setting requirements for fuel economy performance, fuel efficiency labeling, tire resistance and grip initiative, and improving the aerodynamics of vehicles. The majority of emission reductions during 2018 came from a 43% decline in diesel consumption. This large decline can also be explained by a reduction in the use of diesel powered generators and illegal smuggling of diesel which historically has been a problem.
In the industrial sector, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund has collaborated with the SEEC to provide soft loans for energy efficiency-related projects, and was an important enabler of CO2 emissions’ reduction.
Lastly, the building sector reduction in energy consumption and CO2 emissions was a result of a number of programs and initiatives, including stronger building codes, increasing the energy efficiency rating (EER) requirements for AC units, and putting in place 14 insulation standards. The Saudi Energy Efficiency Center’s High Efficiency AC program also offers households grants of up to 5,400 Riyals to buy more efficiency AC units.
Authors: Nicholas Howarth, Alessandro Lanza and Thamir Alshehri