The burning of organic materials (such as fossil fuels, wood, and waste) for heating/cooling, electricity, mobility, cooking, disposal, and the production of materials and goods (such as cement, metals, plastics, and food) leads to emissions. This affects local air quality and the climate. In a recent blog, we showed that the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) lags behind all other regions in decoupling air pollutant emissions from economic growth.
Particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) is the air pollutant associated with the largest health effects. MENA’s cities are the second-most air-polluted following South Asia; virtually all of its population is exposed to levels deemed unsafe. In 2019, exposure to excessive PM2.5 levels was associated with almost 300,000 deaths in MENA and it caused the average resident to be sick for more than 70 days in his or her lifetime. It also carries large economic costs for the region, totaling more than $140 billion in 2013, around 2 percent of the region’s GDP.
A good understanding of the emission sources leading to air pollution is necessary to planning for how to best reduce them. Figure 1 shows that waste burning, road vehicles, and industrial processes accounted for around two-thirds of PM2.5 concentrations. Electricity production is also a significant contributor, most of which is used by manufacturing and households.
5 PRIORITY BARRIERS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR POLICY REFORMS TO KICK-START DECOUPLING
A forthcoming report titled “Blue Skies, Blue Seas” discusses these measures, alongside many others, in more detail.
1. Knowledge about air pollution and its sources is limited, with sparse ground monitoring stations. Detailed source apportionment studies have only been carried out for a few cities within the region, with results often not easily accessible for the public.
Extensive monitoring networks and regular studies on local sources of air and climate pollutants are foundational, as is making results easily accessible to the public (e.g., in form of a traffic light system as is done in Abu Dhabi). This will empower sensitive groups to take avoidance decisions, but also nurture the demand for abatement policies.
MENA’s heavy subsidization of fossil fuels, whether that is at the point of consumption or at the point of intermediary inputs in power generation and manufacturing, makes price reforms essential. Aside from incorporating negative externalities better, lifting subsidies also reduces pressure on fiscal budgets, with freed-up fiscal space being available to cushion the impact for low-income households. There have been encouraging steps by some countries such as Egypt, which reduced the fossil fuel subsidies gradually over the last couple of years, leading to significant increases in fuel prices, which in turn had positive effects on air quality.
To support a shift in the modal share toward cleaner mobility, it is imperative to invest in public transport systems, while making them cleaner and supporting nonmotorized options such as walking and biking. Cairo’s continued expansion of its metro system has been effective in reducing PM pollution and other MENA cities have also invested heavily in their public transport infrastructure, moving the needle on improving air quality. Furthermore, it is also important to raise environmental standards, both for fuel quality and car technology, together with regular mandatory inspections.
4. Lenient industrial emissions rules and their weak enforcement. The industrial sector is characterized by low energy efficiency standards, also due to the low, subsidized prices for energy mentioned above. MENA is currently the only region, where not a single country has introduced or is actively planning to introduce either a carbon tax or an emission trading scheme.
Mandating stricter emissions caps, or technology requirements, together with proper enforcement and monitoring is crucial. Incentivizing firms to adopt more resource-efficient, end-of-pipe cleaning, and fuel-switching technologies are additional crucial means to reduce air pollution stemming from the industrial sector. A trading system for emissions could either target CO2 emissions, or air pollutants, such as the PM cap-and-trade system recently introduced in Gujarat, India. Such a system should target both the manufacturing industry as well as the power sector.
5. Weak solid waste management (SWM) is a major issue in MENA. Although the collection of municipal waste has room for improvement in many countries, it is mainly the disposal stage of SWM where the leakage occurs. Too often waste ends up in open dumps or informal landfills, where it ignites. Furthermore, processing capabilities are often limited, and equipment outdated, at least for the lower- and middle-income countries of the region.
Hence, enhancing the efficiency of disposal sites is critical to reducing leakage and the risk of self-ignition. To start, replacing or upgrading open dumps and uncontrolled landfills with engineered or sanitary landfills is a viable option. Going forward, recycling capabilities should be improved and the circularity of resources enhanced. For agricultural waste, the establishment of markets for crop residues and comprehensive information campaigns in Egypt showed that such measures can supplement the introduction of stricter waste-burning bans.
Kick-starting decoupling and banking on green investments hold the promise for MENA not only to improve environmental quality and health locally, and to mitigate climate change globally, but also to reap higher economic returns (including jobs). Moreover, decoupling now will prepare MENA economies better for a future in which much of the world will have decarbonized its economies, including its trade networks.
The authors of this article on Climate change and elaborate on how to avert it through experts’ notable advice of a ditch of 90% of the world’s coal and 60% of oil and gas to limit warming to 1.5°C. Would it be feasible if some of the MENA countries economic life sustenance depends on fossil fuels related revenues? Here is what these authors are saying.
Climate change: ditch 90% of world’s coal and 60% of oil and gas to limit warming to 1.5°C – experts
Global mean surface temperatures reached 1.2°C above the pre-industrial average in 2020, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in its recent report that Earth could hit 1.5°C in as little as a decade. The 0.3°C separating these two temperatures make a world of difference. Scientists believe that stabilising our warming world’s temperature at 1.5°C could help avoid the most serious effects of climate change.
Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are the source of just over 80% of the world’s energy. Burning them accounts for 89% of human-derived CO₂ emissions. To avert catastrophic warming, the global community must rapidly reduce how much of these fuels it extracts and burns. Our new paper, published in Nature, revealed just how tight the world’s remaining carbon budget is likely to be.
In order to hold global warming at 1.5°C, we found that nearly 60% of global oil and fossil gas reserves will need to remain in the ground in 2050. Almost all of the world’s coal – 90% – will need to be spared from factory and power plant furnaces. Our analysis also showed that global oil and gas production must peak immediately and fall by 3% each year until mid-century.
Even meeting these stringent limits may not be enough on its own to stabilise global warming at 1.5°C, however.
That’s because we based our estimates on a carbon budget compatible with just a 50% probability of limiting warming to 1.5°C. Our model simply could not be pushed to a greater chance of achieving the 1.5C target because it was already at its limit, given our projections of fossil fuel demand in the near future.
Our analysis also relies on the large-scale deployment of technologies capable of removing CO₂ from the atmosphere sometime in the future. By 2050, our scenario expects around four gigatonnes a year will be being captured by so-called negative emission technologies. There remains a lot of doubt about whether it is even possible to sufficiently scale these technologies up in time.
So, to aim for a better chance of achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal and to lower the risk of relying on as yet unproven technologies, we argue that our estimates of how much of the world’s fossil fuels cannot safely be extracted should be treated as cautious underestimates. The world may need to be even more ambitious.
Fossil fuel rationing
We estimated how much fossil fuel production in each region must fall and how fast based on a global energy system model. We allocated the remaining shares of fossil fuel production allowed within the budget based on the costs and carbon intensity of producing different oil and gas assets, and how cheap low and zero-carbon technologies are in different parts of the world.
Our analysis showed that total fossil fuel production is limited by a global carbon budget. Production growing in one region of the world will require a decrease in another to keep the global trajectory pointing downwards. A mechanism such as the Global Fossil Fuel Registry – a public database of all known reserves – could provide the necessary transparency for an international effort, with the cooperation of governments and fossil fuel producers.
The US and Russia sit on half of the world’s coal but must leave 97% of it in the ground. Australia, which recently pledged to keep producing and exporting coal beyond 2030, would need to keep 95% of its reserves underground. Oil-producing states in the Middle East must not extract around two-thirds of their reserves, while most of Canada’s tar sand oil must not be burned, along with all of the fossil fuel buried beneath the Arctic.
Our analysis suggests that many countries will need to move out of fossil fuel production relatively quickly, which raises concerns about how the transition can be managed fairly. Countries such as Iraq and Angola have a high dependency on fossil fuels for government revenues. They will need support to diversify their economies in a managed way – including financial and technological assistance to develop new low-carbon industries – and to decarbonise domestically to reduce their own reliance on fossil fuels.
The necessary energy transformation highlighted in this research will require a range of policy levers, including measures that drive down fossil fuel consumption, such as banning petrol cars or promoting renewable electricity generation, and those targeting production itself, including restrictions on new fossil fuel extraction licenses.
Alliances between countries are also likely to be important to build political support for reducing fossil fuel production. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, formed by Denmark and Costa Rica, has pressured other countries to halt investment in new oil and gas projects.
Phasing out global fossil fuel production at the rate suggested in our study is possible, but it will rely on some of the measures we’ve described expanding and gaining the support of large producing countries and companies – those which have benefited most from the fossil fuel era.
Before a critical Opec conference, Iraq’s finance minister, one of the founding members of the global oil cartel Opec, issued an unusual plea to fellow oil producers to shift away from fossil fuel reliance and toward renewable energy.
Ali Allawi, Iraq’s deputy prime minister, urged oil producers to seek “an economic rejuvenation based on ecologically sound policies and technology,” such as solar electricity and even nuclear reactors, to lessen their reliance on fossil fuel exports.ADVERTISING
“To stand a chance of minimizing the worst consequences of climate change, the world has to radically transform the way it produces and uses energy, burning less coal, oil, and natural gas,” he wrote alongside Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. Livelihoods would be lost, and poverty rates will rise if oil earnings begin to fall before producer countries have properly diversified their economies.”
Ministers from the 13 Opec member states will meet virtually on Wednesday to discuss possible output cuts as oil prices fluctuate. Opec had agreed to raise output as nations recovered from the Covid-19 epidemic, but sluggish markets have led some to propose that the rise be halted.
Last month, US President Joe Biden made a contentious appeal for Opec to raise oil output, even more, keep oil prices from increasing and help the US economy recover. But, unfortunately, his appeal was turned down.
Fuel Step Up
In an unprecedented step for the fossil fuel companies, the Opec summit may also address the climate problem ahead of the crucial UN climate negotiations, known as Cop26, set for Glasgow in November.
According to Allawi and Birol, current oil price instability, fueled by the pandemic, is merely the beginning of troubles for producers. The climate issue will not only need a shift away from oil, but it will also have a particularly negative impact on the Middle East and North Africa, where increasing temperatures are already causing severe problems.
According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) recent global roadmap to net-zero by 2050, global oil demand is expected to fall from more than 90 million barrels per day to fewer than 25 million barrels per day by 2050, resulting in a potential 85 percent drop in revenues for oil-producing economies.
According to Allawi and Birol, economic hardship and rising unemployment risk causing greater discontent and instability in a region with one of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing populations.
Investing in renewables, particularly solar electricity, is an alternative to dependent on increasingly volatile oil prices. They added, “The energy industry might play a role here by utilizing the region’s tremendous potential for generating and supplying clean energy.”
Iraq is a founding member of the cartel, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Nigeria, and several other African oil-producing countries. In addition, Russia and a few minor producers are included in the Opec+ alliance.
Most have been antagonistic to demands for action on climate change, while some have dismissed climate science, and Saudi Arabia, in particular, has often obstructed UN climate discussions.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) cautioned in May that if the world remains below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, as laid forth in the Paris Agreement – to which all Opec members are signatories – all new oil drilling must end this year.
When asked about the findings, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said at an Opec meeting in June, “I would have to voice my perspective that I feel it is a sequel to [the] La La Land movie…” But, “What makes you think I should take it seriously?”
Saudi officials have toyed with climate action in the past, claiming, for example, that the nation might eventually power itself with solar energy. However, no one has urged that oil shipments be halted.
Some oil producers, on the other hand, have chosen a more dovish attitude. For example, Oman, no longer an Opec member, looks at hydrogen as a future low-carbon fuel. The UAE also focuses on hydrogen and renewable energy and has just opened a new nuclear power plant. Other nations in the area with significant renewable energy programs include Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan.
“More than at any other time in history, significant adjustments to the economic model in resource-rich nations are unavoidable,” Birol, one of the world’s leading energy economists, told the Guardian. Countries in the region have made energy transition initiatives. There are encouraging attempts [among oil producers], but attaining net-zero emissions would need far bolder steps and much larger international coordination, as it has for many other nations across the world.”
France24‘s story by Aziz El Massassi with AFP Correspondent in the Gulf on how Oil-rich Gulf faces prospect of unlivable heat as planet warms unabatedly up. The described scenario is no more open for debate and the likelyhood of what is advanced has great chances to happen. The reasons of climate change are not only rightly founded but insufficient as a justification amongst many others, all because of the extent of the over-built environment that was frenetically developed within the last fifty years.
Oil-rich Gulf faces prospect of unlivable heat as planet warms
Gulf cities such as Dubai are known for their scorching summers, but experts warn climate change could soon make parts of the fossil fuel-rich region unlivable for humans.
Daily temperatures in the coastal metropolis regularly top 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for several months of the year and are exacerbated by high humidity.
“I work from 9 am until 4 pm in this heat,” Pakistani scooter driver Sameer said, sweat dripping from his forehead.
“Sometimes, the company or people give us water to drink, and we get a break every three hours,” added Sameer, who works for a mobile delivery app and declined to provide his surname.
A new report this month by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed unequivocally that the climate is changing faster than previously feared, and because of human activity.
Even now, Dubai residents often leave for cooler climates during the hottest months, while many who stay spend their time scurrying between air-conditioned locations—or rely on delivery drivers for a panoply of services.
The UAE is also one of the world’s most arid countries, and for the past several years it has used aircraft for cloud seeding to artificially produce rain.
One expert has warned of the risks for the region as climate change progresses.
“In general, the level of heat stress will increase significantly,” said Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of hydrology and climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
With higher temperatures and humidity towards the end of this century, some parts of the Gulf will experience periods of “heat stress conditions that will be incompatible with human survival”, he warned.
“That will not happen all the time, they will be episodes that would happen once or twice every seven years,” he added.
The combination of heat and relative humidity has the potential to be deadly if the human body is unable to cool off through sweating.
Scientists have calculated that a healthy human adult in the shade with unlimited drinking water will die if so-called “wet-bulb” temperatures (TW) exceed 35C for six hours.
It was long assumed this theoretical threshold would never be crossed, but US researchers reported last year on two locations—one in the United Arab Emirates, another in Pakistan—where the 35C TW barrier was breached more than once, if only fleetingly.
Calls to reduce carbon emissions pose major economic challenges for oil and gas-rich Gulf countries, from OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia to Oman and Qatar.
UN chief Antonio Guterres has said the IPCC report “must sound a death knell” for coal, oil and gas, and warned that fossil fuels were destroying the planet.
But some Gulf states in recent years have taken up greener rhetoric as they try to improve their environmental credentials and diversify their economies away from oil.
Tanzeed Alam, managing director of Dubai-based Earth Matters Consulting, said there was increasing interest in the environment and the impact of climate change in the UAE.
“But we are yet to see the large, family-owned businesses really taking this issue to the core of their business models,” he told AFP.
“Businesses don’t often understand how they can cope with increased heatwaves, storms, flooding and other physical impacts,” Alam said.
He expressed hope that the UN report would act as a “wake-up call”.
The United Arab Emirates aims to increase its reliance on clean energy to 50 percent by 2050 and reduce its carbon footprint for power generation by 70 percent.
Abu Dhabi, one of seven emirates along with Dubai that make up the country, says it is building the world’s largest single-site solar plant.
Once fully operational, the Al Dhafra solar project will have the capacity to power some 160,000 households nationwide, according to the WAM state news agency. It is scheduled to commence operations in 2022.
In Bahrain, where average summer temperatures range between 35C and 40C, Mohammed Abdelaal’s company Silent Power uses solar technology to cool water tanks.
He said demand had increased in several Gulf countries this summer, noting that the region’s ample supply of sunlight facilitates the production of “clean, sustainable, low-cost energy”.
Bahrain aims for 10 percent renewable energy by 2035, according to state media, while neighbouring Saudi Arabia—with ambitious plans to diversify its oil-reliant economy—in March unveiled a campaign to generate half of its energy from renewables by 2030.
In Kuwait, Khaled Jamal al-Falih expressed concern at what runaway climate change could mean for his country.
“In Kuwait today, a person who needs to run an errand can’t do so until after six o’clock in the evening, and leaving the house means being in an air-conditioned car to go to an air-conditioned place,” he told AFP.
Almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels, the country has a 15 percent renewable energy target by 2030, according to state media.
Falih said his house ran solely on solar power, and urged the government to make “clear decisions” to combat climate change.
The idea of being able to escape the reality of global warming has “become impossible”, Falih said.
Oil and Gas posted in itsENERGY TRANSITION section, a snapshot about how Renewables surge in the MENA region as energy transition accelerates. A good question would be that relating to earnings. Would the renewables bring in any revenues, and how would they compare with those of the oil and gas exports.
The image above is for illustrative purposes
Middle East renewables surge as energy transition accelerates
Renewable energy project contract awards in 2021 have eclipsed deals for conventional power plant projects in the Middle East
Renewable energy project contract awards in 2021 have eclipsed deals for conventional power plant projects in the Middle East as the region’s energy diversification agenda gathers pace, according to GlobalData’s MEED.
According to the company’s latest report, ‘Middle East Energy Transition’, there were no contract awards for oil-powered or gas-fuelled power stations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the first half of 2021. However, in the same period, there a number of renewable energy project contract awards in the region, worth roughly $2.8bn.
From 2017 to 2020, the average value of contract awards for oil – or gas-fuelled power stations in the MENA region was around $4.8bn a year, with $6.2bn of conventional thermal power plant contract awards made in 2020.
Richard Thompson, Editorial Director of GlobalData’s MEED, comments: “The stalling of the development of conventional power generation plants in the region is one consequence of an acceleration of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to diversify the energy sources away from oil and gas. Doubts about long-term demand for oil products and growing confidence in the cost effectiveness of renewable energy are also fuelling the region’s energy transition.”
Renewables on the rise
Some $104bn-worth of renewable energy projects are planned, of which roughly $21.5bn are at the contract tendering stage and are likely to lead to contract awards in 2021 and 2022.
Thompson adds: “Of the remaining $82.4bn of planned projects, only around $4.1bn are at an advanced stage of design, with the vast majority, some $78.3bn of projects, still under study. Many of these may not go ahead or could change substantially in scope.”
According to MEED’s report, Saudi’s $18bn renewables projects pipeline offers the best prospects, with some $13bn of renewable energy projects at or close to the tendering stage. The UAE, which far outstrips Saudi Arabia in terms of installed renewable capacity, has only $370m of renewables projects at the bidding stage.
The report identifies hydrogen fuel as an important emerging element in the Middle East’s energy landscape. The use of hydrogen fuel in electricity generation emits only water vapour and no carbon dioxide. Moreover, hydrogen can help decarbonise traditional gas-fired power plants.
Thompson notes: “The hype surrounding hydrogen, and in particular green hydrogen, has become increasingly hard to ignore as it dominates industry discussions of oil and gas, renewable energy, mining and climate change. The opportunity to pivot to green hydrogen is particularly strong in the MENA region.”
An estimated $42bn-worth of green hydrogen-related projects are being planned across the MENA region – and project announcements have become increasingly frequent over recent years. These announcements include both high-level memorandums of understanding (MoUs) comprising studies that are expected to lead to concrete project opportunities in the future, and agreements related to a specific project with general details on the type, location and capacity of the planned facilities.
Thompson adds: “Energy transition is now among the highest policy priorities for the Middle East’s oil producers, which have been hard hit by low oil prices since 2015 – a knock that may be exacerbated by the decline in oil demand growth that is predicted by 2040.”
Originally posted on MENA Solidarity Network: By Anzar Atrar and David Karvala At 4 am on Saturday 21 August, Spanish authorities took Mohamed Abdellah —along with around 30 other Algerians— from the migrant custody centre in Barcelona and deported him. This was bad news for all of them, of course. But Abdellah, an Algerian anti-corruption…
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