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How to know if a country is serious about net zero

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A good question to ask after Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia declared targeting net zero emissions by 2060 would be how. That is How to know if a country is serious about net zero because achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060 should follow a plan to phase out all usage of fossil fuels.
In any case, here is Fergus Green, Lecturer in Political Theory and Public Policy, University College London thoughts on the current problematics of greenhouse gas emissions. Would we turn a blind eye until 2060? Anyway, would we still be there by then?
The COVID-19 lockdown shed some light on the relationship between emissions and consumption. So why focus on the production side only and not on the biggest emitters of GHG’s?

The above image is for illustration and is of Phys.org.

How to know if a country is serious about net zero: look at its plans for extracting fossil fuels

Fresh emissions targets from Saudi Arabia and Australia – two of the world’s largest fossil-fuel producers – are due to arrive just in time for global climate talks in Glasgow. These would commit the two countries to reducing domestic emissions to net zero by around mid-century – though both are expected to continue exporting fossil fuels for decades to come.

For the leaders of countries and governments that produce fossil fuels, UN climate summits are a public relations boon. They get to talk up their commitments to a green and clean future without being held to account for their disproportionate role in fuelling the problem. It’s hard for experts, let alone the average citizen, to tell fact from fiction.

Because it’s only domestic greenhouse gas emissions that are counted for the purpose of the UN climate negotiations, burning exported fossil fuels counts towards the emissions of the importing country. Accordingly, the role that major fossil fuel exporters like Saudi Arabia (oil and natural gas) and Australia (coal and natural gas) play in stoking global heating is not accurately reflected in the talks.

Unlike some areas of international cooperation, like limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, climate-change summits aim to control something which evades easy calculation. Nuclear weapons and their production facilities are tangible, chunky and relatively few in number. Greenhouse gases are everywhere, invisible and caused by lots of different processes – from cow digestion to steel production.

These gases are also in constant flux. Emissions are produced from ubiquitous sources, but there are also natural systems – especially forests and soil – that suck carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere. These natural removals of carbon are known as sinks. That is why scientists and governments speak of net greenhouse gas emissions: emissions minus removals.

It’s relatively easy to monitor aggregate levels of CO₂ in the global atmosphere. This is why scientists have a clear picture of how badly off-track the world is with tackling the climate crisis. But all this complexity concerning sources and sinks makes it easy for governments and corporations to obfuscate their real contribution to climate change.

For example, countries with lots of uninhabited land, like Australia, have become especially adept at gaming the systems of accounting for net emissions of CO₂. Australia effectively gets credited for large amounts of carbon stored in forests, which make it look like overall emissions have been falling, even though emissions from burning fossil fuels have been growing for decades.

The Australian government claims the country’s natural sinks offset its emissions elsewhere. Norman Allchin/Shutterstock

One sure-fire way of telling whether a government official is hoodwinking you when lauding their government’s climate credentials is to look upstream and see whether they’re producing the coal, oil or gas that ultimately causes about three-quarters of global emissions, and if so, what they’re doing about it.

Extracted fossil fuels are much easier to monitor and verify than greenhouse gas emissions. They come from a relatively small number of sources and are already measured by multiple parties for a range of purposes. Customers need proof that the shipments they receive reflect their contracts with suppliers. Governments collect production information to assess a company’s compliance with licensing requirements, tax liabilities and customs obligations.

Fossil-fuel infrastructure and projects are even easier to monitor. Oil rigs, gas pipelines and coal mines are large, making them easy to see both on the ground and via satellite. These features make it simpler to hold fossil fuel-producing countries to account for their contribution to global heating, compared with the more slippery measure of net emissions.

The fossil fuel production gap

In a new report, the UN Environment Programme and other research institutions found that governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – the goal of the Paris Agreement. Countries’ fossil-fuel production plans and projections in aggregate even exceed, by close to 10%, the levels of global fossil-fuel production implied by their own climate pledges.

The production gap helps reveal how serious many national net zero pledges really are. SEI et al. The Production Gap: 2021 Report, Author provided

Shockingly, governments are pouring fuel on the fire. G20 countries have directed more than US$300 billion (£218 billion) in new funds towards supporting fossil-fuel production, such as subsidies and tax breaks, since the beginning of the pandemic – about 10% more than they have invested in clean energy.

The report echoes recent calls for greater transparency around fossil-fuel production and the support – financial and otherwise – governments provide at home and abroad. Research by various organisations has provided a better understanding of this, but the information is incomplete, inconsistent and scattered.

Governments could help by disclosing plans, funding and projections for fossil-fuel production, and how they intend to manage a just transition away from coal, oil and gas. Fossil-fuel companies should disclose their spending and infrastructure plans, as well as all the greenhouse gas emissions their product is responsible for, and financial risks to their business from climate change.

Numerous environmental organisations are working to build a global picture of the sources and flows of fossil fuels. So even if governments fail to illuminate the activities of fossil-fuel companies and their role in it, they can still be named and shamed.

Talking only about a country’s net greenhouse gas emissions gives fossil fuel-producing companies and governments a free pass to bullshit their way through the climate negotiations. If we want to force the PR managers to really earn their money, we should turn the conversation to fossil-fuel production.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia targets net zero emissions by 2060

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By Yousef Saba and Saeed Azhar, Marwa Rashad in a Reuters article that is about how Saudi Arabia targets net zero emissions by 2060 cannot be more explicit about this top oil exporter is obviously struggling to keep up with the current trends of worldwide deep resentment against all fossil fuels. The forthcoming COP26 will definitely enlighten us on this aspect as well as on the major contributors to Greenhouse Gas Emissions plans.

Meanwhile here are the main points of this article:

  • Doubles target to reduce carbon emissions
  • To tackle climate change while ensuring oil market stability
  • Could hit target before 2060, energy minister says

RIYADH, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said on Saturday that the world’s top oil exporter aims to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 and will more than double its annual target to reduce carbon emissions.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his energy minister said OPEC member Saudi Arabia would tackle climate change while ensuring oil market stability, stressing the continued importance of hydrocarbons.Report ad

They were speaking at the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), which comes ahead of COP26, the UN climate change conference in Glasgow at the end of the month, which hopes to agree deeper emissions cuts to tackle global warming.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aims to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 under its circular carbon economy programme … while maintaining the kingdom’s leading role in strengthening security and stability of global oil markets,” Prince Mohammed said in recorded remarks.Report ad

He said the kingdom would join a global initiative on slashing emissions of methane by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030, which both the United States and the EU have been pressing.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is due to attend a wider Middle East green summit Riyadh is hosting on Monday. read moreReport ad

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Riyadh, a signatory to the Paris climate pact, had already submitted its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – goals for individual states under global efforts to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The SGI aims to eliminate 278 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year, the crown prince said, up from a previous target of 130 million tonnes.

Saudi Arabia in March pledged to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4% of global contributions. It said that would involve generating 50% of its energy needs from renewables by 2030 and planting billions of trees in the desert state. read more

HYDROCARBONS STILL NEEDED

Saudi Arabia’s economy remains heavily reliant on oil income as economic diversification lags ambitions set out by the crownprince.

Saudi officials have argued the world will continue to need Saudi crude for decades to come.

“The world cannot operate without hydrocarbon, fossil fuels, renewables, none of these will be the saver, it has to be a comprehensive solution,” the energy minister said.

“We need to be inclusive and inclusivity requires being open to accept others efforts as long as they are going to reduce emissions,” he said, adding that the kingdom’s young generation “will not wait for us to change their future”.

He said the net zero emissions target might be achieved before 2060 but the kingdom needed time to do things “properly”.

Fellow Gulf OPEC producer the United Arab Emirates this month announced a plan for net zero emissions by 2050. read more

The chief executive of UAE oil firm ADNOC, Sultan al-Jaber, also stressed the importance of investment in hydrocarbons, saying the world had “sleepwalked” into a supply crunch and that climate action should not become an economic burden on developing nations. read more

GREEN PUSH

Saudi Arabia has been criticised for acting too slowly, with Climate Action Tracker giving it the lowest possible ranking of “critically insufficient”.

And experts say it is too early to tell what the impact of Saudi’s nascent solar and wind projects will be. Its first renewable energy plant opened in April and its first wind farm began generating power in August.

Megaprojects, such as futuristic city NEOM, also incorporate green energy plans including a $5 billion hydrogen plant, and Saudi state-linked entities are pivoting to green fundraising.

Some investors have expressed concerns over the kingdom’s carbon footprint. Others say Saudi Arabia emits the least carbon per barrel of oil and that de facto ruler Prince Mohammed is serious about economic diversification.

“Obviously the carbon footprint is an issue. However, we would highlight that realistically carbon is going to be slow to phase out, and oil is here for some time yet,” Tim Ash at BlueBay Asset Management said in emailed comments.

Reporting by Yousef Saba and Saeed Azhar in Riyadh, Marwa Rashad in London and Maher Chmaytelli in Dubai; Additional reporting by Raya Jalbi in Dubai; writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Nick Macfie and Jason Neely


Energy Transitions in the MENA Region

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The IEA in a gesture of goodwill proposes Energy Transitions in the MENA Region to be supported so as to help it reach clean and low-carbon energy-based economies.

The above image is for illustration and is of the IEA – International Energy Agency.

Energy Transitions in the MENA Region

Energy transitions in the producer economies of the Middle East and North Africa

Supporting Middle East and North Africa countries to help them diversify their economies towards clean and low-carbon energy

Oil and gas producers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are particularly exposed not only to climate change, but also to global efforts to mitigate it. This water-stressed region faces severe climate impacts, from rising temperatures to extended droughts, so must take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, many MENA countries are economically dependent on oil and gas exports, which could come under growing pressure from global efforts to decarbonise the energy sector. MENA countries must therefore find a way to accelerate development of clean energy while diversifying their economies away from reliance on oil and gas revenues.

The International Energy Agency is working with countries across the region to leverage their existing capacities and competitive advantages in traditional energy forms towards clean and low-carbon energy technologies. The aim is to help countries chart a low-carbon pathway for their own growing energy demand, while also exploring export opportunities for emerging low-carbon energy sectors, such as hydrogen.

This is a broad-ranging programme that cuts across the work streams of the IEA. It includes supporting renewable and clean energy deployment through policy reform; navigating the pathways available to countries seeking to implement national hydrogen strategies; and bolstering economic resilience through the promotion of local value chains. The programme functions through high-level dialogue; tailored support for national policy development; and thematic workshops and training.

The energy transitions in the producer economies of MENA programme supports the IEA’s ongoing work by feeding lessons learned and data collected from producer economies back into IEA analysis and publications, such as the World Energy OutlookEnergy Technology Perspectives and Renewables Market Report.

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Climate change a double blow for oil-rich Mideast

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We are reminded that Climate change would be no different from a double blow for oil-rich Mideast per experts by an AFP’s article dated 17 October 2021, and that it is closer than envisioned by most.

Climate change a double blow for oil-rich Mideast: experts

Paphos (Cyprus) (AFP)

The climate crisis threatens a double blow for the Middle East, experts say, by destroying its oil income as the world shifts to renewables and by raising temperatures to unliveable extremes.

Little has been done to address the challenge in a region long plagued by civil strife, war and refugee flows, even as global warming looks likely to accelerate these trends, a conference heard last week.

“Our region is classified as a global climate change hotspot,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told the International Conference on Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Home to half a billion people, the already sun-baked region has been designated as especially vulnerable by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

Yet it is also home to several of the last countries that have not ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement — Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen — weeks before the UN’s COP26 climate conference starts in Glasgow.

A Lebanese army helicopter drops water on a forest fire in the Qubayyat area of northern Lebanon’s remote Akkar region during a heatwave on July 29, 2021, JOSEPH EID AFP/File

When it comes to climate change and the Middle East, “there are terrible problems,” said Jeffrey Sachs, who heads the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

“First, this is the centre of world hydrocarbons, so a lot of the economies of this region depend on a fuel that is basically anachronistic, that we have to stop,” said Sachs of New York’s Columbia University.

“Second, obviously, this is a dry region getting drier, so everywhere one looks, there is water insecurity, water stress, dislocation of populations,” he told AFP.

Sachs argued that “there needs to be a massive transformation in the region. Yet this is a politically fraught region, a divided region, a region that has been beset by a lot of war and conflict, often related to oil.”

In this file photo taken on October 3, 2021 a man wades through a flooded street amid cyclone Shaheen in Oman’s capital Muscat Haitham AL-SHUKAIRI AFP/File

The good news, he said, is that there is “so much sunshine that the solution is staring the region in the face. They must just look up to the sky. The solar radiation provides the basis for the new clean, green economy.”

– Like ‘disaster movie’ –

Laurent Fabius, the former French foreign minister who oversaw the Paris Agreement, pointed out that in this year’s blistering summer, “we had catastrophic wildfires in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon”.

The greenhouse effect Gal ROMA AFP

“There were temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran. We have drought in Turkey, water stress in different countries, particularly Jordan.

“These tragic events are not from a disaster movie, they are real and present.”

Cyprus, the EU member closest to the Middle East, is leading an international push involving 240 scientists to develop a 10-year regional action plan, to be presented at a summit a year from now.

The two-day conference last week heard some of the initial findings — including that the greenhouse gas emissions from the region have overtaken those of the European Union.

Already extremely water-scarce, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has been warming at twice the global average rate, at about 0.45 degrees Celsius per decade, since the 1980s, scientists say.

Flood damage in Yemen’s Mukalla in the southern Hadramawt province after Cyclone Shaheen hit the region and neighbouring Oman in October 2021 – AFP/File

Deserts are expanding and dust storms intensifying as the region’s rare mountain snow caps slowly diminish, impacting river systems that supply water to millions.

By the end of the century, on a business-as-usual emissions trajectory, temperatures could rise by six degrees Celsius — and by more during summertime in “super- or ultra-extreme heatwaves” — said Dutch atmospheric chemist Jos Lelieveld.

– ‘Future conflicts’ –

“It’s not just about averages, but about the extremes. It will be quite devastating,” Lelieveld of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry told AFP.

In this file photo from July 3, 2021 a giant fire rages in the Troodos mountains of Cyprus, the worst blaze on record on the Mediterranean island Georgio PAPAPETROU AFP/File

Peak temperatures in cities, so-called ‘heat islands’ that are darker than surrounding deserts, could exceed 60 degrees Celsius, he said.

“In heat waves, people die, of heat strokes and heart attacks. It’s like with corona, the vulnerable people will be suffering — the elderly, younger people, pregnant women.”

Fabius, like other speakers, warned that as farmlands turn to dust and tensions rise over shrinking resources, climate change can be “the root of future conflicts and violence”.

The region is already often torn over freshwater from the Nile, Jordan, Euphrates and Tigris river systems that all sustained ancient civilisations but have faced pressure as human populations have massively expanded.

Sachs pointed to the much-debated theory that climate change was one of the drivers behind Syria’s civil war, because a 2006-2009 record drought sent more than a million farmers into cities, heightening social stress before the uprising of 2011.

Solar panels on rooftops in Binnish in Syria’s rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, which has had no reliable state supply since Damascus pulled the plugin 2012 Omar HAJ KADOUR AFP/File

“We saw in Syria a decade ago how those dislocations of the massive drought spilt over, partially triggered and certainly exacerbated massive violence,” he said.

Some of the MENA region’s highest use of solar power is now seen in Syria’s last rebel-held area, the Idlib region, which has long been cut off from the state power grid and where photovoltaic panels have become ubiquitous.

© 2021 AFP on France24

Ditch 90% of World’s Coal and 60% of Oil and Gas

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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

Daniel Welsby, UCL; James Price, UCL, and Steve Pye, UCL

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.

Fossil fuels still provide most of the world’s energy. Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock

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.

Daniel Welsby, PhD Candidate in Energy Systems, UCL; James Price, Senior Research Associate in Energy, UCL, and Steve Pye, Associate Professor in Energy Systems, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.