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A greener Gulf is possible, and Qatar can lead the way

May 25, 2023 at 3:30 pm

View of Qatar Petroleum (QP), a state-owned corporation responsible for all phases of the oil and gas industry in Qatar on 29 December 2010 [Nadine Rupp/Getty Images]

The world stands at a crucial juncture as the dire consequences of global climate change loom ever closer. Although currently distributed unevenly across nations, its effects will eventually transcend borders, impacting our entire planet. A critical aspect of tackling this issue lies in revolutionising our energy production to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is precisely why the Gulf, a fossil fuel epicentre, has recently captured global attention.

Within the Gulf states, divergent strategic considerations driven by political and economic constraints have come into play. Yet, amidst this complex landscape, there are glimmers of hope. Leading the charge in renewable energy, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have emerged as notable actors. Meanwhile, Qatar, renowned as the region’s leading natural gas producer and exporter, possesses the potential to paint a promising future on this challenging path as it has pledged to reduce GHG emissions and carbon intensity of liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities by 25 per cent and expand electric vehicle mobility in public transport by 2030. Leveraging its advantageous position and developing financial architecture into the mix, Qatar can become a pioneering force in achieving a greener Gulf.

When tackling climate change in the Gulf region, a country-specific approach to implementing climate-friendly policies is vital. However, one common priority must take centre stage: energy diversification by transforming vast desert territories into efficient renewable energy hubs. In this regard, Qatar’s Al Kharsaah Solar Power Plant, inaugurated in 2022, is a noteworthy milestone. This facility is planned to meet 10 per cent of the country’s energy needs while preventing a staggering 26 million tons of carbon emissions throughout its lifespan. Such achievements highlight the importance of incentivising investors and policymakers in the planning stages of renewable energy projects. By ensuring that these initiatives can cover their lifecycle costs during the payback period, Qatar can unlock tremendous potential for domestic energy supply.

While Qatar’s energy market, much like its Gulf counterparts, traditionally relies on fossil fuels with formidable barriers to entry, it is equally crucial to encourage business groups to invest more in renewables. Equipping them with the necessary technical expertise, facilitating bureaucratic channels and fostering social awareness will pave the way for promising outcomes. Encouragingly, Energy Minister Saad Bin Sherida Al-Kaabi’s announcements indicate the country’s commitment to progress. Plans to construct two other solar plants boasting an 800MW national grid capacity, at Ras Laffan and Mesaieed, signal a bold step towards a greener future.

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The transition from fossil fuels to renewables poses a formidable challenge, especially for a nation like Qatar, whose economy relies heavily on the production and trade of natural gas. With a staggering 18.3 per cent of the world’s total natural gas reserves, Qatar finds itself at a crossroads. Given the importance of mitigating GHG emissions, Qatar can leverage its advantageous position to spearhead the creation of a greener environment. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledges using the natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) to reduce GHG emissions significantly. With vast natural gas reserves, Qatar holds the upper hand in transforming its energy landscape.

Innovative methods are already transforming LNG facilities, ushering in a new era of sustainable production and recycling. The North Field East Project stands as a testament to this progress. As part of this expansion endeavour, a cutting-edge carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) system will be integrated with Qatar Energy’s facility in Ras Laffan. This initiative showcases Qatar’s commitment to embracing transformative technologies and minimising its carbon footprint.

Furthermore, Qatar’s leadership extends to the realm of research and development. The Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre (QCCSRC) is a flagship initiative, bringing together renowned international research institutions to pioneer innovative CCS technologies. With a primary focus on advancing carbon storage in carbonate reservoirs, QCCSRC strives to unlock the full potential of CCS and pave the way for a sustainable future.

Embarking on the arduous road to a sustainable future requires great resolve. Qatar, a nation rooted in fossil-based economies with vast oil and natural gas production facilities, faces a challenging yet transformative path towards renewable energy adoption and carbon reduction. Given the high vulnerability of coastal areas to rising sea levels caused by climate change, the situation becomes a matter of survival due to the concentration of the population in these regions. Balancing economic considerations with sustainability goals is the key to progress. Notably, the financial aspect plays a key role, exemplified by Qatar National Bank’s successful issue of $600 million in green bonds to finance climate-friendly projects. As Qatar charts its course towards greening the Gulf, investments in renewables, the expansion of eco-friendly sectors, and the establishment of a robust financial framework will undoubtedly shape the future of this promising endeavour.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.