The ever-growing need to counter climate change has led nations to reflect upon their activities and make necessary reforms. Temperatures in the last ten years have reached record highs. As a result of the rise, we have noted disasters such as wildfires, cyclones, floods, and drought, across various parts of the world. This phenomenon calls for significant reforms; the reforms in question can be either policy-based or physical. Where does this leave our region?
MENA is notably one of the hottest regions due to its location being close to the equator. Being near the equator gives the region a driving seat position to utilize its natural resources to counter climate change. Most of the MENA region depends on natural gas as its primary energy source. In 2020, Saudi Arabia recorded the highest emission, around 194.5 million tons of CO2e from its electricity generation alone. The energy sector in the MENA region has an untapped potential for transitioning from fossil-based fuels to renewable sources. Located near the equator ensures a tremendous amount of solar resources throughout the year, which can be utilized for energy generation purposes. Adnan Amin, the former director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency and senior adviser to Sultan Al-Jaber, the UAE’s special envoy for climate change, told the Arab Times in an interview that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the potential to be “trailblazers in renewable energy” as the devastating effects of climate change become more apparent. He added that UAE is on the path to becoming the producer of “the lowest carbon intensity oil in the world.” The claims are further backed by the UAE government’s various initiatives toward transitioning to a sustainable energy source for its energy needs.
The UAE has the lowest-cost solar energy and one of the largest solar plants in the world, and aims to triple or quadruple its solar energy capacity by 2025. Furthermore, the country is on the verge of completing the world’s largest waste-to-energy plant. The project led by Dubai Waste Management Center will feed approximately 215MWh of clean energy, enough to power roughly 135,000 households annually. This project led by the DWMC contributes to Dubai Municipality’s objective of reducing and completely diverting waste from landfills by 2030. The world’s most efficient energy project will convert 45 percent of the emirate’s municipal waste into renewable energy once complete.
As of April 2022, three Middle Eastern countries, namely UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, have pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 for UAE and 2060 from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Furthermore, on the 14th of September 2022, the UAE submitted its updated second NDCs to achieve targets set by the Paris Agreement. The new NDCs aim to reduce emissions by 31% by 2030 and plans to focus its resources on five priority sectors- electricity, transport, industry, waste management, and CCUS. The energy sector is projected to be the highest contributor to the target at 66.4%. To achieve this target, transitioning towards green energy sources such as solar, wind, and nuclear, along with others, is essential.
To achieve the optimistic yet achievable target of net-zero carbon efficiently, countries must start by decarbonizing their energy sectors. And being in the MENA region provides us a solid base to work with when tapping renewable energy sources.