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Monday, March 8, 2021

Qatar avoids emission reduction pledge ahead of climate change talks

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Al Shaheen oil field
Al Shaheen oil field

Qatar, the world’s largest per-capita greenhouse gas emitter, is not making any promises to reduce emissions ahead of next month’s international climate change conference in Paris.

World leaders will be discussing how to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2C. In preparation, countries were asked to submit reports formally known as intended nationally determined contributions to explain what actions they’re taking.

In its report to the UN – submitted Friday, some seven weeks after the deadline – Qatar does not say how much carbon it emits or set any specific environmental goals for itself.

As a developing country, Qatar is not legally bound to reduce its emissions. Nevertheless, France’s ambassador to Qatar, Eric Chevallier, said in May that the conference host was “looking for an ambitious contribution from all countries,” the Gulf Times quoted him as saying.

In a recent academic paper, researchers predicted Doha and several other Gulf cities could become too hot for human survival during the summer if climate change forecasts prove accurate.

Doha Skyline
Doha Skyline

Qatar concedes that the country is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels could flood 18.2 percent of the country’s land area while wiping out species of whales, sea turtles and dolphins, the state says in its report.

At the same time, the country’s economy is dependent on exporting oil and gas. Efforts by other countries to fight climate change by reducing the use of fossil fuels could hurt Qatar residents’ quality of life, the Ministry of Environment said.

Qatar is responsible for less than 0.25 percent of the world’s overall carbon dioxide emissions, according to previously published government data.

Some argue that the country’s small population makes per-capita carbon emission rankings misleading. However, critics still use the dubious distinction – as well as Doha playing host to climate change talks in 2012 – to argue that Qatar should do more to reduce emissions.

Fighting climate change

Oman is the only GCC country to quantify its emissions and set a target. It expects its output of greenhouse gas emissions to keep rising over the next 15 years, but has pledged to implement several measures such as increasing the use of renewable energy so that its increase in emissions will be 2 percent lower than it would be without any action.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia is promising to “avoid” emitting the equivalent of 130 million tons of carbon dioxide between now and 2030 but does not quantify its overall current or projected emissions.

Meanwhile, the UAE’s only goal is a repeated pledge to generate 24 percent of its energy from nuclear and renewable sources by 2021. Neither Bahrain or Kuwait have filed reports.

For illustrative purposes only.
For illustrative purposes only.

For its part, Qatar says it is indirectly contributing to global efforts to mitigate climate change by exporting liquefied natural gas as a clean energy. It also said it was promoting energy efficiency within Qatar, but that its efforts were held back by “the existing capacity and technology,” without elaborating.

Figures released last year by Qatar General Electricity and Water Co. (Kahramaa) showed power demand had increased by 12 percent, suggesting that ambitious plans to cut energy use in Qatar were falling short.

More recently, the utility quietly increased electricity rates without explanation, a move that’s prompted several local malls to explore ways of reducing power consumption to save money.

Qatar also noted in its report that it is attempting to increase its use of clean energy and renewable sources such as solar and wind.

The government has previously set a goal to produce 200MW of solar energy – enough to power 66,000 homes – by 2020, and has announced plans to construct a pilot facility in Duhail.

Those goals were not mentioned in Qatar’s UN report, which said the country’s harsh environment and weather conditions presented challenges to increasing the amount of solar power generated in Qatar and called on other countries to give it more advanced technology.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Also not mentioned in the report were efforts by both RasGas and Qatar Gas to reduce flaring. In what was billed as the biggest project of its kind, Qatar Gas inaugurated a massive project in April to recover the gas flared during liquefied natural gas loading at Ras Laffan Port.

That initiative alone was estimated to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or roughly 1.9 percent of the country’s 2011 emissions.

Other efforts to fight climate change highlighted by Qatar in its UN report include introducing public transit and attempts to diversify the economy away from oil and gas through spending on education and marketing Qatar as a tourist destination.

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