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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Qatar misses UN’s deadline to report update on carbon footprint

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Al Shaheen oil field
Al Shaheen oil field

All GCC countries including Qatar have failed to submit reports to the United Nations quantifying their greenhouse gas emissions and how they plan to reduce them.

The deadline to share the data was Oct. 1 deadline, according to UN records.

Qatar is one of the highest per-capita emitters of greenhouse gases in the world because of its massive energy sector and relatively small population.

Flag-raising ceremony at COP18 in 2012.
Flag-raising ceremony at COP18 in 2012.

However, it is responsible for less than 0.25 percent of the world’s overall carbon dioxide emissions, according to government data published in late 2013.

As a developing country, Qatar is not legally bound to reduce its emissions, but “is making voluntary efforts and plans to contain national greenhouse gas emissions,” then-environment minister Abdulla Mubarak Al-Moadhadi wrote to the UN in 2011.

But the same document stated that Qatar would only pursue initiatives that “do not constitute a disadvantage or hindrance” to economic growth and that “greenhouse gas (emissions) from Qatar will, most likely, continue to increase in the foreseeable future.”

Doha hosted the UN’s climate change talks in 2012, known as COP18, but three years later is among the stragglers who have not provided the up-to-date data requested by officials ahead of this year’s conference, scheduled to be held in December in Paris.

Double jeopardy

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged the holdouts to file their emissions data quickly.

“I invite all countries who have not yet submitted their contribution, notably the large-scale contributors, to do so as soon as possible to contribute to an ambitious and fully successful Paris climate conference,” he said in a statement, according to AFP.

Delegates at this year’s forum in France will attempt to forge a new global pact to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to a level that would prevent the earth’s temperature from rising more than 2C – the internationally agreed upon threshold for preventing the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

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

Qatar argued in its 2011 submission that as an energy producer, climate change “presents a double jeopardy” for the nation.

An increase in temperatures and reduction in rainfall would further stress the desert country’s environment, but Qatar would conversely face extreme financial hardships if the world suddenly stopped buying and burning its fossil fuels:

“On one hand, like other developing countries with minimal adaptive capacity, Qatar is vulnerable to the physical impact of climate change on its ecology and human systems and resources.

On the other hand, due to its total dependence on the export of carbon based resources, there is an uncertainty and concerns from the potentially negative economic impact of implementation of carbon-reduction policies, by consumer countries.”

Qatar’s emissions

The World Bank estimates that Qatar emitted 83.88 million tonnes of carbon in 2011, up from 75.28 million the year before.

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

By comparison, Saudi Arabia emitted 520.28 million tonnes in 2011 while the world’s largest polluter, China, emitted 9.02 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to the same data set.

Qatar’s energy sector is responsible for more than 90 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the government.

Together with the country’s largest oil and gas firms, the government has targeted flaring – a widespread practice in the energy industry of burning natural gas that cannot be recovered or processed – as a way of reducing Qatar’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Flaring accounts for 12 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted by Qatar’s energy industry, according to RasGas.

Efforts

Both RasGas and Qatar Gas have spent millions of dollars in recent years 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.

Photo for illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only

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.

Qatar is also funding research into carbon capture and storage technology that would prevent emissions from reaching the atmosphere. The country is home to both the Doha Carbon and Energy Forum as well as the Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre.

But despite the country’s efforts, some local observers have argued that Qatar needs to conduct more detailed research into the sources of its emissions.

Alex Amato, the head of sustainability at the Qatar Green Building Council, previously wrote:

“You can’t manage if you don’t measure. The reason for carrying out (a rigorous analysis of the nation’s CO2 consumption footprint include identifying) areas of the economy that are the CO2 ‘hotspots’ that require suitable attention to effect reductions…

For example, just what is the carbon footprint of all the food that is flown into Qatar? What is the CO2 footprint of all the construction materials that will go into Qatar’s rapidly expanding infrastructure programme? Will these be the real ‘hotspots’ when the CO2 footprint of exported oil and gas production is stripped out of the national calculation? At present we just don’t know.”

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