Data recently released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has shown that Saudi Arabia lowered its emissions by 15 million tons (Mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) or by 2.7 percent in 2018, giving it the fourth-fastest fall in emissions in the G20 group of countries behind Mexico, Germany and France. This is significant as it is Saudi Arabia’s first large policy-induced reduction in CO2 emissions.
The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) released an analysis of the data at the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP25, held last week in Madrid.
Dr. Nicholas Howarth, a co-author of the report, said that 74 percent of the fall was attributable to improving energy intensity and 26 percent due to a fall in the carbon intensity of the economy as the Kingdom lowered its domestic consumption of oil.
“Energy efficiency and structural reform policies are combining to lower the Kingdom’s energy intensity, lifting energy productivity. This has been the most significant driver of lower CO2 emissions in the Kingdom,” he said.
Thamir Al-Shehri, another author of the analysis, said that in 2018, Saudi Arabia’s emissions were stable or falling in all energy-consuming sectors of the economy, with transport delivering the majority of the reductions, falling by 13.25 MtCO2 or 11 percent compared with the year before. The share of natural gas in the fuel mix, which is 25 percent less carbon-intensive than oil, has also risen from 32 percent in 2015 to 38 percent in 2018.
“Energy price reforms and stronger energy efficiency standards have combined to stabilize and lower the Kingdom’s historically fast emissions growth in the last three years. What we see in the data is the first signs of the energy transition toward more sustainable use in action,” Al-Shehri said.
Co-author Dr. Alessandro Lanza said the amount of crude oil burned to produce electricity has fallen by around 10 percent each year for the last three years, diesel consumption fell by 15 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018, and total oil products consumed fell by 7 percent in 2018.
“This has the dual benefit of freeing up valuable oil for higher value uses in petrochemicals and export, in addition to lowering the Kingdom’s CO2 emissions,” Dr. Lanza said. “It also shows how climate policies can be aligned with supporting economic growth and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals.”