How GCC countries can meet the carbon-reduction challenge

How GCC countries can meet the carbon-reduction challenge
A Saudi man speaks to a journalist at a solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. (AFP)
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Updated 28 July 2020

How GCC countries can meet the carbon-reduction challenge

How GCC countries can meet the carbon-reduction challenge
  • Experts say transition to eco-friendly tech will be in the long-term interest of GCC oil producers
  • R & D spending in the regional energy sector is said to be nowhere near where it needs to be

DUBAI: For some time now, energy experts have been calling attention to the urgent need for oil-producing Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to enable a circular carbon economy and move to a cleaner, technology-driven future.

In a sign of the shifting strategic priorities of the bloc’s biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia was the host this year of the international Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) conference.

Speakers at the Riyadh conference laid out the case for a step-by-step transition to less carbon-intensive and more environmentally friendly technologies in the Kingdom’s long-term national interest.

“Global climate objectives are dictating much of the technological shifts in the energy sector, and the momentum behind sectors like solar, wind or battery storage is immense,” said Dario Traum, head of EMEA Energy Transition at BloombergNEF.

“To be modern, diversified and competitive, Saudi Arabia’s economy needs to adopt these new technologies wholeheartedly.

“Saudi Arabia has set extremely ambitious (goals) for the transformation of the country, and these will be best served if it fully acknowledges the shifting economics and technology of the energy sector.”

FASTFACTS

Circular Carbon Economy

* Circular economy is a system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources.

* Inspired by how nature works, circular carbon economy is a closed-loop system where carbon emissions are reduced, reused, recycled and removed.

* Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) can capture up to 90% of CO2 emissions from electricity generation and industrial processes.

* CCUS process involves capturing, transporting and securely storing CO2 emissions underground in depleted oil and gas fields or deep, saline aquifer formations.

* Use of CCUS with renewable biomass is one of the few carbon-abatement technologies successful in taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

The speakers said a transformation of the energy sector is bound to generate new growth opportunities while delivering a cleaner environment for the population to live in.

“Saudi Arabia, as a society and an economy, is going through a rapid transition,” said Antoine Vagneur-Jones, MENA lead analyst at BloombergNEF.

“A lot of the focus has been put on diversification to reduce the weight of the oil sector and attract more international investors into the country,” he added.

“Accelerating clean energy investments will have to be matched by measures similar to those needed in the other sectors the Saudi government is looking to grow.”

Vagneur-Jones said for a start, the electricity-generation sector has to be opened fully for independent power producers.

According to him, there are few, if any, examples of rapidly growing clean energy markets without this condition being met.

“Auctions are a great way to attract international investors,” he told Arab News. “Saudi Arabia’s tenders have been slow to deliver results and have focused on contracting very large projects. This approach fails to provide the frequency and transparency needed to support the development of a vibrant clean energy industry.”

Some other routes through which the Kingdom could nurture a clean energy boom, according to Vagneur-Jones, are energy price reforms to facilitate the adoption of rooftop solar panels, and regulatory changes to create a demand for clean energy power-purchase agreements.

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Speaking in the same vein, Traum said: “The main way in which the world is currently reducing emissions is through energy efficiency, and through the substitution of the most polluting forms of energy with some that emit less or no emissions, for example through the switch from coal to gas, gas to renewables, and combustion engines to electric ones in cars.”

He added: “These changes will deliver the vast majority of the emissions reductions needed to meet global climate objectives.”

Nevertheless, there will remain a number of “hard to abate” sectors in which switching to clean electricity may prove difficult, Traum cautioned.

Citing heavy industries such as steel manufacturing and cement production as examples, he said new solutions such as clean hydrogen and the capturing and storing of carbon may become necessary for decarbonization.

Balancing the costs and benefits will prove equally daunting. Developing CCUS will require substantial investments from the industries concerned and governments to scale up solutions so they become economically viable.

While there are signs of activity resuming in some markets, research and development spending in the energy sector is said to be nowhere near where it needs to be for CCUS to play a central role in the near to medium term.

Experts say sweeping reforms and transitions are difficult for every country, especially when the sectors most in need of overhaul are central to the economic DNA of a country, as is the case with oil in Saudi Arabia.

“Clean energy today is a global success story that is increasingly driven by the competitiveness of the sector,” Traum said.

“Solar and wind are the cheapest forms of new clean energy generation in virtually all of the world.”

In the context of the Kingdom, Traum, said: “The authorities have historically let the population benefit from the energy riches of the country through a variety of fiscal transfers, including heavily subsidized retail energy prices.”

While this has delivered historic socioeconomic benefits, today it distorts the economics of energy technologies, and thus is a barrier to the rapid adoption of renewables and the government’s plan to diversify the economy, he added.

Traum said the historical importance of the oil sector does not mean Saudi Arabia cannot reinvent itself as one of the largest clean energy markets globally within a year or two from now.

“Scheduling regular auctions, with a pre-agreed volume, and transparency in the bidding process has shown to create rapid investment booms in dozens of countries around the world, with Kazakhstan, Mexico and India being notable examples,” he added.

“There is no reason that an economy the size of Saudi Arabia’s, with its remarkable solar resources, (cannot) join these frontrunner markets.”

Elsewhere in the GCC region, there is tangible evidence that energy transition is happening, especially in Dubai, according to Faisal Rashid, director of demand-side management at the emirate’s Supreme Council of Energy.

“There are disruptive technologies that enable us to make our energy infrastructure more smart,” he said, citing a slew of examples: Energy storage, net-zero-energy buildings, vehicle electrification, smart grid and metering, digitalization of energy systems, and integrated water-optimization strategies.

Elaborating on the topic, Rashid added: “If we speak about both supply and demand, energy efficiency and solar adaptation in our region, there is good potential for drastic improvement, (especially) due to the very high per capita energy intensity. Renewable energy storage and more efficient cooling are also key opportunities.”

Over the past decade, renewables are said to have lived up to their potential, with capacity growth worldwide having exceeded fossil fuel volumes.

“We can save up to 30 percent on average by using proven technologies and known measures,” Rashid told Arab News.

“Green mobility by increasing electric vehicles and hybrids are also viable and being pursued in Dubai, aiming to reduce fossil fuel usage with 2030 as the horizon and improve air quality.”

Dr. Najib Dandachi, CEO of UAE-based consultancy Al-Usul, said transportation and electricity production are responsible for a little more than 50 percent of emissions, and the GCC is no exception.

“In fact, the situation may be exacerbated by water desalination and the limited existence of public transport in most of the countries of the region,” he told Arab News.

“However, most GCC countries have embarked on truly aggressive clean energy programs that will rapidly displace fossil-fuel, thermal-power generation.”

Dandachi considers Saudi Arabia the most ambitious country in this regard, pointing out that it recently upgraded its plans with the aim to generate about 27 gigawatts of clean energy by 2024.

“All agencies must cooperate and coordinate to maximize the chances of achieving those targets in a relatively very short time,” he said.

“Additionally, there are serious efforts spearheaded by the UAE to develop renewables-based water-desalination plants, the objective being to reduce its carbon footprint as much as technically feasible.”

Under the circumstances, increased cooperation and alliances with experienced consultants, suppliers and advisors, who understand the particular nature of the business environment, will be of the essence, Dandachi said.

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@CalineMalek

Decoder

Circular Carbon Economy

Circular economy is a system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. Inspired by how nature works, it is a closed-loop system where carbon emissions are reduced, reused, recycled and removed.


Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program
Updated 24 min 47 sec ago

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program

Dubai expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccination program
  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can also now be administered to all individuals 16 years and above
  • Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can now be injected to anyone aged 18 and above

DUBAI: Dubai has expanded the coverage of its COVID-19 vaccination program, with residents aged 40 and above holding valid resident visas now allowed to register and receive jabs at any of the emirate’s inoculation facilities.

Dubai’s health authority likewise said that elderly individuals aged 60 and above with a valid resident visa issued in any emirate can register for the vaccine, provided they can prove they are residing in Dubai, according to state news agency WAM.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can also now be administered to all individuals 16 years and above, instead of 18 years, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can now be injected to anyone aged 18 and above, instead of those between 18-65 years.

Gulf nationals with a valid Emirates ID can also now get vaccinated at Dubai health facilities, the report added.

The UAE, which leads the world on COVID-19 vaccinations, has embarked on a widescale campaign to inoculation to achieve mass immunity and will help reduce the number of cases and control the spread of coronavirus.

About 66,539 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered overnight, bring the total doses at 6,094,956 with a rate of vaccine distribution of 61.62 doses per 100 people.

Health officials meanwhile confirmed 2,721 new infections overnight, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 396,771.


Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French prosecutors

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French  prosecutors
In this file photo taken on May 22, 2017, smoke rises from buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa. (AFP)
Updated 03 March 2021

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French prosecutors

Syrian victims of chemical strikes file case with French  prosecutors
  • People in Khartoum watch a movie at the Sudanese European Film Festival at an outdoor cinema for visitors adhering to COVID-19 restrictions. (AFP)

PARIS: Lawyers representing survivors of a chemical weapons attack in 2013 in Syria have filed a criminal complaint against Syrian officials whom they blame for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in a rebel-held area.
France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world.
The case, which about a dozen people have joined, follows a similar one opened in Germany last year. It offers a rare legal avenue for action against the government of President Bashar Assad.
Attempts by Western powers to set up an international tribunal for Syria have been blocked by Russia and China at the UN Security Council.
“This is important so that the victims have the possibility to see those responsible being brought to justice and held accountable,” Mazen Darwish, who heads the Paris-based Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), said.
The SCM filed the complaint along with two other NGOs: the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative and Syrian Archive.

BACKGROUND

France is home to thousands of Syrian refugees, and its investigating judges have a mandate to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed anywhere in the world.

France’s intelligence services concluded in 2013 that a sarin gas attack on the Eastern Ghouta region just south east of Damascus that killed 1,400 people had been carried out by Syrian government forces.
The complaint is based on what the lawyers say is the most comprehensive body of evidence on the use of substances such as sarin gas in Syria.
“We have compiled extensive evidence establishing exactly who is responsible for these attacks on Douma and Eastern Ghouta, whose horrific effects continue to impact survivors,” said Hadi Al-Khatib, founder and director of Syrian Archive.
A UN-commissioned investigation to identify those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria concluded in 2016 that Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin gas.
Darwish said he expected another case to be opened in Sweden in the coming months.


Sahara tension: Moroccan row deepens with Germany

Sahara tension: Moroccan row deepens with Germany
Soldiers of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SARD) parade during celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of the creation of the SARD Saturday, Feb.27 2021 near Tindouf, southern Algeria. (AP)
Updated 03 March 2021

Sahara tension: Moroccan row deepens with Germany

Sahara tension: Moroccan row deepens with Germany
  • A senior Moroccan government official confirmed on Tuesday that the letter was authentic, but said it was not meant to be made public

RABAT: Morocco’s Foreign Ministry has suspended ties with the German Embassy because of “deep misunderstandings,” notably related to the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco is angered by German criticism of former US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for moves by Rabat to normalize its relations with Israel.
A letter leaked online from Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita to the rest of the government orders officials to suspend “all contact, interaction and cooperation” with the German Embassy and embassy-related activities.
A senior Moroccan government official confirmed on Tuesday that the letter was authentic, but said it was not meant to be made public.
The official also noted the appearance of a flag of the pro-independence Polisario Front outside the state assembly in the northern German city of Bremen. Germany’s Foreign Ministry said it was aware of media reports about the letter.
The Algeria-backed Polisario Front fought for independence for Western Sahara after Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975. UN peacekeepers now monitor a 30-year-old cease-fire between Moroccan forces and Polisario supporters.
The UN has expressed concern that Trump’s decision could thwart negotiation efforts in the long-running Western Sahara conflict.


Iraq starts vaccinations with jabs gifted from China

Iraq starts vaccinations with jabs gifted from China
Iraqis get vaccinated against Covid-19 with Chinese Sinopharm vaccine at a private nursing home in Baghdad on March 2, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 03 March 2021

Iraq starts vaccinations with jabs gifted from China

Iraq starts vaccinations with jabs gifted from China
  • The public health infrastructure in Iraq, a country of 40 million, has been severely worn down by decades of war, under-investment and corruption

BAGHDAD: Iraq began coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday, inoculating medical staff hours after a military plane brought in 50,000 Sinopharm jabs donated by China.
The campaign was launched as Iraq battles a second wave of COVID-19 infections, with more than 4,600 new cases a day, and ahead of a three-day visit by Pope Francis from Friday.
“The vaccines arrived overnight and we immediately distributed them to health centers and began the vaccinations,” Health Minister Hassan Al-Tamimi said at Baghdad’s Medical City hospital compound.
“We will be carrying out more vaccinations tomorrow in the provinces and remote areas.”
Aside from health workers, security forces and the elderly will be first to receive the free-of-charge vaccine, his ministry said on a citizens’ registration platform which, however, was not functional.
The public health infrastructure in Iraq, a country of 40 million, has been severely worn down by decades of war, under-investment and corruption.
The Health Ministry has said it agreed with the Chinese ambassador in Baghdad to purchase another 2 million Sinopharm doses, but provided no details on the cost or the timing. Iraqi authorities said in January they had approved three vaccines for use, but there have been repeated delays and contradictory statements from health authorities.
The ministry said it was expecting to receive a total of 16 million jabs through the global Covax scheme, through which wealthy nations are meant to allocate vaccines for poorer countries.

SPEEDREAD

The ministry said it was expecting to receive a total of 16 million jabs through the global Covax scheme, through which wealthy nations are meant to allocate vaccines for poorer countries.

That figure appeared to be based on Covax’s pledge that, subject to funding, it could help poorer countries vaccinate 20 percent of their populations — or 8 million people in Iraq.
The ministry has also said it would receive 3 million AstraZeneca jabs, but the World Health Organization has only approved the distribution of 2 million of those doses to Iraq through Covax.
The ministry also says it has secured funding from the World Bank for 1.5 million jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech, but the deal requires a parliamentary vote which has yet to be held.
Sinopharm affiliate the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products says its vaccine has an efficacy rate of 72.51 percent, behind rival jabs by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which have 95 percent and 94.5 percent rates respectively.


Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest Rafik Hariri’s killer

Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest Rafik Hariri’s killer
Updated 52 min 7 sec ago

Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest Rafik Hariri’s killer

Hezbollah gunmen fight off bid to arrest Rafik Hariri’s killer

BEIRUT: Gunfire broke out in south Beirut on Tuesday night when Hezbollah fought off an apparent attempt by Lebanese security forces to arrest the man convicted of assassinating former prime minister Rafik a.

Information circulating on social media said officers tried to raid a house thought to be the hideout of Salim Ayyash, 57, who is wanted by the Lebanese state at the request of the International Tribunal for Lebanon. Hezbollah fighters opened fire, surrounded the security patrol, and detained its members and their vehicles.

Amateur video footage on social media shows shots being fired and a Hezbollah fighter shouting: “Attack them and disarm them.”

An activist close to Hezbollah told Arab News: “The security patrol wanted to arrest wanted suspects accused of a crime, it is not true that there was a clash with Hezbollah."

Rafik Hariri died in a suicide bombing of his car in Beirut in February 2005. The Special Tribunal tried Ayyash in his absence, and sentenced him to life imprisonment in August 2020 for conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Hezbollah has said it will never hand him over.

Desert Storm: 30 years on
The end of the Gulf War on Feb. 28, 1991 saw the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait but paved the way for decades of conflict
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