About Eaman Abdullah Aman

Eaman Abdullah Aman is MRLS graduate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy with a specialization certificate in Energy Law and Policy from Denver University, USA. Her expertise encompasses international petroleum transactions, petroleum contracts and agreements, international petroleum investment operations, energy policy and economics of natural resources law and policy. She has rich knowledge on issues related to climate change mitigation, environmental law and policy, environmental ethics, energy security, sustainable development etc.

Saudi Arabia’s Road to Fuel Economy

Saudi Arabia is a private car-oriented society, and has one of the world’s highest per capita fuel consumption in the transportation sector. This is primarily due to lack of efficient public transportation and current fuel subsidy policy. The country is witnessing an escalating demand on its domestic energy needs and it is imperative on policymakers to devise policies for conservation of energy resources and reduction of GHGs emissions in the transportation sector. Adapting energy-efficient fuel standards will help Saudi Arabia country to bridge the gap with the developed countries. The enforcement mechanism for the establishment of Saudi fuel economy standards will lead to achievement of strategic energy conservation objectives.

Energy intensity in Saudi Arabia has set high records reflecting the growth of the economy and the increasing demand on fossil energy in the domestic use and heavy industries operations. Energy intensity in the Kingdom was twice the world average in 2010 and with unbalanced growth between energy use and economy, this should rang the bell for the Saudi government to adapt a bundle of energy policies that curtail the increasing growth of energy demand domestically.

CAFE Standards

Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standard (CAFE) was first enacted after the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 in the USA. That policy was due to energy security concerns and environmental objectives. The USA current standard is 27.5 mpg for passenger’s vehicle and 20.7mpg for light trucks. Similarly to the USA CAFE objectives, the Kingdom approach is to reduce gasoline consumption and induce conservation and increasing efficiency of the light-duty vehicles (LDV).The proposed standard mandates require that all new and used passenger vehicles and light trucks either imported or locally manufacture should comply with new fuel standards. The framework for this law to be effective will start by January 1, 2016 and fully phased out by December 31, 2025. The Saudi Energy Efficiency Center (SEEC) and other entities including the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization, Saudi Customs, and Ministry of Commerce and Industry have been asked to monitor the implementation of the CAFE standards.

The purpose of the fuel standards is to commit the light-duty vehicle manufactures sell their cars in the kingdom and comply with the Saudi CAFE. This standard has a double dividends from the automobile manufacturer side its incentivize them to introduce the up-to-date efficiency technologies and cut the supply the low-efficient technologies to the Saudi market. The Saudi CAFE standard targets an improving in the overall fuel economy with an average of 4% annually. This would lift up the Kingdom’s fuel economy LDVs from its current level of 12 km per liter to 19 km per liter by 2025.

The Saudi CAFE standard shows a focused strategy to setting long-term standards over the course of a given time frame and its committed efforts to manage both newly imported or used LDVs. According to Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud, the Saudi transportation sector consumes about 23 percent of the total energy in the kingdom and about 12 million vehicles consume about 811,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel per day. Moreover, there are 7 LDVs entering the market every year with a forecast to reach 20 million by 2030.


Saudi Arabia’s CAFE standard is a means to stimulate energy efficiency and encourage resource conservation and contribute to the environment. This will enable consumers to save money, reduce fossil fuel consumption and strengthen the Kingdom’s role in the fight against climate change.

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Carbon Capture and Storage: Prospects in GCC

Gulf Cooperation Council countries are burgeoning economies which are highly dependent on hydrocarbons to fuel their needs for economic growth. GCC nations are fully aware of the mounting consequences of increasing levels of CO­2 on the environment, mainly attributed to soaring energy demand of domestic and industrial sector. Regional countries are undertaking concrete steps and measures to reduce their carbon footprint through the introduction of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Among other options, Carbon Capture and Storage, popularly known as CCS, can be an attractive proposition for GCC nations.

What is CCS

Carbon capture and storage (or carbon capture and sequestration) is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere, normally an underground geological formation. CCS is a potential means of mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming and ocean acidification. As at September 2012, the Global CCS Institute identified 75 large-scale integrated projects in its 2012 Global Status of CCS report. 16 of these projects are in operation or in construction capturing around 36 million tonnes of CO2 per annum.

Among notable CCS projects world, In Salah project in Algeria is a fully operational onshore gas field with CO2 injection. CO2 is separated from produced gas and reinjected in the producing hydrocarbon reservoir zones. Since 2004, about 1 Mt/a of CO2 has been captured during natural gas extraction and injected into the Krechba geologic formation at a depth of 1,800m. The Krechba formation is expected to store 17Mt CO2 over the life of the project.

CCS Prospects in GCC

GCC accounts for 0.6% of the global population but ironically contributes 2.4% of the global GHG emissions per capita.  GCC countries are among the top-14 per capita emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. The GCC region is witnessing rapid economic growth and massive industrialization which has led to almost 8% growth in power consumption each year. The region is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons combustion for power generation and operation of energy-intensive industries.

There is an urgent need for carbon abatement measures for the industrial sector in Middle East nations as increasing carbon dioxide emissions will have serious repercussions for GCC and adjoining regions. Some of the potential impacts can be rise in sea level, droughts, heat waves, sandstorms, damage to ecosystem, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity. Carbon dioxide emissions reductions can be achieved from point sources such as refineries, power plants, manufacturing industries etc.

At the regional level, GCC nations have both the drivers and environmental gains to adopt the CCS technologies. Some of the GCC countries are already engaged in R&D initiatives, for example, Saudi Arabia has KACST- Technology Innovation Center on Carbon Capture and Sequestration while Saudi Aramco have their own CCS R&D program for CCS. In Qatar there is the Qatar Carbonate and Carbon Storage Research Center while Bahrain has Sitra Carbon Capture System. Recently, Masdar and ADNOC launched Middle East first Joint Venture for carbon capture usage and storage. On a multilateral level, back to 2007, King Abdullah pledged $300 million to finance a research program on the future of energy, environment and climate change. In addition, a sum of $150 million from Qatar, Kuwait and UAE has been allocated to support CCS research.

To sum up, CCS is a viable option to help GCC countries maintain their hydrocarbons-driven economies while enabling low-carbon electricity generation from existing hydrocarbons powerplants.

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Energy Efficiency Perspectives for MENA

MENA countries are facing an increasing challenge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. In case of business-as-usual scenario, GHGs emissions from the energy sector will continue to rise throughout the region. According to a recent report by International Energy Agency (IEA), energy intensity demand in MENA is mainly driven by population and economic growth and reliance of heavy industries on generous energy subsidy. It is projected that primary energy demand in the region will be doubled by 2030 and the region’s share in global oil production will increase from 35% now to 44% in 2030. MENA countries together have 840 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves (57% of world’s oil) and 80 trillion cubic meters of proven gas reserves (41% of world’s natural gas). Population growth and economic expansion have increased energy demand significantly over the past decade; between 2000 and 2011, domestic consumption almost doubled in Oman and tripled in Qatar. 

Growth in energy demand is driven across the end-use sectors: in the residential sector through increased use of air conditioning and cooling units; in the transportation sector through rising vehicle ownership; and in the industrial sector from greater industrial activity, hydrocarbon production and refining, and energy-intensive desalination plants. One of the central reasons for increased GHG emissions from MENA energy sector is the low efficiency of energy resource consumption. The energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) is very high which drives up atmospheric GHG emissions. However it is important to highlight the difference among MENA countries regarding carbon intensity levels where GCC nations are rank higher compared to energy-importing MENA nations like Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon etc. All these facts stress the urgent need to increase energy efficiency in order to precipitate decline in energy intensity and thus reduce GHG emissions.

There is a wide array of measures on both supply side and demand side, to boost MENA energy efficiency levels by promoting stringent environmental, energy saving policies to combat climate change.  Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region. A robust regulatory and institutionalized framework can help to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions through a bundle of non-market based and market-based instruments.

Also known as command and control instruments (CAC), these regulations focus on preventing environmental externalities which is achieved through auditing and monitoring/inspection program and performance-oriented regulations to limit air pollutants. Here are some examples of command and control instruments:

  • Awareness and information campaigns
  • Labeling & training programs to engage end-users to reduce their emissions voluntarily.
  • Information-based programs to spread awareness and encourage efficient consumption patterns.
  • Establishing minimum energy performance standards for appliances, equipment and vehicles as a complement to labelling methods.
  • Building codes and insulation to save the energy loss.
  • Smart reductions such as smart meters, energy audit, energy saving plans etc.
  • Phasing out of inefficient lighting like incandescent bulbs and CFLs.

Market-based instruments are defined as a policy instrument that use market, price to provide incentives for polluters to reduce or eliminate their emissions (negative environmental externality). Building regional cap, carbon trading platform and grants/rebates/tax exemption/rewards to encourage efficiency measures are good examples of market-based incentive program that may be implemented in the Middle East.


On account of its huge fossil fuel reserves, MENA has a great role to play in the international efforts towards green economy and sustainable development. Recently, the GCC has embarked on ambitious policies and projects across different sectors which may, explicitly or implicitly, mitigate impacts of GHG on their economies and development priorities. 

Adoption of energy efficiency-based energy policies in commercial, industrial and domestic sectors is integral to climate change mitigation in the MENA region. It is imperative on MENA governments to create an environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation for all kinds of energy users. The Middle East electricity market is growing at a rapid pace due to higher consumption rates in the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors which underlines the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.

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Connected Vehicles – Enabling Green Transport

Connected vehicles technology is a wireless-based technology which enables vehicles (light as well as heavy) to instantly communicate with each other, through an onboard installed device that receives warning signals ahead of time about road closures, pile-ups and other potential hazards related to weather conditions. Connected vehicle aims to enable safe, inter-operable networked wireless communications among vehicles, the infrastructure, and passengers’ personal communications devices.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) defines this revolutionary technology as achieving “cleaner air through smarter transportation.” DOT, in coordination with major automakers and other public and private sector innovators, has been working to advance vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications technology to help prevent traffic crashes before they happen. 

The network captures real-time data from equipment located on-board vehicles (automobiles, trucks, and buses) and within the infrastructure. The data are transmitted wirelessly and are used by transportation managers in a wide range of dynamic, multi-modal applications to manage the transportation system for optimum performance.

Multiple Advantages

An important role of this system is to mitigate environmental impacts of using roads and highways as it generate as well as capture environmentally relevant real-time transportation data and use this data to create actionable information to support and facilitate "green" transportation choices. The system focuses on improving air quality, reducing GHG emissions and decreasing fuel consumption. Connected vehicles technology is a good tool to mitigate climate change and achieve emissions reduction targets.

Through connected vehicles, drivers will have advance information about traffic congestion etc which will enable people to reschedule, postpone, cancel or carpool their trip. Informed travelers may decide to avoid congested routes, take alternate routes, public transit, or reschedule their trip — all of which can make their trip more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly.

People can also shift to public transportation which will result in fewer GHG emissions caused by significant reduction in fuel consumption and less traffic congestion thus enhancing the air quality. The traffic agency can also introduce a fine “pricing policy” in heavy traffic areas. Connected vehicles technologies promote eco-driving by advising drivers to minimize fuel consumption or directly control engine brakes without requiring the driver’s intervention.

Potential in the Middle East

Connected vehicles have the potential to solve transportation woes and ease traffic mobility in major Middle East cities like Jeddah, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai which are plagued by heavy traffic volumes. Moreover, deployment of this technology will enable people to take a real-time situation decision and maintain sustainable traffic practices. In addition, connected vehicles will be a handy and efficient tool to mitigate environmental impacts of the rapidly growing transport sector. Moreover, connected vehicles, ranging from cars to trucks can relay important safety and mobility information to one another which may help in saving lives, preventing injuries and easing traffic congestion.

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Smart Grid – Key to Managing Energy Demand in Saudi Arabia

Electricity consumption in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been climbing steadily for the past few decades. Saudi electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. Current domestic energy consuming behaviors pose unescapable fatal consequences that affect both the Kingdom’s production and export levels. Therefore, an urgent action is needed to curb the increasing electricity demand and promote energy conservation. Smart grid is a dynamic solution which can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand in Saudi Arabia.

What is Smart Grid?

A smart grid network makes for the ideal bridge where the goals of modernization can meet those of a reliable public infrastructure. Smart grid is a computerized technology, based on remote control network, aiming to completely alter the existing electric infrastructure and modernize the national power grid. This is through empowering the demand response which alerts consumers to reduce energy use at peak times. Moreover, demand response prevents blackouts, increases energy efficiency measures and contributes to resource conservation and help consumers to save money on their energy bills. Smart grid technology represents an advanced system enabling two way communications between energy provider and end users to reduce cost save energy and increase efficiency and reliability.

Advantages of Smart Grid

The beauty of adapting this technology will spread to not only utility but to all utility users including consumers and government.

Active Role of Consumers

The beauty of smart grid is that it provides consumers with the ability to play an active role in the country’s electricity grid. This is through a regulated price system where the electricity rate differsaccording to peak hours and consequently consumers cut down their energy use at those high stress times on the grid. Thus, smart grid offers consumers more choices over their energy use needs. 

Upgrading the Existing Grid

Utilities benefit from improving the grid’s power quality and reliability as mentioned through an integrated communication system with end users with more control over energy use. This is through decreasing services rates and eliminating any unnecessary energy loss in the network. Thus, all these positive advantages will make smart grid technology a smart and efficient tool for utilities.

Contributing to Energy Efficiency

The government of Saudi Arabia is already taking bold steps to adapt new energy efficiency standards as a national plan to reduce domestic energy consumption. For that, adapting and deploying smart grid will enable the kingdom to modernize the national grid. With the time the government will build efficient and informed consumers as a backbone in its current energy policy. Moreover, this advanced technology will help with electricity reduction targets and contribute to lowering the carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, this is a great opportunity for the kingdom to mitigate with the climate change measures.

A Dynamic Approach

Adoption of smart grid systems will help Saudi Arabia in increasing the efficiency of utilities as well as improving the ability of consumers to control their daily energy use. Smart grid technology offers a unique engagement that benefits consumers, utilities and government to become part of the solution. In addition, a smart grid technology is a viable option to enhance the value people receive from the national grid system. This smart transition will give the Saudi government a policy option to reduce drastically its domestic energy use, leveraging new technology through empowering the role of consumers’ active participants on the country’s grid.

As peak electricity demand grows across the country, it is important for KSA to make large-scale investment in smart grid solutions to improve energy efficiency and manage increasing energy demand. Undoubtedly, smart grid is more intelligent, versatile, decentralized, secure, resilient and controllable than conventional grid. However, to reap the benefits of smart grid systems, utilities in Saudi Arabia need to make major changes in their infrastructure and revolutionize the manner in which business is conducted.

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Energy Efficiency in MENA – A Tool to Reduce GHG Emissions

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the largest oil-exporting region in the world. Around 85 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production, electricity generation, industrial sector and domestic energy consumption. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. Without a change in energy policies and energy consumption behavior, MENA‘s energy-related GHG emissions will continue to grow. Presently, MENA countries are heavily dependent on fossil fuels to meet their energy requirement which is a major challenge in climate change mitigation efforts. However it also encourages local governments to craft policies and adapt stringent environmental regulations to reduce the GHG emissions.

Energy Efficiency Prospects

There is a great potential for MENA region to cut the projected GHG emissions growth by adopting energy-efficiency programs in commercial industrial and domestic sector. MENA governments need to create a policy environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation through both consumers and businesses. The Middle East electricity market is growing at an accelerating rate due to higher consumption rates in the private, commercial and industrial sectors. This results in the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.

The MENA region has great ambitious plans and already adapted an efficient energy programs aiming to achieve real energy efficiency gains related to environment. An immediate gain of adapting energy efficiency policy is to be seen in elevating consumers’ energy awareness, improving energy products procurement and services, reducing pollutant and saving money.

MENA governments should put energy efficiency at the top of energy policy agenda with a committed goal to reduce GHG emissions through energy efficiency programs. For example, Obama’s administration has focused on the importance of energy efficiency investment programs as an engine of economic growth and environment conservation in the United States. According to President Obama, “energy efficiency is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner.” 

Energy Efficiency Outlook

There is a wide array of measures which could help MENA countries in promoting and implementing policies to moderate increasing energy demand and reduce pollution in the generating, transmitting, and distributing energy from power plants.  Energy conservation may not yet be a way of life in the Middle East but the rapid changes being seen there are an indicator of what is to come. Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength in the region. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region.

Across the MENA region, there is a growing interest in renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, which could enable regional countries to adopt a green economy and cut down on fossil fuel consumption. In the transportation sector there are many energy-efficient adaptations to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions, like public transportation, carpooling, electric vehicles and alternative fuels. MENA countries can adapt new alternatives to fossil fuels such as fuel cells, bioethanol and biogas. 

The linkage between energy efficiency adaptations and GHG emission is crucial in the fight against global warming. Emerging technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) involves the capture of carbon dioxide from power plants and large industrial sources, and then injection into deep underground geological formations for long-term storage. CCS can not only reduce carbon emissions from power generation sector but also expand renewable energy capacity and increase energy efficiency.

Another attractive energy conservation method is Smart Grid which involves modernizing the system of transmitting electricity all the way from generation to end use. Unlike the tradition electricity meters, the smart meters provides consumers with situational awareness about how much electricity are consuming per unit of output. Smart grid offers an excellent opportunity to modernize power infrastructure, lay the foundation for energy management, provide new employment opportunities and ultimately reduce region’s dependence on fossil fuels.


The Middle East region has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world which can be offset by mass deployment of energy-efficient systems. An improved energy efficiency plan for MENA region (in both supply and use) will help in mitigating the domestic and global environmental impact of energy by reducing both atmospheric particulate matter and GHG emissions.

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سيارات تتحدث مع بعضها

تعد تقنية السيارة "المتواصلة لاسلكيًا" إحدى التقنيات الحديثة اللاسلكية، التي تمنح السيارة (الصغيرة والكبيرة) بأن تتواصل لاسلكيًا مع بعضها بعضا بواسطة تقنية (كمبيوترية) متصلة بها، بإستطاعتها أن يستطلع (أوضاع) الطريق للسائق (لاسلكيا) قبل الوصول إلى الوجهة المطلوبة، مثال ذلك الطرق المغلقة أو المكتظة، وكذلك تقليل الأخطار المترتبة من تقلبات الظروف المناخية.  كما تهدف السيارات المتواصلة لاسلكيا؛ للاستفادة من الاتصالات اللاسلكية بين المركبات أثناء عملها، وكذلك البنية التحتية وأجهزة اتصال الركاب.

هذا و تُعرّف إدارة النقل الأمريكية هذه التقنية الحديثة " بأنها الحصول على جودة هواء أفضل عبر تقنية وسائل النقل الذكية" ويكون ذلك بالتنسيق مع مصانع السيارات وغيرها من القطاعات المبتكرة العامة والخاصة، وجميعها تتكاتف لتطوير البنية التحتية للاتصالات التقنية بين المركبة والأخرى، من جهة وبين المركبة والبنية التحتية من جهة أخرى، وتلك الجهود"المشتركة" تهدف إلى منع الحوادث المرورية قبل حدوثها. حيث يتم إرسال تلك المعلومات لاسلكيا لضبط حركة السيارات، وتجنب الاختناقات المرورية، وتحسين البيئة، وفي النهاية تمكن هذه التقنية من الحصول على معلومات وقتية عن طريق نظام الكميوتر المحمول داخل المركبات (كالسيارات، والشاحنات، والحافلات) والذي بدوره يقوم بتحليل المعلومات المتوفرة عن أحوال الطريق، وأيضاً التواصل مع أجهزة الشرطة عن طريق البنية التحتية.

المزايا المتعددة للنظام

ويعد الأثر البيئي أحد مزايا هذا النظام، حيث يحد من التلوث البيئي الناجم عن اكتظاظ الشوارع السريعة والفرعية، وكذلك التحكم في معلومات النقل البيئية الوقتية، واستخدامها لاستصدار معلومات ذات أثر نفعي لمساعدة وتسهيل الخيارات النقلية، ويظهر أن هذا النظام المبتكر يتمركز حول تحسين نوعية الهواء بتقليل إنبعاثات الغازات الدفيئة، وكذلك يتمتع بميزة التقليل من إستهلاك الوقود. هذا، وتسهم تقنية المركبات المتواصلة لاسلكيا في تلطيف "هجمة" المناخ المتقلب، والحصول على أهداف خفض انبعاثات الغازات الدفيئة.

ومن مزايا تقنية المركبات المتواصلة -أيضاً- سيحظى السائقون بمعلومات دقيقة عن الاختناقات المرورية وخلافها، والتي ستمكنهم من إعادة جدولة، أوتأخير، أو الغاء، أو تنظيم الرحلات الجماعية. وبهذا التنظيم المسبق يتفادى السائقون خطوط الاختناقات المرورية، واستخدام البدائل المتوفرة، وكذلك استخدام الممرات العامة، وإعادة جدولة رحلاتهم، بهدف حماية البيئة، وتقليل استهلاك الوقود.

هذه التقنية "الثورية" تسعى إلى تطوير القيادة "الصديقة للبيئة" والمدعمة بحزمة من التوصيات المرورية للسائقين؛ للتقليل من استهلاك الوقود، وكذلك ضبط مكابح المكائن مستقبلاُ، بدون تدخل السائقين.

قابلية إستخدام النظام في المملكة العربية السعودية

سيكون لنظام المركبات المتصلة دور في حل مشاكل النقل وتسهيل الحركة المرورية في مدن المملكة الرئيسة: مثل الرياض والدمام وجدة المكتظة بالحركة المرورية؛ وستمكن تطبيق هذه التقنية مستخدمي الطريق من اتخاذ القرارات الصائبة، والتمتع بممارسات مرورية متجانسة. إضافة الى ماتقدم فإن نظام المركبات المتواصلة لاسلكيا سيكون في متناول أيدي الناس عامة، وأداة مثالية للتخفيف من التأثيرات البيئية المتنامية في قطاع النقل. يضاف إلى ذلك، فإن نظام المركبات المتواصلة لاسلكيا يستند إلى معلومات تهتم بالسلامة والحركة، والتي بدورها ستسهم في إنقاذ حياة البشر؛ وتمنع الأضرار الناجمة عن الاختناقات المرورية أينما كانت!

The Menace of Single-Use Plastic Bags

Single-use plastic bags are one of the most objectionable types of litter in urban areas. The sheer volume of plastic waste generated coupled with energy and material resources required for production, as well as emissions resulting from these processes paint a grim picture of the environmental havoc created by plastic bags. Single-use plastic bags are a huge threat to the environment as an estimated 1 trillion such bags are consumed worldwide every year. In the United Arab Emirates alone, nearly 12 billion plastic bags are used annually.

Major Hazards

Single-use plastic bags are notorious for their interference in natural ecosystems and for causing the death of aquatic organisms, animals and birds. In 2006, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean and upto 80 percent of marine debris worldwide is plastic which are responsible for the death of a more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year from starvation, choking or entanglement. Infact, there is a huge floating dump in the Pacific Ocean called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" which is hundreds of miles wide and consists mostly of plastic debris caught  in the ocean's currents. 

Plastic bags are mistakenly ingested by animals, like cows and camels, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. In addition, plastic bags clog urban drainage systems and contribute to flooding, as witnessed in Mumbai, Dhaka and Manila in recent decades. Moreover, toxic chemicals from single-use bags can enter the food chain when they are ingested by animals and birds.

Unfortunately only a small percentage of these bags are recycled each year, and most float about the landscape and create a tremendous expense in clean-up costs. Several countries, regions, and cities have enacted legislation to ban or severely reduce the use of disposable plastic shopping bags. Plastic bags litter serves as a floating transportation agent that enables alien species to move to new parts of the world thus threatening biodiversity.

Plausible Solutions

The hazards of single-use plastic bag can be mitigated by raising environmental awareness among communities. Many municipalities in the Gulf region are targeting shopping malls and grocery stores to reduce dependence on single-use plastic bags. Environmental education at workplaces, schools and residential areas is a vital tool in the fight against plastic bags. Empowering people to take proactive actions and encouraging them to be a part of the solution can also be helpful in reducing the reliance on single-use plastic bags.

Municipalities can make use of 5Rs of waste management – Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover – to encourage safe disposal of plastic bags which may be facilitated by mass deployment of plastic bag collection systems and recycling facilities at strategic locations. Some of the alternatives are cloth-based bags, such as jute and cotton, which biodegradable as well as reusable. Infact, the range of durable fabric shopping bags is growing each year in the Western countries, including those that can be conveniently folded up into a pocket.

The introduction of ‘plastic bags tax’ can also be a handy weapon in restricting use of single-use plastic bags in the Middle East. For example, Ireland introduced a plastic bag charge called PlasTax ten years ago which has virtually eliminated plastic bags in the country. 

Regional Initiatives

The Middle East region has been slow in gearing up to the challenges posed by single-use plastic bags, though governments have been trying to raise public awareness aimed at behavioral change. The Ministry of Environment and Water in UAE launched an initiative called “UAE free of plastic bags” in 2009 to maintain the health of the natural habitat and enhance the environmental standards of the state. The Dubai Municipality has also launched an ambitious “No to Plastic Bags” campaign to slash 500 million plastic bags. There are similar efforts, but small-scale, efforts in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to encourage clean-up campaigns in seas, deserts and citites. In Egypt, the Red Sea (Hurghada) is the first plastic bag free governorate having introduced a ban in 2009 which generated employment opportunities for women who have been charged with creating cloth bags in the place of plastic bags.


About the Authors

Eaman Abdullah Aman is MRLS graduate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy with a specialization certificate in Energy Law and Policy from Denver University, USA. Her expertise encompasses international petroleum transactions, petroleum contracts and agreements, international petroleum investment operations, energy policy and economics of natural resources law and policy. She has rich knowledge on issues related to climate change mitigation, environmental law and policy, environmental ethics, energy security, sustainable development etc.

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA and a renowned expert in waste management, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainability. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on environment and sustainability sector in the Middle East and proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on clean energy, environment and sustainability through his websites, blogs, articles and projects. Salman can be contacted on salman@ecomena.org.