Energy Conservation in Bahrain

bahrain-energyBahrain has one of the highest energy consumption rates in the world. The country uses almost three times more energy per person than the world average. Based on 2014 statistics, the country consumes 11,500 kWh of energy per capita compared with the global average of 3,030 kWh. The country is witnessing high population growth rate, rapid urbanization, industrialization and commercialization with more visitors coming in, causing fast growing domestic energy demand and is posing a major challenge for energy security.

The Government is aware of this challenging task and is continuously planning and implementing projects to enhance the energy production to meet with the growing demand. The issue of efficient use of energy, its conservation and sustainability, use of renewable and non-renewable resources is becoming more important to us. The increasing temperatures and warming on the other hand are also causing more need of air-conditioning and use of electrical appliances along with water usage for domestic and industrial purposes. This phenomenon is continuing in Bahrain and other GCC countries since past two decades with high annual electricity and water consumption rates compared with the rest of the world.

Bahrain’s energy requirement is forecast to more than double from the current energy use. The peak system demand will rise from 3,441 MW to around 8,000 MW. While the concerned authorities are planning for induction of more sustainable renewable energy initiatives, we need to understand the energy consumption scenario in terms of costs. With the prices of electricity and water going up again from March 2017 again, it is imperative that we as consumers need to think and adopt small actions and utilize practices that can conserve energy and ultimately cost.

The country has already embarked on the Energy Efficiency Implementation Program to address the challenge of curbing energy demand in the country over the next years. The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan and the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) have already been endorsed. The NREAP aims to achieve long-term sustainability for the energy sector by proposing to increase the share of renewable energy to 5 percent by 2020 and 10 percent by 2030.

Per capita energy consumption in Bahrain is among the highest worldwide

Per capita energy conservation in Bahrain is among the highest worldwide

As individuals, we need to audit how much energy we are using and how we can minimize our usage and conserve it. Whenever we save energy, we not only save money, but also reduce the demand for such fossil fuels as coal, oil, and natural gas. Less burning of fossil fuels also means lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary contributor to global warming, and other pollutants. Energy needs to be conserved not only to cut costs but also to preserve the resources for longer use.

Here are few energy conservation tips we need to follow and adopt:

  • Turning off the lights, electrical and electronic gadgets when not in use.
  • Utilizing energy efficient appliances like LED lights, air conditioners, freezers and washing machines.
  • Service, clean or replace AC filters as recommended.
  • Utilizing normal water for washing machine. Use washing machine and dish washer only when the load is full. Avoid using the dryer with long cycles.
  • Select the most energy-efficient models when replacing your old appliances.
  • Buy the product that is sized to your actual needs and not the largest one available.
  • Turn off AC in unoccupied rooms and try to keep the room cool by keeping the curtains.
  • Make maximum use of sunlight during the day.
  • Water heaters/ Geysers consume a lot of energy. Use them to heat only the amount of water that is required.
  • Unplug electronic devices and chargers when they are not in use. Most new electronics use electricity even when switched off.
  • Allow hot food to cool off before putting it in the refrigerator

الذروة النفطية…..بين النظرية و الواقع

 

يعد النفط اليوم من أهم مصادر توليد الطاقة في العالم، بالطبع بعد اليورانيوم، وقد تم وضع الكثير من المواد تحت التجربة لتكون بديلآ للنفط و لكن لم تتك بالنجاح إلى يومنا هذا.و السبب الرئيس لذلك هو فقدانها الكثافة التي يتمتع بها النفط، فضلا عن أنها لا تحقق معدلات العائد التي يحققها الإستثمار في إستكشاف وإنتاج النفط،. وهناك أيضآ أبحاث علمية تشير إلى أن العالم مقدم على كارثة إذا لم يتوصل لمصدر بديل له، حيث لا يمكن للإقتصاد العالمي أن ينمو حاليآ بدون وجود كميات كافية من الطاقة تتماشى مع إحتياجات هذا النمو. وتتزايد النقاشات اليوم أكثر من أي وقت مضى بأن العالم بدأ بالفعل بالإقتراب من مرحلة الذروة النفطية.

الذروة النفطية هي مصطلح اخترعه عالم الجيولوجيا الأمريكي الشهير كينج هوبرت في خمسينات القرن الماضي. والذي استطاع ان يتنبأ بالذروة النفطية في بعض المناطق من الولايات المتحدة و التي ستكون في السبعينات. و بالفعل حصل بالضبط ما تنبآ به هذا العالم. فعندما تبلغ عملية استخراج النفط لمستوياتها القصوى، تأخذ في التراجع و تنتهي تدريجيآ. فالنفط يعتبر مورد ناضب أو كما يقال غير متجدد.

فهذه النظرية تؤكد أن الإنتاج العالمي من النفط وصل الي ذروته اليوم وأنه آخذ في الإنخفاض لامحالة بعد أن أستهلك العالم نحو 50 في المائة من احتياطياته النفطية. فهذا يؤكد أن النفط قد يشارف على الإنتهاء إذا لم يتم وضع خطط واضحة و صارمة في ترشيد استهلاكه و كذلك  الحث على إستخدام هذا المخزون الإحتياطي بالطرق المثلى. ولكن هذه النظرية لا تجد قبولاً لدى العديد و الذين يشيرون دائما إلى أن مخزون الأرض من النفط كبير جداً ويحتاج فقط إلى استثمارات للتنقيب.

تعتبر المملكة العربية السعودية من أعلى دول العالم تصديرآ للنفط, و الوحيدة القادرة عبر مخزونها الإحتياطي في ضبط و موازنة سوق النفط العالمي. و قدر هذا المخزون ب265.4 مليار برميل أي ما يكفي عند مستوى الانتاج الحالي لأكثر من 72 عاماً. و حسب التقارير الصادرة عن أرامكو فإن هناك حوالي تريليون برميل سيكتشف في المستقبل و الذي سيلبي إحتياجات العالم رغم الإستهلاك الحالي لمدة قرن واحد.

فاليوم تركزالدولة حاليآ جهودها في تنقيب وإستخراج الغاز الطبيعي, حيث أنها لا تستورد الغاز الطبيعي و لكن تعتمد على الإنتاج المحلي له. و بجانب ذلك تقوم المملكة حاليآ بتكثيف استثماراتها الضخمة في مجال الطاقة الشمسية و النووية أيضآ.

ولكن هل يعتمد على الغاز الطبيعي و الطاقة المتجددة كبديلآ عن النفط في تلبية الإحتياجات المحلية للسعودية و التي هي في تزايد ملحوظ كل يوم؟ حيث أن معدل الإستهلاك المحلي في السعودية بلغ في عام 2011 أعلى مستوياته مقارنة بالدول الصناعية, و سجل إستهلاك الكهرباء في المنازل السكنية و المباني النصيب الأكبر منه.

فهل بالفعل أن ذروة النفط قد حان أوانها؟ و إذا ليس اليوم, فمتى؟ و كيف ستكون ملامحها خصوصآ على الدول المعتمدة كليآ على النفط؟ هل ستكون عواقبها متفاوتة سواء على الدول المتقدمة و الغير متقدمة؟  حيث أن الطلب العالمي عليه سيرتفع إلى ذروة تبلغ 110 ملايين برميل يوميا في وقت ما بعد 2020 على أقصى تقدير. أعتقد أن الوقت قد حان لكي يبدأ العالم بالتخطيط لما بعد عصر النفط.

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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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Water-Energy Nexus in Arab Countries

Amongst the most important inter-dependencies in the Arab countries is the water-energy nexus, where all the socio-economic development sectors rely on the sustainable provision of these two resources. In addition to their central and strategic importance to the region, these two resources are strongly interrelated and becoming increasingly inextricably linked as the water scarcity in the region increases.  In the water value chain, energy is required in all segments; energy is used in almost every stage of the water cycle: extracting groundwater, feeding desalination plants with its raw sea/brackish waters and producing freshwater, pumping, conveying, and distributing freshwater, collecting wastewater and treatment and reuse.  In other words, without energy, mainly in the form of electricity, water availability, delivery systems, and human welfare will not function.

It is estimated that in most of the Arab countries, the water cycle demands at least 15% of national electricity consumption and it is continuously on the rise. On the other hand, though less in intensity, water is also needed for energy production through hydroelectric schemes (hydropower) and through desalination (Co-generation Power Desalting Plants (CPDP)), for electricity generation and for cooling purposes, and for energy exploration, production, refining and enhanced oil recovery processes, in addition to many other applications.

The scarcity of fresh water in the region promoted and intensified the technology of desalination and combined co-production of electricity and water, especially in the GCC countries. Desalination, particularly CPDPs, is an energy-intensive process. Given the large market size and the strategic role of desalination in the Arab region, the installation of new capacities will increase the overall energy consumption. As energy production is mainly based on fossil-fuels and this source is limited, it is clear that development of renewable energies to power desalination plants is needed. Meanwhile, to address concerns about carbon emissions, Arab governments should link any future expansion in desalination capacity to investments in abundantly available renewable sources of energy.

There is an urgent need for cooperation among the Arab Countries to enhance coordination and investment in R&D in desalination and treatment technologies.  Acquiring and localizing these technologies will help in reducing their cost, increasing their reliability as a water source, increasing their added value to the countries’ economies, and in reducing their environmental impacts. Special attention should be paid to renewable and environmentally safe energy sources, of which the most important is solar, which can have enormous potential as most of the Arab region is located within the “sun belt” of the world.

Despite the strong relation, the water-energy nexus and their interrelation has not been fully addressed or considered in the planning and management of both resources in many Arab countries. However, with increasing water scarcity, many Arab countries have started to realize the growing importance of the nexus and it has now become a focal point of interest, both in terms of problem definition and in searching for trans-disciplinary and trans-sectoral solutions.

There is an obvious scarcity of scientific research and studies in the field of water-energy nexus and the interdependencies between these two resources and their mutual values, which is leading to a knowledge gap on the nexus in the region.  Moreover, with climate change deeply embedded within the water energy nexus issue, scientific research on the nexus needs to be associated with the future impacts of climate change.  Research institutes and universities need to be encouraged to direct their academic and research programs towards understanding the nexus and their interdependencies and inter-linkages. Without the availability of such researches and studies, the nexus challenges cannot be faced and solved effectively, nor can these challenges be converted into opportunities in issues such as increasing water and energy use efficiency, informing technology choices, increasing water and energy policy coherence, and examining the water-energy security nexus.

References
1. Siddiqi, A., and Anadon, L. D. 2011. The water-energy nexus in Middle East and North Afirca. Energy policy (2011) doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.04.023. 
2. Khatib, H. 2010. The Water and Energy Nexus in the Arab Region. League of Arab States, Cairo.
3. Haering, M., and Hamhaber, J. 2011. A double burden? Reflections on the Water-energy-nexus in the MENA region. In: Proceedings of the of the First Amman-Cologne Symposium 2011, The Water and Energy Nexus. Institute of Technology and resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics, 2011, p. 7-9. Available online: http://iwrm-master.web.fh-koeln.de/?page_id=594.

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Exploring Climate Change Disinformation

For decades, the oil and coal industries and some of their largest industrial customers have conducted a sophisticated and wildly successful multimillion dollar campaign to convince the public that climate change is not a serious threat. The impetus for the campaign has been to protect industry profits by blocking any action designed to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other global heating gases produced in burning fossil fuels.

Policies such as carbon taxes and carbon caps are intended to limit the release of carbon dioxide by restraining demand for fossil fuels. Fossil fuel companies, however, have correctly concluded that crimping fuel consumption would reduce revenue and would also erode the multi-trillion dollar value of their oil, coal, and gas reserves. 

Fossil fuel industry leaders have long known that as policies to address the dangers of fossil fuel burning and climate change were progressively made into law and policy, they would ultimately affect profits. Anticipating these threats to their income and wealth, large fossil fuel energy companies—and those who have made common cause with them—decades ago mounted a well-funded campaign to discredit climate science. Its architects recognized that, if successful, the campaign would provide the rationale for their political and legislative efforts to obstruct public policy efforts aimed at climate protection.

While the campaign has served and continues to serve a political and economic purpose for the industries behind it, it also serves the psychological need of reconciling industry’s economic interests with their version of climate science, climate economics, and the economics of climate protection. Thus those in the climate science denial camp believe themselves “on the side of the angels.” In the political arena, the energy company campaign not only succeeded in confusing facts about climate change but also managed to undermine U.S. participation in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a precedent-setting international climate protection treaty discussed frequently throughout this book.

The industrial opposition to climate science and climate-safe energy policies has grown more sophisticated and varied over the past decade. The campaign operates through dozens of industry-funded institutes, policy centers, councils, research foundations, and societies that speak for industry on climate and energy. The climate “skeptics,” as they like to be called, include anti-government and anti-regulation conservatives and libertarians who oppose government action on ideological grounds. Their strategy has often been to hide ideologically based misrepresentations of climate science beneath a mantle of science.  

A review of scientific publications on climate, however, reveals that whereas many thousands of high-quality scientific papers validated by peer review have been published documenting all phases of global warming, only a trivial number of dissenters who dispute the evidence have published in similar journals. Moreover, by contrast, the results of climate studies confirming global warming and humanity’s role in it can be found in the most prestigious scientific journals. Almost without exception, the deniers’ reports appear in publications that are not peer reviewed, since their objections to climate science have been repeatedly refuted; thus they are of little interest to responsible, well-respected scientific publications. Finally, the national academies of science of most nations of the world have passed resolutions affirming that we are warming the planet.

In the initial stages of the climate debate, industry proxy organizations often flatly contradicted climate science and claimed, variously, that the Earth was cooling or at least wasn’t warming, or that if the Earth was warming, the warming wasn’t due to human activity, or that if the Earth were to warm, it would be mild and beneficial. Many of these discredited claims have been abandoned by all but diehard opponents of climate science as the global scientific consensus on climate change has strengthened and as the evidence for global warming has become overwhelming. Some deniers still persist in presenting discredited arguments, however.

For example, industrial critics of decisive action on climate change (such as the National Association of Manufacturers in USA) made a case in Congress and with the public in 2009 that effective measures to reduce carbon emissions would bring economic disaster in the form of high taxes, lost jobs, lower productivity, and reduced competitiveness for America in world markets.

Since their arguments weren’t gaining traction in the world of science, industry-funded think tanks then spent millions of dollars making their case against climate science to more gullible media, government officials, opinion leaders, students, and the general public. Climate skeptics and their allies have thus become a major presence on the Internet, over radio, and on TV airwaves, as well as through industry-sponsored books, magazines, articles, reports, and press releases.

An unsuspecting person who uses an Internet search engine and enters terms commonly associated with climate change will be hard pressed to discern the truth amid the plethora of misleading information many of these organizations provide. Since some of the most effective arguments consist of deceptive statements wrapped in layers of truth, it can be very challenging for students and others without advanced scientific training or sophisticated rhetorical and analytical skills to sift truth from falsity without investing lots of time.

 

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Energy Outlook for the Middle East

There are several problems confronting the world with respect to its fossil fuels-based energy supply. The first problem relates to the ever-increasing use of fast-depleting conventional sources of energy, like petroleum, coal and natural gas. The contribution of fossil fuels in global energy supplies is above 80 percent. Energy demand will certainly increase manifolds during this century due to industrial and developmental activities as burgeoning world population.

Global Trends

The concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere is rising rapidly with use of fossil fuels leading to increasing emission of carbon dioxide which is having a detrimental effect on the climate. Another important issue is the security and stability of energy supply. Most of the fossil fuel reserves are concentrated in politically unstable regions, and increasing the diversity in energy sources is important for many nations to secure a reliable and constant supply of energy.

Energy trends in emerging economies are of global environmental concern as these countries are important contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use and industrial activities. Deforestation and the emission of other greenhouse gases, such as methane and NOx, further raise the share of developing countries in total global GHGs gas emissions. Although per capita levels of greenhouse emissions from energy use are much lower in developing industrial countries, rapid population and economic growth will increase their share of total emissions. The magnitude of these problems underlines the need for improving the efficiency of energy systems and fast-paced development of the renewable energy sector in such countries.

Energy Outlook for the Middle East

Energy use in the Middle East has increased manifolds over the past few decades and will continue its rapid ascent rapidly in the future. The increase in the services that energy provides is necessary and desirable, since energy services are essential for economic growth, improved living standards, and community development applications.

The fast economic growth in the Middle East puts onus on regional powers to devise new energy solutions and establish new and innovative sustainable energy trends. The energy demand in this region will grow rapidly which will have a profound impact on the global energy market. In addition, the region has many locations with high population density, which makes public health vulnerable to the pollution caused by fossil fuels.

Due to the rising share of GHG emissions from the Middle East, it is imperative on all regional countries to promote sustainable energy to significantly reduce GHGs emissions and foster dynamic economic growth. Rising proportion of greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s energy consumption is causing ecological degradation which may further deteriorate environmental sustainability in the region and globally. The adverse impacts of economic and ecological vulnerability would have profound implications for social inclusiveness, as the burden is being unevenly distributed among the countries in the region.

Energy scenarios for the 21st century are shifting away from fossil fuels and towards renewable and sustainable sources of energy. The potential role of alternative energy technologies in transforming Middle East energy outlook and addressing climate change concerns is enormous. Renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal can provide sustainable energy, based on a host of readily available, indigenous resources that result in very low emissions of greenhouse gases.

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Key Questions about COP21 Climate Agreement

The headlines from the CO21 Climate Summit tell an inspiring story. Agence France-Presse reported an outbreak of “euphoria” as the international climate accord was sealed. Reuters hailed a global “turn from fossil fuels.” The Guardian headlined “a major leap for mankind.” As the euphoria of delegates at the UN climate talks in Paris fades, it is time to get down to the business of saving the planet and ask what it means for me.

This time, they were. They managed to seal a pact that sets a surprisingly ambitious target for limiting global warming, reflects the vast differences between countries in terms of their different historical and current responsibilities for causing climate change, and recognizes poorer countries’ need to eradicate poverty even as they embark on a more sustainable development path.

Unfortunately, however, the main text of the agreement is long on rhetoric and short on action.

Here are the key questions about the COP21 climate agreement.

What have we achieved?

The world's first comprehensive climate change agreement which will see action to curb rising temperatures by all countries.

Why we needed a new deal?

If we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere on current trajectories, we are facing a world with temperatures of more than 4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 – hotter globally than at any time in human history.

Rising temperatures will lead to sea level rises, more intense storms and flooding, more extreme droughts, water shortages and heatwaves – as well as massive loss of wildlife and reduction in crop yields, potentially sparking conflict, mass migration and public health concerns.

The higher temperatures rise, the worse the situation will be – so we need to curb the emissions that cause global warming.

Why are we only doing something now?

This deal has effectively been 20 years in the making. A first treaty, the Kyoto Protocol – which was adopted in 1997, only covered the emissions of developed countries – and the US never ratified it.

It runs out in 2020 and the Paris Agreement will be its successor.

Why has it taken so much time?

World leaders tried to secure a deal in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, at talks which was a failure. A weak agreement came out of acrimonious talks which scarred the UN climate process and everybody involved.

But in Durban, South Africa, two years later, the EU teamed up with some of the world's poorest countries to get nations to agree to work towards a new deal to be secured in Paris this year.

Why was it different this time?

The world is not just out of recession like in 2009, the costs of technology such as solar panels have fallen while deployment has grown exponentially and countries are keen to tackle the problem for other reasons, such as to cut air pollution in China.

The science is even clearer, with the UN's global climate science body called IPCCC warning last year that global warming was "unequivocal".

Countries also started negotiating a lot earlier, with 187 countries covering more than 95% of the world's emissions putting forward national climate plans for action they will take up to 2030, before or in a few cases during the conference.

Why do we need an agreement too?

The climate plans by countries are not enough, as the emissions curbs in the commitments still put the world on track for a 3C rise in global temperatures by 2100.

So the deal includes a kind of "review and ratchet" system for countries to update and increase their levels of climate action every five years, based on a global assessment of how far nations are off meeting the long term goal to tackle climate change.

Countries are being requested to submit updates, by 2020, to their existing plans out to 2030 after an initial stocktaking exercise in 2018.

So has the planet been saved?

Only history will tell how successful this deal will be.

Tackling climate change will involve a vast, global, transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy, as well as curbing deforestation and emissions from agriculture – with experts warning of the need to reduce emissions to net zero later in the century to stabilize the climate.

The COP21 Paris climate agreement is truly a watershed moment in the world's fight against climate change. It creates a legally binding framework for progress, and that's fundamentally new.

But grand ambitions also must be met with concrete action.

COP21 Paris: Powered by 200 Megatonnes of Coal-fired CO2

As negotiators around the world gather for what many expect to be a groundbreaking UN climate negotiating session at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) which will seek a legally binding agreement on climate action, few may know that their meeting is being funded by the Coal industry. The corporate sponsorship of COP21 creates a dangerous conflict of interest in three key respects. Many of the sponsors are highly invested in oil, gas, coal, and other carbon-polluting sectors, and have a vested interest in obstructing or weakening any real action on climate change. However, with major industrial polluters using their deep pockets to influence climate policy at every level, how will a meaningful agreement be secured?

Corporate Interest at COP21

A new report released by Corporate Accountability International highlights that 4 of the leading sponsors of this year’s UN climate negotiations are collectively responsible for more than 200 megatonnes of CO2 emissions worldwide. The report titled, ‘Fueling the Fire – The corporate sponsors bankrolling COP21’ reveals how European energy giants Engie, Électricité de France (EDF), Suez Environment and BNP Paribas collectively own more than 46 coal-fired power plants around the world, including investments in oil sands exploration in Canada and fracking for shale gas in the UK. This has raised serious concerns ahead of the UN conference as to the role that corporate lobby groups should have, as many feel that this direct financial interest goes against the moral focus of the negotiations.

Patti Lynn, Executive director of Corporate Accountability International noted that the decision to allow these large polluters to sponsor the conference is “akin to hiring a fox to guard a hen house". She also argued that the UN climate negotiation was at risk of becoming a “corporate tradeshows for false market-based solutions.”

The report not only highlights the public behaviour of many of these companies, but also what they do behind the scenes. Earlier this year, ExxonMobil was famously outed for having suppressed knowledge of their role on contributing to Climate Change for the past 30 years.  However, it appears that many of the new conference sponsors have similarly questionable records on direct policy interference. While EDF claims to be “committed to a decarbonized world,” it is an active member alongside ExxonMobil and Shell of Business Europe.  This group has been linked to; openly oppose the “market deployment of energy produced from renewable sources” across Europe.

But it is perhaps their public actions that speak the loudest. In 2014, the sponsoring energy giant Engie directly profited from more than 131 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to the pollution emitted from driving a car around the globe 12 million times. "Despite recent announcements to stop new coal projects, Engie still owns 30 dirty coal power plants worldwide." Célia Gautier, policy advisor at Climate Action Network France. The report finally calls for future climate policy-making to be free of corporate interests through directly disallowing large contributors to climate change from the policy-making process, in a similar way that big tobacco was kicked out of health talks a decade ago.

UNFCCC – Twenty Years of Inaction

After two decades of negotiations, the UNFCCC has been unable to achieve meaningful action on climate change. The failure of 20 climate summits to date has corresponded with a dramatic speed up of greenhouse gas emission rates. In fact, since 1988, more than half of all industrial carbon emissions have been released, raising the prospect of irreversible climate change.

Global inaction on climate change is also the consequence of political and economic interference by the fossil fuel industry. For decades, corporations, like ExxonMobil and Shell, have run sophisticated and effective campaigns of denial and deception about climate change. To undermine progress on climate policy and to secure their own profits, they have utilized a range of interference tactics, including financial contributions, corruption and lobbying, PR campaigns, litigation and legal threats, funding junk science, issuing contradictory statements, and sponsoring front groups, think tanks, and trade associations to do their dirty work.

The association of such corporations with the UNFCCC has not simply blocked or impeded meaningful climate action. It also has shifted the focus of negotiations onto market-based solutions, such as carbon prices and trading, as well as onto techno-fixes, such as carbon sequestration, fracking, and nuclear energy none of which have reduced overall emissions globally or spurred wide-spread low-carbon investments in national economies that meet the the deadlines for averting climate chaos. These same corporations have also interfered with the proceedings and operations of the UNFCCC. From the earliest COP meetings to today, transnational corporations and their associated business lobbies have positioned themselves to undermine or influence any potential climate treaty.

Time for Action

The time for action is now. With the world watching, governments must agree to remove the influence of fossil fuel corporations and other polluting industries from climate change negotiations. With precedent established in international law specifically, in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control it is possible to exclude the big carbon polluters from U.N. summits on climate change. Indeed, it is the only way to secure bold, effective policy at COP21 that will curb the effects of climate change and move us to a more just, equitable future for all.

Zero Emissions Day: Our Planet is Counting on Us

The Zero Emissions Day or ‘Ze Day’ aims to put the Global 24 hour Moratorium on the Combustion of Fossil Fuels. The day started on March 21, 2008 with the launch of a website calling for “A Global Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Combustion on September 21” in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The message, “Giving our planet one day off a year”, was simple yet profound and was translated into 12 languages for easy reach of people. The idea behind is of giving everything a ‘rest day’ so why not for emissions and environment.

The notion behind the Zero Emissions Day is that stopping, resting, recharging and reflecting was no doubt a mechanism built into many world cultures and traditions. Through the contribution of many environmentalists, the global call to stop the emissions went online at www.zeroemissionsday.org and has been very successful since it is intended to be a temporary respite from using fossil fuels, to increase awareness of this finite resource and how we might change our actions on a daily basis to conserve it.

We need to be aware of our consumption of fossil fuels. Electricity derived from fossil fuels is the biggest contributor to air emissions in the developed and developing countries. These emissions contribute to smog, acid rain, climate change, and other factors. In turn, climate change is believed to create conditions that cause catastrophic events like forest fires, disease breakouts, and droughts. We all know how much energy we are consuming as a nation, community and as an individual. The governments all over the world are spending huge amount of money on electricity generation and transmission and providing this basic utility to its people. On the other hand, more electrical and electronic gadgets are being added to our daily life which all consumes electricity.

Thus, we have to take care of our resources and develop a genuine understanding that such energy consuming attitude is not good for us and is harming our fragile environment. The message of the day is that “You have the power to benefit everyone and everything on our planet.” The celebration of the Ze day is a simple call for collective action to take some of the pressure off our dying world. It’s important because it shows us what a day without fossil fuel use can feel like. The idea of Ze Day is simple – don’t burn oil, gas or coal and minimize your electricity use. Do this for just one day. More and more people, families and communities are declaring Zero Emissions Days whenever they please and just for the fun of it. People who have had the experience have been transformed deeply by it. 

The amount of energy consumed by modern society is staggering, with more and more power-hungry devices becoming part of our daily lives and all these devices need to be charged and powered through the bulk of electricity generated globally is still fossil-fuel based, with only a small percentage generated through renewable sources such as solar, water and wind. In actual terms, completely avoiding the consumption of any fossil-fuel generated energy for 24 hours is almost unthinkable. Practically, many people will never contribute, but even if the day just acts as a reminder that we can all do our bit to limit our energy consumption in daily life, it would already be a victory for Mother Earth.

Try it and imagine how good it’ll make you feel about yourself! Remember our world is counting on us! Let us plan and celebrate the day joyfully by avoiding and minimizing the use of energy, electricity and gas, having no cook meal to eat and spreading the awareness to our dear ones. Unplug everything that is not essential, and instead of watching TV, playing on the computer, or doing other activities that involve electronics, socialize with family and friends and spend the day with nature.

Every individual's effort on Zero Emissions Day is what counts! 

Understanding Qatar’s Ecological Footprint

Qatar’s environmental impact remains worryingly high. The country’s per capita ecological footprint is now the second highest in the world, as another Gulf state, Kuwait, has overtaken it to become the worst offender of the 152 countries that were measured, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report 2014. The third country in the list is the UAE, with Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, in 33rd position. By comparing the total footprint with the planet’s biocapacity – its capacity to generate an ongoing supply of renewable resources and to absorb waste -the report, based on 2010 data, concludes that the average human’s per capita footprint exceeds the planet’s capacity by 1.5. Most MENA countries’ ecological footprints also exceed their biocapacity in terms of their global rankings.

Qatar’s footprint, measured in global hectares (gha), is 8.5 – the second highest in the world, but down from 11.6 in the 2012 report. Only Kuwait fared worse, with a footprint of over 10gha. According to the WWF report, if all people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets. If we lived the lifestyle of a typical resident of the USA, we would need 3.9 planets. The figure for a typical resident of South Africa or Argentina would be 1.4 or 1.5 planets respectively. The world’s average footprint per person was 2.6gha, but the global average biocapacity per person was 1.7gha in 2010. This is based on the Earth’s total biocapacity of approximately 12 billion gha, which has to support all humans and the 10 million or more wild species.

Salman Zafar, founder of EcoMENA, a voluntary organisation that promotes sustainable development in the Arab world, attributes the Qatari situation on lack of environmental awareness among the local population, lavish lifestyles and a strong dependence on fossil fuels. “The huge influx of workers from across the world has put tremendous strain on already stressed natural resources. Migrant workers, who make up a huge chunk of the population, remain in the country for a limited period of time and are not motivated enough to conserve natural resources and protect the environment,” he adds. As for Kuwait, he says the growing ecological footprint may be attributed to its flourishing oil and gas industry, an increase in desalination plants, the presence of hundreds of landfills, excessive use of water, energy and goods, a huge expatriate population and the absence of concrete environmental conservation initiatives.

Of the 25 countries with the largest per capita ecological footprint, most were high-income nations. For virtually all of these, carbon was the biggest component, in Qatar’s case 70%. Carbon, specifically the burning of fossil fuels, has been the dominant component of humanity’s footprint for more than half a century, says the WWF report – in 1961, carbon had been 36% of the total footprint, but by 2010 it had increased to 53%. In 2013, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere above Mauna Loa, Hawaii – the site of the oldest continuous carbon dioxide measurement station in the world – reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958. This is higher than they have been for more than a million years, and climate science shows major risks of unacceptable change at such concentrations. Furthermore, 2014 has globally been the hottest year since measurements started, and the World Meteorological Organisation predicts that this upward trend will continue.

The world’s total population today is already in excess of 7.2 billion, and growing at a faster rate than previously estimated. The dual effect of a growing human population and high per capita footprint will multiply the pressure humans place on ecological resources, the report states. As agriculture accounts for 92% of the global water footprint, humanity’s growing water needs, combined with climate change, are aggravating water scarcity. The authors also make it clear that in the long term water cannot be sustainably taken from lakes and groundwater reservoirs faster than they are recharged. Desalination of seawater also leads to brine (with a very high concentration of salt and leftover chemicals and metals), which is discharged into the sea where it poses a danger to marine life.  In terms of biodiversity, the report shows an overall decline of 52 percent between 1970 and 2010. Falling by 76 percent, population of freshwater species declined more rapidly than marine and terrestrial (both 39 percent) population.

With regards to Qatar’s biocapacity, its fishing grounds make up 92% of the total, while the country ranks 66th globally in terms of its biocapacity per capita. Like other Gulf states, it can operate with an ecological deficit by importing products, and thus using the biocapacity of other nations; and/or by using the global commons, for instance, by releasing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning into the atmosphere, says the report.

Although Qatar has initiated plans to reduce its footprint and live less unsustainably, the latest electricity demand figures from Qatar General Electricity and Water Company (Kahramaa) show a 12% rise in demand for power over the previous year. This is in line with the country’s population growth, meaning that there has been no reduction in the per capita consumption, which is still under the top 15 countries in the world. Its water consumption per capita is also one of the highest in the world.

Qatar’s heavy reliance on gas and oil, its subsidised water and electricity, and the huge amount of energy needed for water desalination and air-conditioning make it unlikely that the country’s per capita standing in terms of the ecological footprint will improve anytime soon, but given the country’s small size its total impact is still relatively small.

Salman Shaban from the metal recycling company Lucky Star Alloys, regards the report as only highlighting Qatar’s current rapid development. “It is not fair to come to any conclusions at this stage when the construction, transport system and population boom is taking place. Any place that will go through such a fast development will initially have its impact on the ecological systems.” He foresees a gradual carbon footprint reduction once the construction and development phase is completed.“ Having said that, it is still every resident and citizen moral responsibility to conserve energy and protect the environment,” he adds. “Recycling should be a standard part of every household culture.”

According to Salman Zafar, grass-root level environmental education, removal of subsidies on water and energy, sustainable waste management practices, effective laws, awareness programs and mandatory stakeholder participation are some of the measures that may improve the environmental scenario in Qatar.

Although it makes for some disturbing reading, the report makes it clear that many individuals, communities, businesses, cities and governments are making better choices to protect natural capital and reduce their footprint, with environmental, social and economic benefits. But given that these exhaustive reports are based on data that is four years old, any current changes for better and worse will only become clear in the near future.

Note:

  • WWF is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organizations; its mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. The full report is available at this link.
  • An edited version of this article first appeared in The Edge, Qatar’s Business Magazine.