Upcoming Climate Negotiations: The Pivotal Role of Gulf States at COP28

The upcoming COP28 climate summit this December in Dubai will be pivotal in the history of international climate discussions. The Gulf States will have the chance to turn their wealth and influence into global leadership for climate action.

Gulf States: Wealth, Influence, and Responsibility 

·   The Gulf States (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) are economic powerhouses with a significant stake in global energy production

·   The Gulf States’ GDP per capita is in the top 16% globally, with figures ranging from US$21k in Oman to US$81k in Qatar

·   The Gulf States produce about 24% of global oil output and possess around 35% of the world's oil reserves. Notably, Saudi Arabia holds 17% of global oil reserves

·   Their prosperity, built on fossil fuel extraction, comes with a responsibility to lead in mitigating climate impacts

·   While initiatives for renewable energy and carbon neutrality are underway, the real test will be translating these into tangible global temperature reductions

Economic Influence Beyond Oil

·   Gulf-backed entities own or sponsor four leading UK Premier League football clubs

·   Qatar hosted the 2022 Football World Cup, and Formula 1 races are now taking place in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi

Environmental Impact of the Gulf's Oil Wealth

 Since the 1970s:

·   The Gulf States have accounted for about 40% of global oil production

·   They've been responsible for approximately 10% of global fossil fuel emissions

Gulf States and Climate Action

The Gulf States have been working to improve their reputation in recent years.

·   All 6 Gulf States have set net-zero targets for 2050 or 2060

·   Their renewable energy goals for the electricity mix by 2030 range from 15% to 50%

·   In comparison, the European Union aims for a 40% share of renewables by 2030, while the US targets 100% carbon-free power by 2035 (including renewables, nuclear and fossil generation with CCS)

·   Importantly, the Gulf States’ carbon goals only consider direct emissions, excluding carbon in the oil and gas they sell

Gulf's Engagement in Carbon Markets

With mounting public pressure and high carbon footprints, a number of Gulf States are looking to the international carbon market for a solution.

·   Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and the Saudi Tadawul Group founded the Kingdom's Regional Voluntary Carbon Market Company (RVCMC) in 2022

·   In the past year, the RVCMC facilitated the purchase of over 1.4 million tonnes of carbon credits, with Aramco, the Saudi Mining Company, and the Olayan Financing Company buying a large proportion of these credits

·   The UAE invested early in the Air Carbon Exchange (ACX) and established the Carbon Alliance, pledging to purchase US$450 million worth of African carbon credits by 2030

·   However, not all efforts have been successful. Qatar set up the Global Carbon Council in 2019, which has faced scrutiny for marketing outdated and subpar credits

The Need to Lead from the Gulf States

The Gulf States' actions towards net zero emissions, renewable energy, and carbon trading platforms are commendable but small compared to their contribution to global warming. As the host of this year's climate negotiations, the UAE must use its position to bolster the international community's climate goals. The Gulf States should not just create platforms for trading carbon credits but also become the buyers of carbon credits to enhance said trading platforms.

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