Ahead of COP28, these four Arab states are at the apex of the global climate hypocrisy

4 Arab countries are among the largest global fossil fuel contibutors
28 November, 2023

Four Arab countries are among the 20 major fossil fuel-producing countries, according to the Production Gap Report 2023, a review of global fossil fuel production in light of the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

The report Phasing down or phasing up? Top fossil fuel producers plan even more extraction despite climate promises was released on November 8 by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Climate Analytics, E3G, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). 

It evaluates governments' planned and projected output of gas, oil, and coal in comparison to global levels that align with the temperature target outlined in the Paris Agreement. The findings of the report show that most governments continue to provide significant political and financial support for fossil fuel production.

"The report exposes the glaring hypocrisy at the heart of global climate action. Countries that present themselves as climate champions on the global stage are betraying the spirit of the Paris Agreement by intensifying the climate crisis through increased production of coal, oil, and gas"

“Global production of coal, oil, and gas is rising despite governments throughout the globe committing to aggressive net zero targets; planned reductions, on the other hand, will not be sufficient to prevent the worst effects of climate change,” said Angela Picciariello, Senior Researcher, The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and co-author of the report.  

Picciariello explained to The New Arab that, in addition to weakening government power, this growing gap between words and actions puts all of us at greater risk.

“In comparison to what would be required to meet the 1.5°C warming limit, we are currently on schedule to produce 460% more coal, 82% more gas, and 29% more oil this decade.” 

Arab biggest contributors 

According to the report, the world is on track to produce 110% more fossil fuels by 2030 than is consistent with the commitment to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and 69% more than is consistent with 2 degrees Celsius.

In the Arab region, the Gulf countries topped the region’s production of fossil fuels, as Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE were among the 20 major fossil fuel-producing countries.

More than 90% of electricity in the region still comes from fossil fuels, with per capita emissions among the highest in the world.

The 20 major fossil fuel-producing countries are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UAE, UK, and the USA.

Qatar recorded the highest increase in plans to produce fossil fuels from gas in the region by 5.1, followed by Saudi Arabia, recording an increase of 1.3 from gas, but the Kingdom increased its plan to produce fuel from oil by 5.5.

The UAE came third with a rate of 3.9 for oil and 0.5 for gas, then Kuwait, whose fossil fuel production from oil is expected to rise by 2.1 and from gas by 0.1 by 2030.

However, states of the region are also taking further steps in the transfer to renewable energy, according to Jauad Al-Kharraz, the Executive Director of the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.

According to a recent report by the Global Energy Monitor, Arab countries have increased their renewable energy production capacity by 57% from mid-2022 to mid-2023, reaching a total of 19 gigawatts. The report also predicts a further increase of 50% by 2024.

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Aggravating the climate crisis 

“The report exposes the glaring hypocrisy at the heart of global climate action. Countries that present themselves as climate champions on the global stage are betraying the spirit of the Paris Agreement by intensifying the climate crisis through increased production of coal, oil, and gas,” says Harjeet Singh, the head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International.

Singh told The New Arab that the wealthy nations, equipped with the means and bearing the historical responsibility to lead by example, continue their dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.

The report indicates the need to reduce oil and gas production by at least three quarters, as it is the main cause of the climate crisis, especially with demand for coal, oil and gas expected to reach its peak this decade. Continued investments in new fossil fuel production represent a near-term economic gamble for all but the cheapest producers, according to the report.

The authors warn that climate damage will worsen further unless we stop the expansion of fossil fuel use now and shift to clean energy.

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According to the EU Climate Change Service, Copernicus, the hottest month on record was July 2023, and it was probably the hottest in the previous 120,000 years.

Deadly heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods are causing death and destruction all across the world, demonstrating the reality of human-caused climate change. 

In 2021–2022, global carbon dioxide emissions reached all-time highs, with fossil fuels accounting for about 90% of these emissions. 

Closing the gap

Closing the vast gap in the global climate policy framework with a binding commitment to halt new exploration and agree on a managed and equitable phase-out of fossil fuels, is a must, according to Singh who stressed that “the time has come to shun empty words, shift from fossil fuel dependency to a just global transition, and hold the polluters accountable.” 

Al-Kharraz pointed out that even though all countries in the region already have plans, strategies, policies and goals for renewable energies, public resources are not sufficient, especially in light of the current economic conditions and the turmoil in oil prices for oil-producing countries in the region. 

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Al-Kharraz further highlighted the weak participation of the private sector in the region in renewable energy projects, which he attributed to the various political, economic, environmental, social and regulatory risks associated with this type of investment. The energy expert stressed the urgent need to adopt policies to mitigate the risks faced by investors in renewable energy projects.

All the experts The New Arab interviewed stressed that ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) hosted by the UAE at the end of November, governments must look to significantly increase transparency on how to achieve emissions targets and take legally binding measures to support these targets including limiting the use of fossil fuels.

Mohammed El-Said is the Science Editor at Daily News Egypt. His work has appeared in Science Magazine, Nature Middle East, Scientific American Arabic Edition, SciDev and other prominent regional and international media outlets

Follow him on Twitter: @MOHAMMED2SAID