Qatar’s Sustainable Development Blueprint
On the international scene, Qatar is a monument of unmatched growth and development. This Middle Eastern country, well-known for its bold policies and strategic vision, has evolved rapidly in several domains, exemplifying advanced growth. Its booming oil and gas industry has contributed significantly to its strong economy, which has allowed for exponential expansion and massive expenditures in a variety of fields, including technology, education, and infrastructure.
Development often walks hand in hand with environmental degradation, creating a complex relationship between progress and the depletion of natural resources. Pursuing economic growth and industrialization frequently leads to increased pollution, deforestation, habitat destruction, and depletion of biodiversity.
Qatar has faced scrutiny as one of the significant contributors to biocapacity deficits, primarily due to its reliance on oil and gas extraction beyond sustainable limits. The country’s substantial energy industry, while pivotal to its economic growth, has led to concerns regarding its ecological footprint. Qatar’s geographical limitations, with its small territory in one of the world’s most inhospitable deserts, pose significant challenges to sustaining its economy based on its natural environment or biocapacity. Instead, the nation has harnessed its non-renewable natural resources, particularly natural gas exports, to drive a profound capital transformation.
Furthermore, beyond emissions reduction, there’s a critical aspect of energy security associated with gas, a point exemplified by recent events in Europe. This dual perspective—environmental impact and energy security—underscores the complexity of assessing the role and impact of Qatar’s gas exports in the global energy landscape.
Qatar’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, approximately 102.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO₂) emissions in 2022, account for less than 0.2% of the world’s total emissions. While it remains crucial to prioritize emission reduction, promote energy efficiency, and transition towards renewable sources for economic productivity and fulfilling international obligations, scrutinizing Qatar based on per capita emissions can be misleading. Given its minuscule contribution to global emissions overall, singling out the country based on per capita calculations might not offer an accurate perspective, especially when its total emissions remain relatively negligible in the larger global context.
Qatar’s prominence as the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) raises questions about the environmental impact of its gas exports. While LNG, a hydrocarbon, emits greenhouse gases upon combustion, it’s crucial to note that natural gas releases only half the amount of greenhouse gases per unit of energy compared to coal. Given that Qatar’s gas exports often cater to nations heavily reliant on coal for electricity generation, there’s a net effect of reducing emissions by displacing coal usage. This shift underscores the significant role of gas as a transitional energy source in aligning with the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.
Qatar Foundation has taken a significant step in shaping national and global sustainability policies by establishing Earthna, a new sustainability policy center. The name, meaning “our legacy” in Arabic, reflects its mission to influence perceptions and actions towards sustainability.
According to Reuters, Qatar introduced a national climate change action plan designed to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030, as announced by its Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. The plan also sets a target to reduce the “carbon intensity” of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities by a quarter within the same timeframe. This initiative aligns with the efforts of other Gulf Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060.
As the world’s leading producer of liquefied natural gas, Qatar intends to expand its LNG production to 127 million tonnes yearly by 2027. Highlighting the role of its gas production in combating global climate change, Qatar aims to facilitate the global shift from high-polluting fuels like oil and coal to renewable energies. Additionally, the plan includes a commitment to enhance carbon capture and storage measures at its gas production facilities.
Considering Qatar’s commitment to bolstering carbon capture and storage in its gas production, what key sustainability initiatives do you propose Qatar should concentrate on in 2024?