Sheikh Soud Khalifa al-Thani
Effects of climate change are now at our doorsteps. The world’s largest oceanic dead zone, nearly 15 times the size of Qatar, is uncontrollably growing into the Gulf of Oman. This is an area depleted of dissolved oxygen right off the coasts of GCC countries, according to an Omani-British study published last year.
Among other contributing climate change problems, the exacerbating imbalance of oxygen levels between the atmosphere and water will have a devastating impact on aquatic life–and obviously fisheries–of the Gulf. While the picture might be grave, such conditions are mitigatable, arguably reversible, and climate change is certainly not unstoppable.
The rise of carbon concentration in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, CO2, is evidently the direct cause of global warming. Attributed mainly to burning fossil fuels, all nations on earth, more or less, have a hand in this environmental crisis since the Industrial Revolution. World countries have been (seemingly) struggling to get a good hold on a worldwide collective resolution as early as global warming was first discovered. And recently, the United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreement came as a blow to an already faint approach to global collective action.
In the like manner, countrywide collective action is the effective way to reduce carbon emissions at the state level. It is impossible for governments, businesses or any sort of organisation to go about managing carbon individually. No single party or group can precisely determine impacts of carbon emission, in the first place. The drive for a national Qatari carbon management plan, fortunately, is upheld by the Environmental Development Pillar of Qatar National Vision 2030.
For the past decade or two in Qatar, sincere efforts have been exerted to push back against climate change. High-climate-impact industries, especially, continue to make progress reducing carbon emissions as an immediate objective. Zero flaring policy in oil & gas and green building in construction are amongst the most prominent. Also, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment spearheads Qatar’s involvement and collaboration with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 2015. For transportation, the underway network of railroads will undoubtedly curtail emissions from road vehicles. It bears mentioning that Qatar is succeeding in planning carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup to witness in 2022.
The Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa) announced plans to establish a solar power plant near Al-Kharsaah with an initial capacity of 350MW and future expansion to reach capacity of up to 700MW in satisfaction of the renewable energy generation target set by Qatar National Development Strategies. Also, Kahramaa has been leading efforts to reduce the per-capita consumption of electricity and water which, in return, will ameliorate carbon footprint of the country. Various public awareness campaigns and programmes are run in this respect by Kahramaa.
However, these efforts will accelerate and better thrive when nationally co-ordinated under an overarching carbon management plan. It starts with a baseline of Qatar’s carbon footprint, measuring and reporting carbon emissions across value chains. The metrics and analytics will highlight risks and opportunities that shall set about definite carbon cutting target(s). Then, a resultant strategy should be executable by periodic, sectorial carbon management programmes that lay down carbon reduction policies, codes, standards and procedures.
Recent history of climate change policy provides plenty of examples to learn from. Some countries chose to mandate ineffectual policies; some others remain on the fence about adopting a broad plan, while a few pioneered national carbon reductions. Akin to Qatar, Norway is a major oil producer, yet considered a global environmental sustainability leader. Under a comprehensive carbon-emission 2050 vision, Norway achieved several sustainability breakthroughs in carbon capture, storage and sequestration, commitment to zero deforestation, reliance on renewable energy and widespread use of electric cars. The country aspires to a very ambitious net zero carbon goal.
A Qatari carbon management plan may not necessarily aim for carbon neutrality but rather de-carbonisation. Much less, the process of developing a long-term carbon reduction and/or neutrality plan is not of great importance as long as initial adaptation, mitigation and continuous management of carbon are all devised into the plan. This flexibility could especially be helpful to incentivise private businesses and the public to adopt changes that are at the same time sustainable and attainable.
Fearing implications to economic growth, emission management plans are – more often than not – perceived with trepidation. But unplanned future will only put off climate change risks to later times if not worsen its already dire consequences. Reassuringly, the pro-business environment and the high potential of solar energy generation will give Qatar an edge in posing as leader of climate change action and in combating ramifications of global warming.
*Sheikh Soud Khalifa al-Thani, PhD, is a sustainable development academic and the Sustainability Director at ASTAD Project Management Co.
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