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What is Saudi Arabiaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

In brief

This is a summary of the most important findings of our analysis. Get a brief overview over the most important figures and entry points into the various parts of the in depth analysis.

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Ambition gap

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Saudi Arabiaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
−100 %−50 %0 %50 %20002020204020601234
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
Legend
  1. 1
    1.5°C emissions level
    −44 %
  2. 2
    Estimated NDC
    +35 %
  3. 3
    Ambition gap
    −78 %
  4. 4
    Reference year
    2015
Key messages

Saudi Arabia’s 2030 NDC target is unclear and does not provide national emissions projections nor information on the baseline used to define its climate commitment in the framework of the Paris Agreement.

1 Climate Action Tracker. Country Analysis: Saudi Arabia September 2020 Update. (2020).

2 Government of Saudi Arabia. The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the UNFCCC. (2015).

3 International Energy Agency. Energy data and statistics. (2021).

4 Alnatheer, O. The potential contribution of renewable energy to electricity supply in Saudi Arabia. Energy Policy 33, 2298–2312 (2005).

5 Recharge News. We will be pioneering’: Saudi Arabia reveals 50% renewables goal by 2030, but is that realistic? (2021).

6 KPMG. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Budget Report A review of the Saudi Arabia 2020 budget and recent economic developments. (2019). Arabia2020BudgetReport.pdf

7 International Renewable Energy Agency. Statistics Time Series. (2021).

8 General Authority for Statistics. Indicators of Renewable Energy in Saudi Arabia 2018. (2018).

9 Balkan Green Energy News. Saudi Arabia to add 3.7 GW in solar power, achieves world’s lowest price. (2021).

10 In some of the analysed pathways, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

11 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

12 The 100%RE model (EWG_LUT) shows an oil phase out by 2030, the Low Energy Demand (MESSAGEix-GLOBIOM) shows an oil share of 22% by 2030, and the model High energy demand – Low CDR Reliance (REMIND_1.7) shows a share of 4% of oil by 2030. The two other models SSP1-High CDR Reliance (IMAGE-SSP1-19-SPA1-V17) and the SSP1-Low CDR Reliance (AIM/CGE SSP1-19-SPA1-V16), show an increase by 2030.

Saudi Arabia aims to annually abate up to 130 MtCO2e/yr (132 MtCO2e/yr in AR4 GWPs) by 2030 through contributions to economic diversification and adaptation measures that also entail mitigation co-benefits.1,2 This translates to emissions levels of 860-1120 MtCO2e/yr excluding LULUCF in 2030, an increment of 35-72% above 2015 levels.1

In contrast, a 1.5°C compatible pathway for Saudi Arabia would see the country reducing its emissions by 39-51% by 2030 below 2015 levels, or 311-388 MtCO2e/yr.

While Saudi Arabia has announced a commitment to become carbon neutral, this has neither been backed by an official document, or been stated by when it would achieve carbon neutrality.5

In a Paris Agreement compatible emissions pathway, Saudi Arabia’s remaining GHG emissions excluding LULUCF reach a level of 67-115 MtCO2e/yr by 2050 or 82-90% below 2015 levels.10 To reach net zero GHG emissions, Saudi Arabia will need to balance these residual emissions through the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) approaches, via land sinks or technological options.11

The power sector would need to contribute negative emissions of up to -80 MtCO2 at this point, to balance remaining emissions from other sectors such as waste and agriculture, with renewables providing all of the Saudi Arabia’s electricity.

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Key messages

As of 2018, electricity generation in Saudi Arabia was completely dominated by fossil fuels, with nearly 60% attributed to natural gas and the rest from oil.3

With high solar irradiation, Saudi Arabia benefits from high renewable energy potential, particularly from solar technologies.4 To be 1.5°C compatible, Saudi Arabia would need to move away from fossil-based power generation, and ramp up its renewable energy share in power generation to 6-22% by 2030 and 92-100% by 2050. Natural gas would need to be phased out from the power system between 2040 and 2047.

1.5°C compatible pathways indicate a fully decarbonised power sector in the 2040s, reaching a carbon intensity of zero to 20 gCO2/kWh by 2040 (96-100% reduction below 2017).

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Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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Current targets
Required targets
2030
  1. 2030 6 to 22% Renewable share
2040
  1. 2040-2043 Zero emissions power
2050
  1. 2050 92 to 100% Renewable share

Footnotes