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Current situation

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

Emissions profile

Saudi Arabia’s GHG emissions have increased steeply by almost fourfold between 1990 and 2017. A majority of this rise in emissions can be attributed to the energy sector with an increase from 136 MtCO₂e/yr in 1990 to 537 MtCO₂e/yr in 2017, which accounted for 83% of total GHG excluding LULUCF.

The share of the energy sector has remained almost constant since 2012 when it contributed for 84% of overall GHG emissions in Saudi Arabia. Within the energy sector, the power sector is the single largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for about a one-third share in overall GHG emissions. This is followed by manufacturing and energy industries (21%), and transport (19%).

As the world’s largest producer of oil, fugitive emissions form a notable share of overall emissions (11%). Saudi Arabia’s economy is heavily reliant on oil exports, with expected contribution of nearly 62% of total government revenues in 2020.6 Industrial process, waste, and agriculture emissions constitute the remaining share of Saudi Arabia’s GHG emissions.

Under current policies, GHG emissions are projected to rise 46-61% above 2015 levels and reach 933-1035 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030.1

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 Arabiaʼs current GHG emissions

MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values

By sector

  • Power
  • Industry (energy use)
  • Transport
  • Fugitive emissions
  • Buildings
  • Other
  • Industry (processes)
  • Waste
  • Agriculture
  • LULUCF
Energy (84%)⟵ LULUCF negative emissions

By gas

  • CO₂
  • CH₄
  • N₂O
  • Other
081%0

Sectors by gas

Energy
086%0
Agriculture
081%0
Industry (processes)
095%0

Energy system

Rapid economic growth in Saudi Arabia has driven a more than fivefold increase in electricity consumption and nearly a fourfold increase in final energy consumption between 1990 and 2018.3 While residential and commercial buildings are the main consumers of electricity in Saudi Arabia, the largest energy consuming sectors are transport and industry.3 As of 2018, 100% of electricity generation was reliant on fossil fuel, with natural gas contributing 58% and oil accounting for 42%.3 While renewable energy’s installed capacity grew to 403 MW in 2020, its overall share still remains low considering the total capacity of 77 GW.7,8

As part of its Vision 2030 strategy, Saudi Arabia aims to diversify its economy, which is at risk due to its heavy reliance on oil revenues. It aims to install up to 27 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2023 (20 GW PV and 7 GW wind), and up to 58.7 GW by 2030 (40 GW of solar PV, 16 GW of wind and 2.7 GW of concentrated solar power).1,5 Recently, Saudi Arabia announced signed deals for the construction of seven utility-scale solar power plants with a combined capacity of 3.7 GW, as part of the Vision 2030 project.

Targets and commitments

Economy-wide targets

Target type

Fixed level target

NDC target

  • Reduction of up to 132 MtCO₂e/yr (132 MtCO₂e/yr in AR4 GWPs) below BAU by 2030, which equates to 35-72% above 2015 by 2030 (excl. LULUCF).1
  • Saudi Arabia may choose to adjust its NDC commitment between 2016 and 2020 if it deems that the Paris Agreement creates an “abnormal burden” on its economy.1 The implementation of Saudi Arabia’s NDC is not contingent on receiving international financial support, but on technical assistance, sustained capacity building and support available to developing countries within the framework of the UNFCCC.2
  • The NDC does not provide the sector coverage nor any targeted measures for agriculture, waste, industrial processes or LULUCF.

Long-term target

  • Saudi Arabia does not have a net zero target.
  • The Energy Minister of Saudi Arabia announced a commitment to carbon neutrality at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh in January 2021.5 However, Saudi Arabia has yet to legislate on this commitment, nor has it stated by when it aims to achieve carbon neutrality, which would be interpreted as net zero CO₂.

Sector coverage

Energy

Greenhouse gas coverage

CO₂CH₄NF₃HFCsN₂O

Sectoral targets

Energy

  • Build the world’s largest carbon capture and use plant to capture and purify about 1500 tons of CO₂ a day for use in petrochemical plants.2
  • Operate a carbon dioxide – enhanced oil recovery (CO₂-EOR) demonstration project to assess the viability of CO₂ sequestration in oil reservoirs and any other useful applications. Capture, process and inject 40 million standard cubic feet of CO₂ a day into the Othmaniya oil reservoir.2

Power

  • Install 27.3 GW of renewable energy capacity (20 GW of solar PV and 16 GW of wind) by 2023, and 58.7 GW by 2030 (40 GW of solar PV, 16 GW of wind and 2.7 GW of concentrated solar power).5

Footnotes