A 1.5°C compatible pathway for Saudi Arabia would see the country reducing its emissions by 51% by 2030 below 2015 levels, or to 347 MtCO₂e.
Saudi Arabiaʼs total GHG emissions
excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr
- 1.5°C compatible pathways
- Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
- Current policy projections
- 1.5°C emissions range
- Historical emissions
Saudi Arabia’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is unclear on the 2030 target, lacking information on national emissions projections and on the baseline used to define the country’s climate commitment in the framework of the Paris Agreement. Saudi Arabia submitted an updated version of its first NDC to the UNFCC in 2021.
1 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Updated First Nationally Determined Contribution 2021 Submission to UNFCCC. (2021).
2 Climate Action Tracker. Climate Action Tracker. Climate Action Tracker (2022).
3 BBC News. Saudi Arabia commits to net zero emissions by 2060. (2021).
4 International Energy Agency. Energy data and statistics. (2021).
5 Alnatheer, O. The potential contribution of renewable energy to electricity supply in Saudi Arabia. Energy Policy 33, 2298–2312 (2005).
6 BP. Statistical Review of World Energy 2021. (2021).
7 KPMG. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Budget Report A review of the Saudi Arabia 2020 budget and recent economic developments (2019).
8 IRENA. Renewable Energy Statistics 2021. (2021).
9 General Authority for Statistics. Indicators of Renewable Energy in Saudi Arabia 2018. (2018).
10 Recharge News. We will be pioneering’: Saudi Arabia reveals 50% renewables goal by 2030, but is that realistic? (2021).
11 Climate Action Tracker. Country Analysis: Saudi Arabia September 2020 Update. (2020).
12 Balkan Green Energy News. Saudi Arabia to add 3.7 GW in solar power, achieves world’s lowest price. (2021).
13 Government of Saudi Arabia. The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the UNFCCC. (2015).
14 Climate Transparency. Climate Transparency Report 2022 | Climate Transparency. (2022).
15 Bloomberg Green. Saudi Arabia to use 110 billion gas project for blue hydrogen. (2021).
16 TNO. 15 things you need to know about hydrogen. (2021).
17 Climate Transparency. Country Profile: Saudi Arabia. (2021).
18 Utilities Middle East. Saudi Arabia gets first EV charging stations. (2019).
19 Rose, M. Saudi Arabia to launch partial operation of Riyadh Metro by September 2021. Urban Transport News (2021).
20 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).
21 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.
The country’s 2021 NDC submission includes a target to reduce up to 278 MtCO₂e/yr including LULUCF by 2030. Excluding LULUCF, this target translates to emissions level of 524–799 MtCO₂e by 2030 or a change of -25 to +14% compared to 2015 levels. The wide range is due to uncertainty in the expected role of the LULUCF sector and the lack of a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario in the NDC.1,2
Net zero CO₂
While Saudi Arabia has announced a commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2060, the government has not enshrined the commitment in policy, nor specified details, such as the scope and design of the target.3
In a Paris Agreement compatible emissions pathway, Saudi Arabia’s GHG emissions excluding LULUCF drop to a level of 78–104 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050 or 85–89% below 2015 levels.20 To reach net zero GHG emissions, Saudi Arabia will need to balance the residual emissions through the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) approaches.21
The power sector could contribute to negative emissions starting in the 2040s through CDR technologies, balancing the remaining emissions from other sectors such as waste and agriculture, with renewables providing 92–100% of Saudi Arabia’s electricity generation by 2050.
- As of 2019, electricity generation in Saudi Arabia was completely dominated by fossil fuels, with nearly 60% attributed to fossil gas and the rest coming from oil.4
- Saudi Arabia has huge renewable energy potential, particularly when it comes to deploying solar technologies.5 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 5–29% by 2030 and 92–100% by 2050. Fossil 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, with a carbon intensity of 0–20gCO₂/kWh by 2040, a 96–100% reduction below 2019 levels.
- Buildings accounted for 16% of total final energy demand in Saudi Arabia in 2019.4 Electricity supplied 93% of this demand, with the rest coming from oil.4 The sector’s energy-related emissions have risen steadily in the past three decades while the emissions intensity has declined more sharply.
- 1.5°C compatible pathways project direct CO₂ emissions in the sector to reduce to 0–1 MtCO₂ by 2050 from 5 MtCO₂ in 2019, and the sector to be decarbonised between 2020 and 2034.
- Electricity share could reach 99% in buildings energy consumption by 2050 from 92% in 2019. The contribution of hydrogen is foreseen to be limited in the decarbonisation of the buildings sector.
- In its 2021 NDC submission, Saudi Arabia states its ambition to retrofit the entire pool of public facilities, and incentivise energy efficiency in government and private sector buildings via the National Energy Services Company (Tarshid).1
- In 2020, Saudi Arabia was responsible for nearly 13% of global oil and 3% of global gas production.6 Thus, Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas sector is responsible for the majority of the energy and process-related emissions in the country’s industry sector, both of which increased more than fivefold between 1990 and 2017.
- Analysed 1.5°C compatible pathways indicate that energy-related emissions from the industry sector would need to decline by 85–88% below 2019 levels by 2050.
- The share of electricity in the industry sector should reach 27–46% by 2050 from 7% in 2019.
- In October 2021, Saudi Arabia announced its intention to reach net zero emissions by 2060.3 However, the government’s plans to continue the production of oil and gas for decades to come, and to transform one of the largest natural gas reserves to produce large-scale blue hydrogen (which is highly emissions intensive) contradict the commitment.
- The transport sector is the single largest energy consuming end-use sector in Saudi Arabia accounting for one-third of total final energy consumption in 2019. The sector’s energy demand is entirely supplied by oil.4
- While Saudi Arabia does not have an absolute emissions reduction target for the sector, the government has invested considerably in metro projects and EV charging stations across the country in recent years. In its 2021 NDC submission, Saudi Arabia states its intention to deploy various energy efficiency improvement initiatives across energy sectors including transport led by the Saudi Energy Efficiency Centre.1
- To be 1.5°C compatible, direct CO₂ emissions from the transport sector would need to decline by 49–58% by 2030 and 79–94% by 2050 relative to 2019 levels.
- Saudi Arabia would need to reduce its reliance on oil products in the transport sector, and instead focus on electrification which should reach a share of 43–60% by 2050. Hydrogen and liquid biofuels could contribute in particular to the decarbonisation of heavy-duty vehicles, reaching a share of 11–29% and 27–57% in the transport sector energy mix by 2050.