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Global climate action and its challenges and opportunities in the GCC

09 Jan 2024

Global climate action and its challenges and opportunities in the GCC

09 Jan 2024

1- Introduction

Climate change is affecting people’s daily lives worldwide. Additionally, climate change is increasing and expanding alarmingly; its effects are already spreading rapidly and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future, at least in the next two decades. As we can see, even if we successfully reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, they will still have an impact on our lives until that time or beyond. Moreover, droughts, heatwaves and other climate-related hazards will become stronger, more intense, more frequent, and longer. These hazards carry dangerous health and economic effects. So, it will not only affect our health and economy but also the ecosystems we depend on. While some countries are affected by only one climate change hazard, other countries and regions are more vulnerable to many climate-related hazards. Earth is expected to get warmer, with some countries getting drier while others wetter. For that, the world — particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region — needs to live with climate change through a variety of adaptation measures and face it head-on with various mitigation measures.

Recent events, especially those surrounding COP28, have demonstrated worldwide efforts undertaken by various actors and GCC countries, chiefly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to strengthen global climate action and confront future climate shifts.

The current problem is no longer limited to studying how to reduce emissions or adapt to climate change but rather how to combine the two strategies: mitigation and adaptation. Therefore, the study aims to answer the following questions: What does global climate action mean? Is there a relationship between mitigation and adaptation strategies? What strategy should we choose in the face of climate change? Which countries have the greatest impact on emissions? Is the China-U.S. competition impacting GHG emissions? Between China and the U.S., which country contributes most to global climate action? How do GCC countries contribute to global climate action? What challenges does GCC face? What are the opportunities they have? Are the GCC countries, rich in fossil fuel resources, able to lead climate action? Which country is the leader in climate action within the GCC region?

To answer these questions, the study sections are as follows:

– Presenting the concept of global climate action and its pathway (1995-2023).

– Clarifying the interrelationship between mitigation and adaptation strategies in the face of climate change.

– Identifying the challenges facing global climate action

– Presenting countries that have the greatest impact on GHGs emissions (in Gt CO2eq); and the impact of the China-U.S. competition on climate change.

– Presenting climate action in the GCC countries, the various challenges facing this region and the opportunities available.

2- Global climate action between mitigation and adaptation

Prior to discussing the trajectory of global climate action and its pathway during the recent period, the interrelationships between adaptation and mitigation, the various challenges to global climate action, and the range of opportunities that exist, we present some definitions that we consider crucial to understanding the concept of climate action on global scale.

2-1- Global Climate Action (GCA) definition

Climate action defined by the Paris Agreement started by set targets for reaching net-zero GHGs emissions by 2050. (Uczak de Goes, Markocsan, & Gupta, 2022). Also, “climate action” refers to individual-organizational efforts to reduce GHGs emissions and increase resilience to climate change impacts. (Gunasiri, et al., 2022). Moreover; “climate action” refers to all activities that lead the world to transform its energy, industry, transport, food, agriculture and forestry systems to ensure that they can limit the global temperature rise to less than 1.5°C. ( (UN, 2023); (SDGs.UN, 2023); (UNEP, 2023)). As a brief definition, it can be said that “climate action” is the 13th goal among the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which refers to taking urgent actions and activities to combat climate change and its impacts around the world.

In addition, global climate action refers to collective efforts and initiatives taken by countries, organizations, communities, and individuals around the world to address the challenges of climate change and mitigate its impacts. It involves implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promoting sustainable practices, and adapting to the changing climate. (TWT, 2022)

Global Climate Action (GCA) includes some key aspects as follows: International Agreements (The Paris Agreement); Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction (Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) through various means); Renewable Energy Transition (Shift towards renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power); Carbon Pricing (Considering carbon pricing mechanisms, such as carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems to put a price on carbon emissions; Adaptation and Resilience (involves taking measures to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and build resilience. This includes implementing strategies to manage water resources, protect ecosystems, develop climate-resilient infrastructure, and enhance disaster preparedness); Awareness and Education (Raising awareness about climate change and promote sustainable lifestyles, eco-friendly practices, and the importance of reducing carbon footprints through education, outreach programs); International Cooperation and Funding (taking responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions and participating in financing climate action, as well as reaching agreement on how to finance the Loss and Damage Fund). (TWT, 2022)

So global climate action requires a sustained commitment from stakeholders worldwide to achieve the Net-Zero as long-term goal by 2050.

2-2- Global Climate Action Pathway (1995-2023)

Although the first Conference of the Parties (COP1) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was held from 28 March to 7 April 1995 in Berlin, Germany, it can be said that the path of global climate action began with the Kyoto Protocol. It outlined the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction obligation during the Third Conference of the Parties (COP3) held from 1 to 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan.

The second important step was the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP11) and the first Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 1) since their initial meeting in Kyoto in 1997, which took place from 28 November to 9 December 2005, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was also one of the largest intergovernmental conferences on climate change ever. It marked the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. The Montreal Action Plan was an agreement to extend the life of the Kyoto Protocol beyond its expiration date (in 2012) and negotiate for deep reductions in GHG emissions.

The most important step in the global climate action pathway to date is the Paris Agreement, governing climate change reduction measures, which was adopted by 196 Parties after intensive negotiations during the COP 21 held in Paris from 30 November to 12 December 2015. It entered into force on 4 November 2016. The adoption of this agreement ended the work of the Durban platform, established during COP17.

After that, COP22 was held in Marrakech, Morocco, from 7 to 18 November 2016. It also included the 12th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), and the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1). The main issues of COP22 were water scarcity, water cleanliness, and water sustainability, which are major problems in the developing world, affecting many African states. Another issue was the need to reduce GHG’s emissions and target carbon neutrality. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly during COP22, called for raising ambition and scaling up mitigation action; increasing the use of low-carbon energy sources in the global energy mix, including renewables such as wind and solar energy; investing by all actors in smart and viable climate solutions that will achieve transformation to a resilient and low-emissions global economy. Finally, he mentioned that the transition to inclusive low-carbon economies required a scaling-up and mobilizing of finance. (unfccc, 2016)

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), which took place in Dubai, UAE, From 30 November to 12 December 2023, also featured the 18th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 18), the 5th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 5), and the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties that accepted agreement to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund (CMLD 1) It also coincided with the 59th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 59), and the 59th meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 59) because the SBSTA and SBI work together on issues that touch on both their areas of expertise. This makes COP28 the first of its kind in terms of organization, ambition, and goals that it is expected to achieve. Among the recent achievements in global climate action are:

Delivering a historic agreement to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund (L & D Fund), which will assist developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The L & D Fund was first agreed upon during COP27, held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. But the first agreement to operationalize the L & D Fund was during COP28. Over 420 million dollars were pledged to Loss and Damage within the first hour of COP28’s first day. Among these $420 million, the UAE committed $100 million, Germany $100 million, and other countries made notable commitments, including the UK, which committed £40 million for the Fund and £20 million for other arrangements; Japan, which contributed $10 million; and the U.S., which committed $17.5 million. The rest of the results and outcomes achieved in COP28 are included in the conclusion of this paper.

Also, the COP28 featured the first-ever Global Stocktake, which takes place every five years. The Global Stocktake established by Article 14 of the Paris Agreement aims to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the Agreement and its long-term goals in a comprehensive and facilitative manner, considering mitigation, adaptation, and the means of implementation and support, and in the light of equity and the best available science. (unfccc, 2023)

To evaluate the path of global climate action, some statistics on the number of participants or actors in climate action around the world are as follows: In the global community, there are 32,522 actors engaging in climate actions. Among them are 15,593 companies, 1,654 investors, 3,443 organizations, 282 regions, 11,354 cities, 196 countries. (UNFCCC, 2023)

2-3- Interrelationships between adaptation and mitigation

Before we start presenting the interrelationships, we mention the definitions, differences and similarities between adaptation and mitigation as follows:

Mitigation: Is a human (anthropogenic) intervention to reduce GHGs sources or enhance its sinks. (IPCC, 2001) (unfccc, 2023)

Adaptation: Is an adjustment in environmental, human, social, and economic systems in response to current and expected climate change or its effects. It also refers to changes in structures, processes and practices to benefit from associated climate change opportunities and to lessen potential damages and losses. (IPCC, 2001) (unfccc, 2023)

Table 1: Differences and similarities between mitigation and adaptation

Strategies Sides of comparison Mitigation Adaptation
Reduces impacts Reduces all impacts (positive and negative) Selective; it can take advantage of positive impacts and reduce negative ones
Benefits Has global benefits Mostly has local benefits
Efforts comparisons Easy to compare through: . Costs of implementing . Their cost-effectiveness . GHGs emissions reduced Difficult to compare because of: . Benefits of adaptation are more difficult to express in a single metric . Benefits of adaptation valued differently depending on the political, economic and social contexts within which they occur
Results period Mitigation measures carried out today will be evidenced in several decades because of the long residence of GHG in the atmosphere. Adaptation measures would be effective immediately and yield benefits by reducing vulnerability to climate variability. So, its benefits will increase over time.
There is a delay between incurring the costs of mitigation and realizing its benefits from smaller climate change. The time span between expenditures and returns of adaptation is usually much shorter.
Initiative (Source) Mitigation actions tends from international agreements and national public policies. Adaptation actions motivated by the self-interest of those affected.  
The implementation The two options are implemented on the regional or local scale, and may be motivated by regional or local priorities, as well as global concerns and goals.
The implications The implications of adaptation and mitigation can be both positive and negative. (For example, afforestation that is part of a regional adaptation measures makes a positive contribution to mitigation. In parallel, adaptation measures that require increased energy use from carbon-emitting sources would affect negatively on mitigation efforts)
The relative prices Both strategies change relative prices, which can lead to adjustments in investment and consumption patterns and changes in the development pathway of affected economy.

Source: Author according to (IPCC, 2007, pp. 748-750)

Regarding the link between mitigation and adaptation strategies, we find that only in the last few years have policymakers expressed an interest in exploring interrelationships between adaptation and mitigation. After realizing the dual necessity for adaptation and mitigation, as well as the necessity to explore synergies between the two strategies, they are faced with a set of questions, some of which can be mentioned as follows: How much adaptation and mitigation would be optimal? When can the optimal of mitigation and adaptation be achieved? In which combination can the optimal of mitigation and adaptation be achieved? Who would decide this combination, and based on which criteria? Are adaptation and mitigation substitutes or are they complementary to one another? Where and when is it best to invest in mitigation, and where and when in adaptation? What is the potential for creating synergies between the two responses? How do their impacts and costs vary over time? How do the two strategies affect, and how are they affected by, development pathways? These are some of the questions that have led the IPCC to include a chapter on interrelationships between adaptation and mitigation in its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). (Klein, et al., 2007)

A schematic overview of the interrelationships between adaptation, mitigation and impacts, can be provided through the following figure.

Figure 1: Interrelationships between adaptation, mitigation and impacts

Source : (Klein, et al., 2007, p. 748)

On the other side, there are also mutual relationships between mitigation and adaptation strategies so that each can serve the other (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Interrelationships and synergies between mitigation and adaptation

Source : (Chen, et al., 2022, p. 2291)

Distribution of solar energy across buildings instead of nonrenewable fuel sources leads to low carbon emissions in the whole energy sector, which is considered an implementation of mitigation strategy. At the same time, the use of distributed solar energy is in synergy with the adaptation strategy, as solar energy leads to a more flexible power supply system than over-the-ground grids that are vulnerable to climate change impacts such as storms and temperature changes. (Ripple , et al., 2022).

The planting and maintenance of forests mitigate climate change by reducing and storing carbon. Moreover, the planting and maintenance of forests adapted to climate change by offering foods and protection from heatwaves, fires, and droughts. So, it is a synergy between adaptation and mitigation (Moomaw, Masino, & Faison, 2019). The reduction of forest conversion to agricultural land contributes to climate change adaptation and mitigation in the agricultural sector (Montanaro, Nuzzo, Xiloyannis, & Dichio, 2018). Furthermore, transition to a circular economy can help create new goods, which is one of adaptation and mitigation measures. Additionally, constructing green-walls and rooftops are one of mitigating and adapting methods to climate change in buildings (Grafakos, Trigg, Landauer, Chelleri, & Dhakal , 2019).

3- Challenges of global climate action

Global Climate Action has faced various challenges, especially in 2023, and it coincided with the 28th conference of the parties (COP28), which took place in several contexts and coincided with the occurrence of noticeable climate changes, including:

  • 2023: The warmest year on record:

– From January to October, global surface temperature reached its highest point in the 174-year record at 1.13°C (2.03°F), above the 1901-2000 average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). This surpassed the previous record from January-October 2016 by 0.08°C (0.14°F). (NOAA, 2023)

– Also, according to NCEI’s statistical analysis and data through October, there is a greater than 99% chance that 2023 will rank as the warmest year in NOAA’s 174-year record. (NCEI, 2023)

– Unprecedented temperature anomalies led 2023 to be the warmest year on record, and July 2023 was the hottest month on record.

  • The occurrence of natural disasters such as: Storm Daniel in Libya; Cyclone Freddy (Affected areas: Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, South Africa, and Zimbabwe); Cyclone Mocha (Affected areas: Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma), and India); Cold snap in Afghanistan; Morocco earthquake; Turkey and Syria earthquakes; Afghanistan earthquake.
  • The negotiations about “loss and damage” Fund:

The negotiations in October were supposedly the last chance to reach an agreement on the “loss and damage” fund, but a fifth extraordinary gathering took place in Abu Dhabi in November that agreed to make the World Bank the fund’s interim home and encourage all countries to contribute. (El Dahan, 2023)

3-1- GHG emissions share: China, USA, India, and Russia

Tracking GHG emissions shows that China, the USA, India, respectively, ranked in the first three places, in terms of their share in global GHG emissions. While Russia and Brazil ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, after the EU27, as shown in the figure below.

Figure 3: GHG emissions contribution by major economies the rest of the world in 2022 (in Gt CO2eq)

Source: (JRC, 2023, p. 05)

This figure points out that China, the USA, India, the EU27, Russia and Brazil were the six largest GHG emitters in 2022. Together, they account for 61.6% of global GHG emissions. If we take into account more factors, together they account for more than 50% of the global population, 61% of the global Gross Domestic Product, and 63% of global fossil fuel consumption. Also, total GHG emissions from the four BRICS countries (BRIC) is 43.7%, as indicated in the following table.

Table 2: Shares in 2022 global GHG emissions, yearly GHG emission relative changes over the period 2019-2022 and the CAGR in 1990-2022 (%)

Source: (JRC, 2023, p. 05)

Moreover, the largest contribution to GHG emissions was made by the Power Industry sector, Industrial Combustion and Processes, Transport, respectively. While 71.6% of the total GHG emissions in 2022 was from carbon dioxide (see figure 4).

Figure 4: GHG emissions by sector

Source: (JRC, 2023, p. 39)

3-2-     China-U.S. competition and their impact on climate change

China-U.S. competition has been analyzed a lot as a typical case of bilateral economic conflict. But this competition has caused a significant contribution to the increase in GHG emissions resulting from the increase in their final demand, production and supply chains. Despite this, it can be said that China is working to contribute more to global climate action, because the United States’ previous exit from the Paris Agreement left the opportunity for China to lead climate action. In support of this view,  (Jiang, Tang, Zhao, & Höök, 2022) found that the average annual growth rate of emissions in China due to the U.S. final demand was 4.83% during 1995-2015.

Moreover, their results showed that 1) before the global financial crisis, the embodied emissions in nonmetal mineral products exported from China to the U.S. were continuously decreasing, while embodied emissions exports in machinery and equipment were rapidly increasing. 2) China specified the maximum emission pathways for the main demand categories, with a focus on emissions from metallurgy and products; and Sea Transportation Services (STS). 3) China focuses on specific industrial paths, implements comprehensive treatment of upstream and downstream, and achieves a low-emission industrial chain throughout the whole process to effectively reduce emissions. (Jiang, Tang, Zhao, & Höök, 2022). Investments in renewable energies show that China invests 5.5 times, 5 times, 24 times, what USA, Europe, India, respectively invest (see figure 5).

Figure 5: Investments in renewable energy in 2022, by region

Source: (Fernández, 2023)

3-3- Global Climate Action SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)

The Global Climate Action SWOT (GCA-SWOT) is designed to help implement previous agreements and enhance collaboration on climate action to confront existing challenges and create real opportunities. The idea of (GCA-SWOT) is derived from the sustainability swot (sSWOT). (METZGER, PUTT DEL PINO, PROWITT, GOODWARD, & PERERA, 2012)

Figure 6: The sustainability SWOT


Figure 7: The Global Climate Action sustainability (Pyramid and SWOT)

Source: (MEDDAH, 2023)

The Global Climate Action SWOT shown through the following figure:

Figure 8: The Global Climate Action SWOT (GCA-SWOT)

Source: (MEDDAH, 2023)

In order to ensure the sustainability of global climate action and reach the top of the pyramid, these are the following measures:

  1. Building a solid and strong base by identifying all needs to achieve climate action (such as the role of education in climate action, providing the necessary means and equipment, increasing the number of actors, providing funding, etc.)
  2. Working within the SWOT of global climate action as follows:

. Internally: Identifying the weaknesses in each country, region, city, or company and how to find remedial solutions for them to become strengths, as well as strengthening the existing internal strengths to expand the work externally.

. Externally: Identifying all threats and how to confront them to create opportunities through mitigation and adaptation strategies

The transition from weaknesses to strengths occurs through finding solutions to existing problems and answers to the questions raised regarding the weaknesses. As for the transition from threats to opportunities, it occurs through knowing the real threats and arranging them according to priority in confrontation, identifying possible opportunities in the field of climate action, linking the two strategies “mitigation and adaptation”, scientific and technological cooperation, and mobilizing the necessary funds.

  1. After achieving the previous stages, ensuring the continuation of global climate action can be achieved through providing technological and financial support; encouraging existing initiatives; climate taxation; spreading peace in all regions.

4- Climate action in the GCC

The Arabian Peninsula in general and the GCC in particular have different threats from climate change impacts because it is located in the hottest region in the world, exactly in the Sunbelt. If the current trends continue to increase, some places may become uninhabited due to the effects of climate change, such as desertification, drought, etc. Of all the six GCC countries, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have become the region’s leaders in climate action and energy transition through their visions and ambitions for renewable energy and sustainable development.

4-1- GCC actors in climate actions

Among 32,522 actors engaging in climate action around the world, there are only 87 actors engaging in climate action in the GCC, distributed as follows: 51 Companies; 7 Investors; 21 Organizations; 1Region; 1 City; 6 Countries (all Gulf Cooperation Council countries). Of the 87 actors in the GCC, we find that 54 actors are in the United Arab Emirates (53 without counting the state). Saudi Arabia (KSA) comes in second place with 17 actors, followed by Qatar and Oman with 5 actors each, and Kuwait and Bahrain with 4 and 2 actors, respectively (see table 3).

Table 3: GCC actors engaging in climate actions

Countries Actors UAE KSA Qatar Oman Kuwait Bahrain Total
Countries 1 1 1 1 1 1 6
Cities 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Regions 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Organizations 16 3 2 0 0 0 21
Investors 3 3 1 0 0 0 7
Companies 32 10 1 4 3 1 51
All actors 54 17 05 05 04 02 87

Source: Author

Climate action actors between the UAE and the KSA can be compared according to engagement types and themes through the following two figures:

Figure 9: Non-State actors located in UAE and KSA by engagement types

Source : (unfccc, UAE, 2023); (unfccc, KSA, 2023)

Figure 10: Non-State actors located in UAE and KSA by themes

Source : (unfccc, UAE, 2023) ; (unfccc, KSA, 2023)

4-2- Total and per Capita GHG emissions in GCC Countries

The number of actors in climate action within the GCC region is expected to increase in the coming years, especially in the UAE, which hosted COP28, and it has a great vision for 2071, which marks the centenary of the Union. Also, Saudi Arabia, which has begun to take climate action into account in its development path, has a great vision for 2060. It must be remembered that there is a difference between these countries in terms of area, population, and gases emitted (see table 4).

Table 4: GCC Countries (Area; Population; GHG emissions)

Countries Factors UAE KSA Qatar Oman Kuwait Bahrain Total
Total Area (Km2) 84 T 2.15 M 12 T 310 T 18 T 778 2.57 M
Population 9.44 M 36.41 M 2.7 M 4.58 M 4.27 M 1.47 M 58.9 M
GHG emissions (MtCO2eq) 295.11 810.51 194.65 137.24 167.86 69.97 1675.35

Source: Author (M: million; T: Thousand; MtCO2eq: Million Tons of carbon dioxide equivalent)

It can be noted that KSA is the largest in terms of area and population, as well as the volume of GHG emissions. GHG emissions from KSA are 2.7, 4.16, and 11.58 times greater than those by the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain, respectively.

Figure 11: Total GHG emissions in GCC, 1970-2022, (in Mt CO2eq)

Source: Author depended on (EDGAR, 2023)

It is true that Saudi Arabia ranks first in terms of total CO2 emissions (Mt) emitted, but when taking into account per capita CO2 emissions (Mt), it is found that the kingdom comes at the bottom of the GCC ranking while Qatar ranks first, which is shown in the following figure:

Figure 12: Per capita CO2 emissions (the GCC countries versus the world)

Source: (IRENA, 2023)

4-3- NDCs in GCC countries

As a part of climate action in the GCC, each country established its own Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and amended it twice, while the UAE amended it three times, with a difference in the target period for achieving carbon neutrality, as shown in the following table:

Table 5: GCC Nationally Determined Contributions information

Countries NDC UAE KSA Qatar Oman Kuwait Bahrain
NDC information Title Third Update of Second Nationally Determined Contribution for the UAE Saudi Arabia First NDC (Updated submission) Qatar First NDC (Updated submission) Oman 1st Update of the 2nd NDC Kuwait First NDC (Updated submission) Bahrain First NDC (Updated submission)
Version 3 2 2 3 2 2
Status Active Active Active Active Active Active
 S Date 11/07/2023 23/10/2021 24/08/2021 29/11/2023 12/10/2021 18/10/2021
Vision 2030 2030 2030 2040 2035 230
Net-Zero goal 2050 2060 2050 2060 2060

Source: Author according to (UNFCCC, 2023)

As for the main objectives and policies for climate action in the GCC, they can be summarized in the following figure.

Figure 13: Key policies and targets of climate action in GCC

Source: (IRENA, 2023, p. 18)

4-4- Renewable energy investments in GCC

In order to avoid exposure to the negative effects of decreased demand for fossil fuels in the future, the GCC countries, especially those whose exports depend on hydrocarbons, are working to intensify their efforts and accelerate the pace of their transition to clean energy sources such as solar energy (Solar PV, Solar thermal), onshore wind, and biomass. Moreover, the investments in renewable energies in the GCC can be presented as follows:

Figure 14: Renewable energy investments in GCC by technology (M USD)

Source: (IRENA, 2023)

The GCC countries were not limited to investing in renewable energies within, but their investment extended around the world, as shown in figure 15.

Figure 15: Investments by GCC in regions around the world (2016-2020)

Source: (IRENA, 2023)

The capabilities of the GCC countries in solar and wind energy are shown in the following figure.

Figure 16: Solar and wind resources in GCC countries

Source: (IRENA, 2023)

The following figure shows capabilities of the GCC countries in installed electricity generation based on renewable energies (MW).

Figure 17: Installed renewable energy-based electricity generation capacity in the GCC countries by technology (MW), 2022

Source: (IRENA, 2023)

4-5- Climate Action in GCC: SWOT Analysis

The GCC countries face many threats and challenges that they can avoid in order to turn them into future opportunities. They also suffer from some weaknesses that must be addressed to become strengths. Therefore, the matrix or SWOT of climate change in the GCC can be presented as follows:

Table 6: Climate Action in GCC: SWOT Analysis


Advantages / Helpful Strengths Opportunities
· The area of ​​the countries is small (except KSA) · The population size is small · Contribution of language and religion’s unity to cooperation · The existence of economic and political cooperation · The existence of national climate plans · Possibility of financing climate action · Having a vision for development and achieving carbon neutrality recovery ·     The distance between these countries is close ·     Convergence of views on climate ·     Investing in renewable energies available in the region (such as: solar energy, wind energy, hydropower) ·     A great partnership with China, which is the first investor in renewable energy technologies ·     The financing attractiveness for well-structured projects in the GCC ·     Using oil and gas revenues to finance the energy transition
Deficiencies / Harmful Weaknesses Threats
·     Dependence on oil and gas ·     Delay in implementing climate action strategies and its measures   ·     Geographic location (Sunbelt and its effect) ·     Risk of losing fossil fuel income as demand drops ·     The climate change impacts such as desertification and drought, etc.
Internal External

Source: Author

As  (IRENA, 2023) mentioned that “There are several policy instruments support climate targets in GCC countries”, it can be summarized in the following table.

Table 7: GCC Climate Policies

Mitigation Adaptation
Regulatory tools Urban planning and design
Financial incentives for green technologies Water desalination
Research and development (R&D) technology support Groundwater and coastal management  
Carbon markets and carbon pricing Reforestation
Accountability and business model shifts in the fossil fuel sector Blue carbon and natural solutions

Source: Author according to  (IRENA, 2023)

4-6- UAE as a GCC leader in climate action

Following up on climate action in the GCC shows us that the UAE is a leader in the region through its investments in renewable energies, energy transformation, and the multiplicity of projects related to climate action, not to mention its efforts during 2023, especially in COP28. Its superiority in renewable energy generation capabilities (in megawatts) compared to its counterparts from the GCC countries during the last ten years can be presented as follows:

Figure 18: Renewable energy generation capacity in the GCC(MW) 2013-2022

Source: (IRENA, 2023)

Figure 19: Renewable energy generation capacity by country (MW) 2022

Source: (IRENA, 2023)

The following table shows the financing details of large-scale solar projects in the UAE.

Table 8: Financing details of large-scale solar projects in UAE

Source: (IRENA, 2023)

It is true that the GCC countries contribute to global climate action through investments in renewable energies within the region and around the world, and indeed the UAE is considered a leader in climate action in the region according to completed projects, under implementation, or those to be implemented. Notwithstanding all the efforts made by the UAE, H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, has indicated that the UAE may update its plans to tackle its own contribution to climate change this year. Moreover, the UAE strengthened its climate pledge in the summer to be more ambitious, and its COP28 leadership called on other countries to do the same ahead of the summit last year. (Saba, 2023). The minister said that the UAE is still striving for more, referring to the national climate plans, known worldwide as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). (UNFCCC, 2023); (MOCCAE, 2023).

5- Conclusion

Upon concluding this study, the following are some of the findings:

. The countries that most affect the climate through greenhouse gas emissions are China, the USA, India, the EU 27, Russia, and Brazil, respectively.

. The largest contribution to GHGs emissions was made by the Power Industry Sector, Industrial Combustion and Processes, Transport, respectively.

. 71.6% of Total GHGs emissions are carbon dioxide.

. The four BRIC countries alone contribute 43.7% of total GHG emissions.

. There has been a significant impact of China-U.S. competition on GHG emissions in recent decades due to exported goods, supply chains, and production methods.

. Large investment in renewable energies by China compared to the USA, the EU 27, India, Russia, and Brazil.

. The global climate action is constantly evolving despite some obstacles (or barriers) and delays in implementing obligations.

. The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) paved the way for a very ambitious path in the field of global climate action, especially with overcoming the problem of the (Loss and Damage) Fund and the launch of international contributions to it.

. There is complementarity between the mitigation and adaptation strategies, especially in terms of implementation and results, while we find differences between them, especially in terms of cost, time, source, and benefits.

. Global climate action requires applying both mitigation and adaptation strategies together, with the need to work to reconcile them to achieve established climate goals and confront current and future climate changes.

. Achieving sustainability in global climate action requires starting from the base of the pyramid, which includes the basic needs of climate action, through studying each of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), all the way to the top of the pyramid, which ensures continuity in global climate action.

There is no doubt that all countries have become aware of the threat of climate change and the importance of global climate action, but the issue of how to implement commitments and the period of their implementation remain two problems facing progress in global climate action, which opens the way for future research topics.

COP28 key outcomes and its effects on climate action in the GCC countries

With COP28 concluded in Dubai, worldwide negotiators worked overtime to present a plan for addressing increasing climate change impacts, especially those caused by humans. Thus, COP28 produced the following outcomes:

.  COP 28 represented the halfway point of SDGs Agenda 2030 and the midway for global climate action and climate action in the GCC countries (7 years after the Paris Agreement and 7 years to 2030 Agenda).

.  Endorsement of numerous declarations that can be summarized in the following table.

Table 9: COP28 Declaration Status Brief Report

Declarations Endorsed by
COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate Finance 13 Countries
COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health 143 Countries
COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate Relief, Recovery & Peace 80 Countries
Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel partnerships (CHAMP) Pledge 71 Countries
Global Renewables &Energy Efficiency Pledge 130 Countries
COP28 UAE Declaration on Agriculture, Food & Climate 159 Countries
COP28 UAE Declaration on Gender-Responsive just transitions 76 Countries
COP28 UAE Declaration on Cooling 66 Countries
COP28 UAE Declaration on Hydrogen 37 Countries
COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate, Nature and People 18 Countries

Source: (COP 28, 2023)

. Many financial achievements have been carried out, the most important are mentioned in the following table:

Table 10: COP28 Major Financial Achievements

Achievements The Amount
Financial pledges and commitments $83 Billion
The Global Climate Fund (GCF) raised $792 Million
The UAE Commitment for Climate Solutions $30 Billion
Developing Food Systems including: ü Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate ü Develop Spaces with renewable natural environment ü Joint Technical Cooperation ü The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research ü The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in joint commitment with the UAE ü Philanthropic funders to support food producers and consumers $7.1 Billion $3.4 Billion $2.2 Billion $200 Million $519 Million $200 Million $389 Million
UAE Banks pledged to scale up green financing $270 Billion
The Asian Development Bank allocated for Climate Finance in the Philippines $10 Billion
New money to The Green Climate Fund $3.5 Billion
The Inter-American Development Bank invested in Climate activities in Latin America $2 Billion
New Financing for Nature and Climate towards forests, mangroves, and the Oceans $186 Million
Mobilized to protect and restore nature $2.5 Billion

Source: (Trends R&A, 2023)

.  Reached Ten Global Climate Finance Framework Principles, as presented in figure 20.

Figure 20: COP28 Global Climate Finance Framework Principles

Source: (COP28, 2023)

. The climate agreement of COP28 will not have an immediate impact on GCC oil, at least in the short term, where this agreement “doesn’t impose anything” on oil-producing countries, so it allows these countries to cut emissions according to their means and benefits. Which means the climate agreement of COP28 will help GCC countries in the transition process to renewable energies.

. During COP28, the UAE accomplished historic feats.

. The UAE and World Bank led climate financing boost at COP28.

. The UAE announced the establishment of $30 billion fund for global climate solutions.

. An agreement to fund for countries most impacted by climate change through Loss and Damage Fund.

. The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) allocated over $1 billion in climate finance to tackle rising climate challenges in its member countries.

. Possibility of updating Nationally Determined Contributions according to COP28 ambitions.

. The COP28 Agreement led to the “Beginning of the End” of the Fossil Fuel Era through a transition in energy systems away from fossil fuels and increase investment in renewable and clean energies.

. Expansion of climate action in Gulf Cooperation Council countries to other regions around the world, especially in African countries, and a chance for GCC countries to assume the global leadership in innovative climate finance through various methods:

  • Generate additional lending under climate finance for African countries, depending on the unused special drawing rights (SDRs) in the IMF.
  • GCC countries are also increasing their investment in climate mitigation strategies in Africa, despite being petrostates.
  • During COP28, Masdar announced an agreement with the Angolan government to develop a 150 MW solar project in the country’s southern region of Quipungo.
  • UAE’s AMEA Power – a renewable energy developer and operator – signed agreements to develop a $600 million wind farm in Ethiopia capable of producing 300 MW of energy.
  • Qatar is also ramping up renewable energy investment in Africa.
  • The Qatar Investment Authority signed a deal with Italian renewable energy company Enel Green Power to acquire 50 percent of its projects in South Africa and Zambia – approximately 800 MW of power.
  • Expanding the investments of the GCC countries in other countries across the Continents.
  • Establishing multiple and fruitful partnerships with various countries in the field of renewable energies.
  • Cooperation between GCC countries and Turkey in energy transition (increasing adoption of renewable energies: offshore wind; solar energy; nuclear power; clean hydrogen in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation).
  • Commitment to Net-Zero from GCC countries and working to strive opportunities of green growth.
  • ENGIE launched its Desalination Center of Excellence, which aims to secure access to sustainable water in the Gulf region so that future generations flourish and live in harmony.
  • In the UAE, ENGIE is collaborating with Masdar, a leading developer and operator of utility-scale renewable energy projects, to create a renewable hydrogen hub targeting 2 GW capacity by 2030.
  • In Saudi Arabia, the Group has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) to jointly explore renewable H2 opportunities for export purposes.
  • In Oman, the ENGIE and POSCO-led consortium has been awarded a Green Ammonia project of up to a 1.2mtpa to be exported to Korea by 2030. The project will include up to 5 GW of new wind and solar capacity, BESS, and a renewable hydrogen plant with a capacity of up to 200 kiloton per annum.

. Highlighting the challenge of water scarcity in the GCC, which makes desalination the primary means of obtaining fresh water in this region.

. GCC countries features prove promising in renewable energies resources; untapped renewables potential; great solar energy potential; an abundance of available land; strong winds, especially in the east of Oman and the west of Saudi Arabia.

. GCC countries leveraged in fostering regional climate collaboration by focusing on sharing knowledge, expertise, and resources to collectively address shared environmental challenges. The most notable as regional climate cooperation is the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI), which is an initiative led by Saudi Arabia, aims to plant 40 billion trees across the region and reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent with the help of clean hydrocarbon technologies. It has launched several regional centers and programs to realize the initiative’s goals.

Enhancing climate action in the GCC countries

For the GCC countries, after 52 years of the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council, they are among the fastest growing and wealthiest economies in the Middle East.

Energy has always been the main source in the transformation that the region is experiencing, whether traditional energies (fossil fuel) as a source of their income or renewable energies as a modern trend for these countries on their way to achieving sustainable development.

On the other hand, working to achieve sustainable development requires focusing on all seventeen goals by implementing them in stages, with Goal 13th, related to climate action, being placed among the priorities and within the first stage.

Consequently, in order to enhance climate action in the GCC countries, we recommend the implementation of the following strategy:

At the local level of each country in GCC

To begin with, education is important and the GCC countries should include climate action into their educational curricula in the following ways:

. Explain the importance of climate action to individuals

. Consolidating the concept of social and climate responsibility for individuals

. Organizing periodic volunteer climate work for learners, such as planting and watering trees

. Involving learners in finding innovative solutions to confront climate change

. Involving universities in the general strategy for climate action in the region and supporting green universities

. Supporting research and development in climate action technologies, especially in green and blue hydrogen

Strengthening the partnership between the public sector and the private sector through:

. Establishing a cooperative and complementary partnership between the two sectors

. Developing infrastructure in cooperation between the two sectors to meet the future challenges

Achieving the energy transition while ensuring:

. Accelerating energy transformation processes

. A fair transition

. Taxing emissions

. Accountability shifts in the fossil fuel sector

. Targeting carbon neutrality

. Circular economy application

Targeting to build smart and sustainable cities to achieve mitigation and adaptation through:

. Urban planning and design to suit the environment and contribute to reducing emissions

. Designing buildings capable of facing and adapting to future climate challenges

. Using the tools of the fifth technological revolution

At the regional level of the GCC countries

. Establishing regional agreements regarding cooperation to confront climate change

. Launching combined projects to confront climate change

. Establishing integrated and jointly funded research laboratories to find innovative solutions to climate change, whether through mitigation or adaptation

. Establishing cooperative projects in the field of optimal exploitation of resources as well as groundwater and coastal management

. Achieving regional cooperation and integration

. Strengthening the role of the GCC countries in leading global climate action

. Taking the lead in international mediation and supporting dialogue on global climate action.


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