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Saudi Arabia and its unique Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) scheme

G20 Spotlight on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the largest economy in the Middle East and member of the G20, is heavily dependent on a limited resource: oil and gas, where the export of energy products constitutes over 90% of all Saudi exports. [1]

As a leading global energy producer, Saudi Arabia fully recognizes its share of responsibility in advancing the global fight against the climate crisis. The Kingdom announced its objective to reach net zero by 2060, days before COP26 [2], and to deliver its pledge, Saudi Arabia is working on its Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) delivering the Saudi Vision 2030 [3] and the Saudi Green Initiative [4], among other actions.

The Kingdom is committed to developing and implementing the CCE concept, which is built on the pillars of the circular economy, where operating systems are transformed from their existing linear structures to more circular systems.

The CCE specifically targets the circularity of CO2 and/or other GHGs, guided by four principles: reduce, reuse, recycle and remove (the so called 4Rs):

  • Reduce: Reduction of carbon based GHGs emitted into the atmosphere.
  • Reuse: Reusing the carbon based GHGs without changing its chemistry.
  • Recycle: Recycling the carbon based GHGs or products containing GHGs into similar or different products with different chemical characteristics.
  • Remove: Removal of carbon based GHGs from the system, partially or fully.

The concept’s foundation is well developed, nationally understood and has been endorsed by G20 member states [5], but what is less clear is the optimum pathway needed to reach the Kingdom’s set objectives. Also, no targets nor timelines have been agreed upon to deliver such a concept.

On top of the CCE, KSA is undergoing an economic diversification under the strategic Vision 2030 [6] to avoid market vulnerability due to its high dependence on oil exports. Through a growing portfolio of renewable energy projects, carbon capture initiatives, and a massive energy efficiency push for buildings, industry, and transport, Saudi Arabia is scaling up and uniting efforts to reduce carbon emissions under the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) mandate [7], with the objective to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4% of global contributions.

To date (2022), Saudi Arabia does not put a price on carbon emissions. Saudi Arabia neither has a carbon tax, nor a cap-and-trade pricing mechanism in place. [8]

References:

  1. Saidi M. Ouassaf, King Faisal University – The Economic Diversification in Saudi Arabia Under the Strategic Vision 2030 (abacademies.org)
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-58955584
  3. https://www.vision2030.gov.sa
  4. https://www.saudigreeninitiative.org
  5. https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/coal/112620-saudi-arabia-promotes-circular-carbon-scheme-as-it-plans-to-keep-pumping-oil
  6. https://www.vision2030.gov.sa
  7. https://www.saudigreeninitiative.org/targets/reducing-emissions/
  8. https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/71218/PB_2021_10_STG.pdf.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
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