Balancing economic growth and CO2 emissions in Qatar

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An aerial view of Doha, Qatar. © Piotr Piatrouski / Shutterstock

The link between economic growth and environmental degradation is a well-known subject. The burning question has become whether there is a trade-off between maintaining economic activities and maintaining natural resource conditions, or whether economic growth can go hand in hand with environmental protection measures. The direct and interconnected relationship between fossil fuel consumption and environmental degradation has posed an interesting policy challenge.


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Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, making them major contributors to climate change. On the other hand, the high industrial activities, along with the rapid increase in population, put increasing pressure on the energy demand.

The example of Qatar

Qatar has made remarkable economic achievements over the past decades. Still, Qatar faces a trade-off between boosting its economic growth and reducing its carbon dioxide emissions. Its strategic mandate to drive economic development, as well as other areas related to sustainability, make Qatar an interesting country to analyze.

The World Bank defines Qatar as one of the richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita. Its economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas production, which accounts for more than 50% of GDP, 85% of export earnings and 70% of government revenue. The country is also a major player in liquefied natural gas. Nevertheless, Qatar’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels has led to an increase in the level of CO2 emissions compared to global averages.

To combat rising percentages of carbon emissions and declining environmental pressures, Qatar is introducing stringent policy measures to achieve sustainable development through four central pillars: economic, social, human and environmental development. While many disruptions have occurred over the past few years, including fluctuating oil and gas prices, economic downturns and a deadly pandemic, no one expected an economic blockade.

The diplomatic loophole

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. They have banned planes and ships registered in Qatar from using their airspace and sea routes, and the Saudis have also blocked Qatar’s only land border.

This point is of particular importance because the deterioration of relations between the Gulf neighbors has prompted Qatar to rethink its sustainable development objectives while meeting local demand. At the start of the blockade, the country was heavily dependent on the import of several basic products, especially food products. Later, he accelerated initiatives and programs aimed at diversifying the economy and reducing dependence on imports.

Achieving carbon neutrality is also considered in all of Qatar’s initiatives. For example, by the end of 2022, Qatar aims to host the first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup in the history of the event. All stadiums and infrastructure are subject to rigorous sustainability standards. Several air quality monitoring stations and extensive recycling programs are being introduced, along with the construction of the eight stadiums that will be used during the football tournament.

Qatar has since become much more independent in several sectors, including food production and transportation, making it a case study in how to turn challenges into opportunities for growth.

This was also evident with total carbon emissions. According to my own analysis, carbon emissions per capita fell 13% in 2018 from an all-time high in 2000. Since then, total carbon emissions have increased as the economy has grown, but at a slower pace. slower, which means that Qatar is experiencing relative expansion. decoupling. Over the period 2008 to 2018, a 1% change in GDP led to a drop in CO2 emissions, from 0.65% to 0.44%. This decrease is very relevant for Qatar because several measures have been applied, especially in the last 10 years, to reduce emissions.

Reduced emissions

While Qatar’s total emissions have declined in recent years, policies aimed at increasing energy efficiency, diversifying the energy mix by introducing more renewables, supporting technology development to improve energy efficiency in a climate desertification and to implement energy demand management programs to maintain the same downward trend and meet climate change objectives have become increasingly crucial.

The increased pressure caused by the blockade of Qatar is now over, but what is needed are more synergies and collective efforts within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to boost economic diversification and minimize emissions of carbon. GCC member states share multiple environmental, social and economic factors that should motivate them to cooperate to achieve their climate change and economic development goals.

*[Saad Shannak is a scientist at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) in Qatar. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the university’s official stance.]

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.

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