Qatar’s gentle push towards a sustainable future

NeeshadAuthor: Neeshad Vs  is a youth environment advocate and campaigns extensively on social platforms to raise the awareness about climate change, water and sustainability. He is the Global Community Manager with CliMates, currently based in Doha, Qatar. Furthermore he helps build networks and work on climate justice issues worldwide to spread truth and destroy denial on climate change. He is an active member with numerous social initiatives like QGBC (Qatar Green Building Council), WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education), Greenpeace India, Eco Mena and 350 India.

 

The State of Qatar is an Arab sovereign country located in Southwest Asia, occupying the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar’s oil and gas revenue account for most of its GDP, rising up to $170bn (£106bn) a year. It has the world’s third biggest natural gas reserve and is the top supplier of liquefied natural gas (LPG) according to the US government’s Energy Information Administration.

Qatar and Docile Fight for a sustainable future

Qatar’s lavish Skyscrapers & hotels at Wes Bay, Doha – Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The beginning of a journey

As the latest United Nations (UN) study forecasts an uptick in natural disasters due to climate change, focus has shifted from prevention to mitigation, signaling in that effects of manmade warming on the planet are irreversible. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, authored by a group of Nobel-Prize winning scientists, explains that no country is immune to the effects of climate change, including Qatar.

Qatar’s environmental records have always caught negative media attention, it nevertheless continue to insist working towards reducing gas flaring and oil field emissions. Qatar has already done plenty to financially support underdeveloped countries, it might sometimes seem unfair to focus on per capita emissions for a country with an estimated population of 2.27 million people, making it only the 143th most populous country on earth. (For climate talks, that is heresy). Such statement may sound harsh, considering that Qatar’s contribution to global warming is tiny if compared to the United States, China or India. But while both its geography and population limit its overall carbon footprint, the kingdom is still remarkably inefficient in using natural resources. I suppose every journey starts with a small step.

Qatar is committed to creating a cleaner and more energy efficient environment. We can hope that this will result in significant contribution to addressing the challenges of climate change, thus moving towards a more sustainable future. However, these positive moves will not be sufficient to cover up the fact that Qatar, much as the other oil-producing countries in the Gulf, has not yet made any commitment as part of the UN sanctioned climate talks.

Qatar’s Revamping Climate Plans

In line with Qatar’s National Vision 2030, the country aims to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Sustainable development is identified as one of the top priorities in Qatar’s National Development Strategy, which aims to manage rapid domestic expansion in order to ensure harmony between economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.

Qatar is thus turning toward renewable sources of energy such as solar power, with initiatives already underway. According to recent reports, Qatar is getting close to opening its long-delayed 200-megawatt solar tender that represents just a portion of the installations expected over the coming years. Indeed, Qatar currently has a stated goal of installing 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity by 2030.

Qatar Foundation (QF) plays an instrumental role in Qatar’s sustainability efforts as it helps transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. It also endeavors to realize this vision by integrating sustainability to the day-to-day lives of its residents. By doing so, QF is working towards achieving its own strategic mission of unlocking human potential and promoting creativity and innovation.

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is producing up to 85 percent of Qatar’s total solar energy, as it announced the launch of one of the Gulf region’s first Energy Monitoring Centre (EMC) to manage its smart grid and monitor solar power generation across all sites within Education City. The photovoltaic systems at Qatar FounQF now generate 5,180 megawatt hours of clean energy annually, saving approximately 2,590 tons of CO2 emissions every year.

The Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) is a QF member established in 2009 to promote sustainable growth and development in Qatar through cost-efficient and environment-friendly building practices. The organization aims to support the overall health and sustainability of its environment, people and economic security for generations to come. With the emergence of many world-class sustainable constructions in recent years, there has been rapid progress in the green building sector in Qatar. With the fifth-highest number of LEED-registered and certified buildings outside the U.S., Qatar has valuable experience and inputs to offer to the system’s local relevancy and application.

Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) which hosted the Doha UNFCCC climate conference COP 18/CMP8 was the first LEED certified project in Qatar and remains its largest rooftop solar system to date. Subsequently, the Qatar Foundation continues to have the largest pipeline of all PV installations in the country, in addition to pipelines of LEED certified green buildings. With more than five megawatts of solar energy installations planned, the Foundation’s clean efforts are one of the largest in the Gulf region.

Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) has officially opened one of the largest vertically integrated PV module production facilities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The 300 MW facility, located in the Doha industrial zone of Qatar, is the first significant development of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels in favor of more renewable energy sources.

The Head of Qatar’s state-run electricity and water company (Kahramaa) has already announced ambitious plans to install solar panels atop the roofs of many of the country’s 85 reservoirs. These latest plans constitute a creative solution to Qatar’s lack of viable land space (the country measures just 11,571km²) and will certainly be necessary in a country with little available land for large-scale solar plants. Qatar will adopt a scattered model, installing several small- to medium-sized PV installations.

qatar 2

Qatar unveiled a first-of-its-kind solar-panel factory in the Middle East, saying it was now the largest solar-power producer in the region with the ability to generate 300mw of energy a year. (Photo courtesy QSE)

Way Forward

Qatar is making itself a benchmark for all future sustainable & renewable initiatives in the Middle East. With an increase in global population along with ailing effects of climate change, it is absolutely necessary that Qatar begins to take an approach suitable to the demands of our time. It is heartening to see that Qatar has recognized the importance of renewables and its fight for reducing its carbon footprints must be appreciated like any other countries across globe.

Climate change and rise in temperature are making Qatar even more vulnerable to the lack of water and food security. Every single drop of potable water in Qatar is desalinated. Every single gram of food consumed is either imported or grown with desalinated water. I have no doubt they are committed to meeting the challenge that is not only going to be successful in form, but also successful in substance. The plunging oil prince coupled with technological advances in clean energy and conservation offer the monarchy a chance to rationalize energy policy. They can get rid of billions of dollars of distorting subsidies on fossil fuels, whilst shifting taxes towards carbon emissions. A cheaper, greener and more reliable energy future for Qatar could be within reach.

Finally, fossil-fuel rich Gulf countries like Qatar have deep pockets to fund the further development of new renewable technologies, which still require massive amounts of capital investment. They can even lead the way to a cleaner planet while the rest of the world is mired in austerity or political inertia.

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