The study and analysis of the impacts of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 on the energy system locally and globally is currently at the top of the list of research projects in the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC).
In its latest Instant Insight publication; the center assessed the levels of carbon emissions in Saudi Arabia in 2019. Besides, the expected impact of the pandemic on reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere in 2020.
Carbon emissions fall by 4%
The analysis, carried out by KAPSARC and based on the data tracking CO2 emissions provided by Enerdata and the latest information on the impact of COVID-19 on energy consumption, suggests that carbon emissions in Saudi Arabia are to fall by 4% during this year compared with 2019.
This is based on easing the restrictions on activity from June following the preventive measures taken by the Kingdom’s government. This is to limit the spread of the pandemic. The analysis also mentioned the stabilization of carbon emissions from fuel consumption in 2019 at 526.84mn tons of CO2 (MtCO2); a slight decrease of -0.04% compared with 2018.
The paper, entitled “Saudi Arabia’s CO2 Emissions Steady in 2019 Ahead of Expected 2020 Fall Due to COVID-19”. It is co-authored by four researchers; (Nicholas Howarth, Alessandro Lanza, Thamir Alshehri and Jan Braun), described that Saudi Arabia could experience two pathways during this year.
The first would be for a 4% decline, if the daily activities and the movement of economic sectors are back to normal in June. The second would be for a fall of 7% in case of continuation of preventive measures such as lockdown until the end of the year.
Transport is most affected
The sector most affected has been transport with daily activity for aviation down between 20% and 75%; depending on the level of restrictions in place and surface transport sector, which has experienced a fall in daily activity between 10% and 50%. The industrial sector was the third impacted sector, followed by the public buildings, commerce and power sectors.
Based on experience so far, activity in the residential sector is expected to be not negatively impacted by the preventive measures; but rather is expected to increase by about 5%, due to the increased use of air conditioners during the summer, as people stay at home most of the time.
According to the paper, March and April of this year witnessed a decline in the daily global emissions by 17%; compared with the same period in 2019. Half of this fall was attributed to the transport sector.
The authors concluded that although this decline is temporary, the world now has the opportunity to build back better. Stimulus measures can help countries shift toward net-zero emissions goals, and activate innovative ideas such as the concept of the Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) adopted by Saudi Arabia during its G20 presidency.
KAPSARC’s research has continued despite the challenges of COVID-19. This year it is co-hosting the T20 group of global think tanks; which provide policy advice and solutions to Saudi Arabia’s G20 Presidency.
This comes as KAPSARC jumped 14 positions in February this year. So it placed 15th in the MENA category of leading think tanks; according to the University of Pennsylvania 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. The center has also climbed up four places in the Energy and Resources Policy category; where now it ranks 13th globally.