Saudi Arabia hosts the world’s largest reserves of oil and has emerged as a global energy superpower. However, while past human development gains in Saudi Arabia have been achieved largely on the back of oil export revenues, and while oil exports will continue to provide significant revenues to Saudi Arabia for years to come, a long-term challenge exists to build capacities to sustain human development trends in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.
Increasing demands on the energy resources due to rapid industrialization and population growth has raised awareness in Saudi Arabia that decades of subsidized energy and profligate energy usage is no longer a viable option, neither as part of a national energy policy nor as part of its international environmental commitments.
Saudi Arabia is taking a more active role to enact local policies towards a lower-carbon economy. There is a growing push within the Kingdom to develop and apply clean energy technologies and reduce dependence of the domestic economy on oil consumption. This helps conserve critical oil reserves for future export revenues, while also reducing Saudi Arabia carbon footprint, currently one of the world’s highest. This holds the prospect for the Kingdom to shift in the future from the world’s oil capital, to a global leader and pioneer in clean energy technologies.
As global negotiations continue over a new global climate regime, UNDP’s support in this process has been critical, leading new public-private partnerships to support clean energy technologies, low-emission policies, and new measures for energy efficiency.
UNDP plays a key role in assisting Saudi Arabia with the enabling activities necessary to undertake its commitment under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through its Second National Communication (NSC) Programme.
Specifically, UNDP has mobilized partnership between the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to produce a National Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Saudi Arabia’s Second National Communication on Climate Change for submission to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties.
Also, UNDP has partnered with the King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology and lead private sector partners such as Saudi Aramco (the largest oil company in Saudi Arabia) and the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) to increase demand side energy efficiencies in key sectors of the national economy.
UNDP’s National Energy Efficiency Programme (NEEP) supports energy auditing in industrial and commercial sectors, utility load management, setting policies and regulations for residential buildings and energy-consuming efficiency in appliances, improving information exchanges for energy efficiency, promoting energy services and private sector investments and utilization of clean energy technologies.
Based the success of both programmes, the future could well see localization of climate responses into local policy and action at the municipal and establishment of National Energy Efficiency Centre to promote further energy efficiency measures nationwide.