Opinion

Saudi Arabia’s 2060 net zero target is a challenge and an opportunity

Saudi Arabia’s 2060 net zero target is a challenge and an opportunity

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that Saudi Arabia would hit net-zero emissions by 2060, pledging to invest more than $180 billion to support the move last October.

The target is daunting — but it also means that the benefits of achieving it would be profound. The Kingdom would establish itself as a leader in energy transformation and would lay out a roadmap for developing countries around the world who also face a steep climb toward decarbonization.

The country would need to work harder than most developed nations to achieve this groundbreaking target. But the key to turning challenges into opportunities is a well-planned strategy.

Saudi Arabia emitted 638 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018. We project that its gross emissions will hit 931 million metric tons by 2060.

That means achieving net-zero emissions in 2060 would require 931 million metric tons of abatements. These are actions that cut emissions by improving efficiency, burning cleaner fuels, switching to alternative energy sources, or other measures that reduce carbon releases. Ninety percent of Saudi Arabia’s emissions in 2060 will come from the energy sector, with the remaining 10 percent distributed among industrial processes, waste, and agriculture.

By comparison, UK emissions in 2020 were 406 million metric tons, and were falling rather than rising. The UK still needs to make abatements, but at a far less ambitious scope. Decarbonization is like a race where every country in the world is headed for the same finish line — but many developed countries started the race, albeit at a much slower pace, 30 years ago.

The first checkpoint of this race is 2030 with Saudi Arabia having committed to abating 278 million metric tons of emissions by then. But even assuming that Saudi Arabia achieves those 2030 targets, its net-zero goal will require continued aggressive measures to cut emissions over the following three decades.

With the right moves, Saudi Arabia could build a new blueprint for energy transition.

Jose Alberich & Devansh Durgaraju

To paint a fuller picture of Saudi Arabia’s possible energy transition plans, we have developed three scenarios — baseline, optimistic and pessimistic.

In the baseline scenario, abatements grow at a 4.11 percent compound annual growth rate over three decades to achieve the 2060 net-zero commitment.

The optimistic scenario sees Saudi Arabia hit net zero by 2050, following the lead of several developed nations. This would require a 5.68 percent CAGR abatement, or the reduction of 26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.

In our most pessimistic scenario, the Kingdom’s abatement rate would come in at 3.11 percent CAGR a year, a rate similar to the plans of major developed countries.
In this scenario, Saudi Arabia would reach net-zero emissions in 2075, which is 15 years behind schedule.

These scenarios are based on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s best practice energy mix to cut emissions. This is a balance between renewables, making up 25 percent of the mix, energy efficiency, 25 percent, electrification, 20 percent, carbon capture, utilization, and storage, 20 percent, and green hydrogen, at 10 percent.

With the right moves, Saudi Arabia could build a new blueprint for energy transition. This plan will be defined by choosing the right energy mix while ensuring the Kingdom’s ambitious economic and social targets are also met.

• Jose Alberich is a partner and Devansh Durgaraju is a manager at consultancy Kearney Middle East and Africa.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

The GCC’s net zero goals set to boost sustainability-linked loans, bonds

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Updated 22 April 2022

The GCC’s net zero goals set to boost sustainability-linked loans, bonds

DUBAI: Green finance — an effort to factor sustainability into a traditional banking industry — made a big foray into the private sector for the first time in the Gulf. The retail giant Landmark Group became the first private company in the UAE to sign a sustainability-linked loan with Standard Chartered.
The loan was seen as a pledge to move toward sustainable green finance for the majority of the company’s operations.
“We have a team based on the ground in the region who are at the forefront of green finance, having structured the very first loan of this kind in the Middle East and North Africa region as long ago as 2018 for DP World,” explained Rola Abu Manneh, CEO at Standard Chartered Bank, in an interview with Arab News.


“These sustainable finance solutions allow companies to highlight their environmental, social and governance, or ESG, credentials to their stakeholders, potentially tap into new pools of liquidity, and help secure long term market access as ESG and climate become increasingly integrated into the financial markets,” she added. The agreement is significant as it demonstrates the keenness of the private sector toward greener practices in the traditional finance industry.
As it currently stands, the green finance sector in the Gulf Cooperation Council has made significant progress within the public sector.
According to recent data from Bloomberg, green and sustainability-linked debt issuance in the MENA region reached $6.4 billion in the first half of 2021, a 37-percent increase compared to $4.7 billion in 2020. “Therefore, one can only imagine how much impact the involvement of the private sector will have,” Jelena Janjusevic, associate professor, Academic Head of Accountancy, Economics and Finance and Executive Education, at Heriot-Watt University Dubai. “There is no doubt that this is a significant step for the MENA region.”

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Renewable projects
Janjusevic stressed that the Kingdom has made significant strides in procuring renewable projects as part of its Vision 2030 in which renewable sources are set to account for 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s energy production by 2050. There has been a strong incentive in the Kingdom in recent years to attract private sector involvement.
Last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced a new program to strengthen the partnership with the private sector.
This is part of the county’s economic diversification strategy to invest SR5 trillion ($1.3 trillion) until 2030 in this program. 
“Combined with the Kingdom’s renewable energy agenda, the prospective investment of the private sector in green finance will undoubtedly create a boom in green finance,” she said. 

Positive outlook
A recent study by Bloomberg shows that the region’s syndicated market for green and sustainability-linked bonds and loans will continue to mature and deepen as the total issuance reached $18.64 billion in 2021, compared with $4.5 billion in 2020.
“Although the market accounts for a small percentage of international volumes, there is no doubt that the MENA region significantly outpaced growth in comparison to 2021,” she said.

Sustainable finance
“The sustainable finance market has erupted globally over the last few years and we have seen a number of landmark deals in the region which have actually been world firsts,” said Abu Manneh. “With the recent commitments from several regional governments (Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain) to become net zero, we expect to see a greater focus from companies in the region on their ESG agenda and how they can play their part in meeting net zero. Sustainable finance is a key tool for realizing their goals and we expect to see continued growth in this space as a result.”
The delay in developing the required regulatory and institutional framework for green finance projects are among the main reasons for its slow progress in the region.
However, this is now changing and one of the reasons behind the boom in the total issuance of sustainability-linked loans in 2021 is the increased involvement of banks, including Riyad Bank, National Bank of Kuwait and Qatar National Bank. 
“Implementing sustainable finance frameworks and setting up the infrastructure required to ESG debt financing is the first step that should be undertaken for green finance to flourish,”
said Janjusevic. “Despite the nascence of green finance in
the region, continuous initiatives and private sector involvement is sure to yield outstanding results in the near future.”


Algeria to review gas prices with all its clients

Updated 03 July 2022

Algeria to review gas prices with all its clients

  • Algeria’s oil and gas earnings are up 70 percent and have reached $21.5 billion in the five first months of 2022

ALGIERS: Algeria is negotiating with all its clients to review gas prices, state oil and gas producer Sonatrach’s CEO, Tewfik Hakkar, told reporters on Sunday.

Hakkar added that the review of the prices is not targeting a single company or country.

The statement comes almost a week after Spain began re-exporting gas to Morocco in reverse flow via the Gazoduc Maghreb-Europe pipeline, marking the first direct flow of piped gas from Europe to Africa.

Spain and Morocco agreed earlier this year to consider using the GME pipeline for reverse flow to the North African country with the gas to be sourced from the global LNG market.

On Nov. 1, Algeria, which has cut off diplomatic ties with Morocco, stopped supplying natural gas to its neighboring country through the GME pipeline.

Algeria is now supplying Spain using the Medgaz undersea pipeline with an annual capacity of 8 billion cubic meters, which does not go through Morocco.

Earnings up

Algeria’s oil and gas earnings are up 70 percent and have reached $21.5 billion in the five first months of 2022, compared to $12.6 billion in the same period last year, an executive at state oil and gas producer Sonatrach told reporters on Sunday.

Along with gas, Algeria is a large oil producer with 12.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. The country exports 540,000 barrels per day of its total production of about 1.1 million bpd. All proven oil reserves are held onshore, though offshore exploration is in the early stages.

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Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns

Updated 03 July 2022

Argentina government crises build as Economy Minister Guzman resigns

  • Inflation is running above 60 percent and the peso currency is under growing pressure

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s economy minister Martin Guzman resigned on Saturday, a blow to a government beset by mounting economic crises.
Guzman, who led Argentina’s debt restructuring deal with the International Monetary Fund and creditors, posted a letter to his Twitter account announcing his decision.
“I write to you to present my resignation as economy minister,” Guzman said in a letter addressed to President Alberto Fernandez. He had been minister since late 2019.
The government is facing its lowest approval rating since taking office in 2019. Inflation is running above 60 percent and the peso currency is under growing pressure. Sovereign bonds have plummeted.
The resignation leaves the ministry leaderless just as Guzman was expected to travel to Europe to negotiate a $2 billion debt deal with the Paris Club of sovereign lenders.
Investors are skeptical about the economy and infighting in the governing coalition between moderates like Guzman and a more militant wing including Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Mariel Fornoni, director of the Management and Fit consultancy, said the resignation of a key ally was a reflection of President Fernandez’s loss of power since a painful midterm election defeat last year.
“It is the chronicle of a death foretold. Ever since the loss in last year’s legislative election,” she said, adding that a militant wing around the powerful vice president had been pushing to oust Guzman.
“(The president) has lost another piece of his board, perhaps the most important, and is increasingly alone,” Fornoni said.
Guzman tellingly posted his resignation letter while Fernandez de Kirchner was giving a speech commemorating iconic former Argentine President Juan Domingo Peron.
Guzman said “there should be a political agreement within the governing coalition” to choose his successor.
The president’s office said that it did not yet know when a replacement for Guzman would be announced.
A government source who asked to remain anonymous told Reuters that Guzman’s exit was due to what he felt was a lack of political support for his agenda.
Miguel Kiguel, former secretary of finance in Argentina, told Reuters that whoever takes over will have a tough time, noting that inflation could hit 80 percent this year and there is a gap of nearly 100 percent between official and parallel currency exchange rates.
“We don’t know who’s coming, but this will be a very hot potato,” Kiguel said. “Whoever comes is going to have a very complicated time.”


Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement

Updated 03 July 2022

Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement

  • Realty major Damac has invested up to AED367 million to develop and monetize a metaverse

DUBAI: Top Dubai-based companies are racing against time to build metaverse or immersive virtual worlds to bolster their sales prospects and disrupt customer experiences in their respective industries.

Realty major Damac has invested up to AED367 million ($100 million) to develop and monetize a metaverse that could allow potential customers to check into their luxury properties virtually, choose an apartment, explore furniture options and toy with the paraphernalia on offer.

Called D-Labs, the metaverse platform will create digital replicas of their top projects, including Damac Hills, Damac Lagoons, Safa by De Grisogono, and Cavalli Tower in Dubai. It will also host other notable projects such as Damac Tower Nine Elms in London and the upcoming Cavalli Residences in Miami.

So, how does this work? First, a potential customer in any part of the world can meet up with the sales agent of Damac Properties inside the metaverse instead of connecting over a Zoom call. Then, inside the metaverse, the prospect can tour the apartment and pay for the unit during the checkout.

“We sell around AED100 million monthly over Zoom calls without any immersive technology. With the metaverse, we can sell AED700-800 million a month to any customers in California, New York or Miami,” Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac and CEO of D-Labs, told Arab News.

The company, which has been annually clocking a business of $5 billion in real estate, expects to rake in $6.5 billion a year using the metaverse, added Sajwani.

We sell around AED100 million monthly over Zoom calls without any immersive technology. With the metaverse, we can sell AED700-800 million a month to any customers in California, New York or Miami.

Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac

Potential to disrupt

Metaverse owes much of its success to its disruptive nature that displaces traditional ways of looking at a category and creates a new business model. Gone are the days when real estate buyers would close deals based on brochures and project plans.

Instead, they are not only engaging in real-time with the property, but they now have the option to shop for things during their virtual tours. In the case of D-Labs, customers could also pick a host of non-fungible tokens or scarce digital objects on offer and sell them for a better price on a future date. The company, for instance, will soon be offering a variety of NFTs, including digital wearables and jewelry.

“The idea is you own your real estate and virtual assets. As part of our De Grisogono relaunch, we will also be offering digital jewelry. However, the goal is to convert that customer into an owner of real assets, not just digital ones,” Sajwani said.

According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., more than $120 billion have been globally invested in building metaverse technology and infrastructure in the first five months of 2022. That’s more than double the $57 billion invested in 2021.

The company recently surveyed more than 3,400 consumers worldwide and found two-thirds are excited about transitioning everyday activities to the metaverse, especially when it comes to connecting with people, exploring virtual worlds, and collaborating with remote colleagues.

“Our bottom-up view of consumer and enterprise use cases suggests it (metaverse) could generate up to $5 trillion in impact by 2030,” said Eric Hazan, senior partner of McKinsey in the study.

Strategy in motion

To make this groundbreaking concept a reality, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum recently announced the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to increase the contribution of the metaverse sector to the emirate’s economy to $4 billion by 2030.

Given the government’s proactive role, companies are now looking at ways to develop metaverse platforms that could launch pilot activities, study consumer behavior, learn from the real-time interactions and nurture the business model.

Emirates Airline, another early adopter of the metaverse, also announced that it would soon offer a slice of immersive technology, where the customer could virtually relish the travel experience aboard the premium airline.

“These projects will allow customers to transform their entire processes, whether it’s a business operation, training, or sales force, into an interactive experience in the metaverse,” said Emirates Chief Operating Officer Adel Ahmed Al-Redha during a press roundtable.

These projects will allow customers to transform their entire processes, whether it’s a business operation, training, or sales force, into an interactive experience in the metaverse.

Adel Ahmed Al-Redha, Emirates chief operating officer

As part of its metaverse offerings, the customer can tour the aircraft and experience economy, business, and first class, besides selecting their seats and the food and beverage of their choice.

“The customers can also tour the airport, do their duty-free shopping and buy their items while sitting at home, which can be delivered to them at home or in the aircraft,” he added.

It wasn’t a new idea for Emirates to digitize. Still, they did not have the technology to do so and are currently cooperating with different technology companies “to ensure we get the right thing,” Al-Redha said.

Al-Redha is among the league of forward-looking business executives reaping the fruits of the first-mover advantage. It will be interesting to see how they use this fresh produce technology to disrupt their business models and create newer avatars of consumer engagement.

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Exxon signals operating profits could double over Q1

Updated 02 July 2022

Exxon signals operating profits could double over Q1

  • Energy prices have shot up this year with oil selling for more than $105 per barrel

HOUSTON: Exxon Mobil Corp. has signaled that skyrocketing margins from fuel and crude sales could generate a record quarterly profit, according to a securities filing.

Energy prices have shot up this year with oil selling for more than $105 per barrel and gasoline at about $5 per gallon in the United States. The enormous earnings are likely to ignite new calls for windfall profit taxes.

The largest US oil producer projected a sequential increase of about $7.4 billion in operating profits compared with the first quarter. In the first quarter, Exxon posted an $8.8 billion profit, excluding a Russia writedown.

The filing indicates a potential profit of more than $16 billion for the second quarter. The company’s peak quarterly profit was $15.9 billion in 2012.

The filing showed Exxon expects higher oil and gas prices will add about $2.9 billion to results. Margins from selling gasoline and diesel will add another $4.5 billion to operating profits.

“High energy prices are largely a result of underinvestment by many in the energy industry over the last several years and especially during the pandemic,” Exxon said in a statement on the profit gains.

Analysts tracked by IBES Refinitiv forecast a per share profit of $2.99, up from $1.10 in the same quarter a year ago. Official results for the period will be released on July 29, according to a summary of factors influencing the period disclosed late Friday.

Exxon’s profits led US President Joe Biden last month to say the company and other oil majors were capitalizing on a global oil supply shortage to fatten profits.

The company said it is investing more than any other producer in the US to expand oil and natural gas production, including in the Permian, the country’s largest unconventional basin.

US Representative Ro Khanna said Exxon’s record-breaking profits reinforce his call for Congress to pass a windfall tax on Big Oil.

“Big Oil companies should be providing relief to their customers, not pouring billions into stock buybacks to enrich their investors,” he said in a statement.

Exxon’s shares closed up 2.2 percent at $87.55 on Friday.

Exxon, which lost more than $22 billion in 2020, has been using the extra cash from higher energy prices sales to pay debt and raise distributions to shareholders. It plans to buy back up to $30 billion of its shares through 2023.

Despite losses during the pandemic, Exxon continued to invest in additional production and expects to increase output in the Permian by 25 percent in 2022, the company’s spokesperson said.

The second-quarter results will be the first quarterly earnings report since Exxon decided to report results by four business units, giving a more detailed breakout of its petrochemical operations. The snapshot showed that margins in its chemical and specialty products units were flat in the second quarter compared with the first.

The company estimated the impact of exiting Russia would cut oil and gas profits by about $150 million compared with the first quarter. Exxon wrote down $3.4 billion in Russia assets earlier this year.

Exxon also signaled a contribution of about $300 million from asset sales in the quarter.

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Stuck bags add to tangles at Paris airports amid travel boom

Updated 02 July 2022

Stuck bags add to tangles at Paris airports amid travel boom

  • Union activists said many more passengers flew without their bags
  • The scene at Charles de Gaulle on Saturday was busy but typical for the first weekend in July

PARIS: Airlines worked Saturday to deliver luggage to passengers around the world after a technical breakdown left at least 1,500 bags stuck at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, the latest of several tangles hitting travelers this summer.
The airport’s baggage sorting system had a technical malfunction Friday that caused 15 flights to depart without luggage, leaving about 1,500 bags on the ground, according to the airport operating company. The airport handled about 1,300 flights overall Friday, the operator said.
Union activists said many more passengers flew without their bags, apparently because of knock-on effects from the original breakdown.
It came as airport workers are on strike at French airports to demand more hiring and more pay to keep up with high global inflation. Because of the strike, aviation authorities canceled 17 percent of flights out of the Paris airports Friday morning, and another 14 percent were canceled Saturday.
Passengers on canceled flights were alerted days ahead of their flights. The scene at Charles de Gaulle on Saturday was busy but typical for the first weekend in July, when France’s summer travel season kicks off.
Unions plan to continue striking Sunday but no flights have been canceled so far. They have threatened to renew the strike next weekend if negotiations with company management don’t succeed in finding a compromise.
Until now, French airports had been largely spared the chaos seen recently at airports in London, Amsterdam and some other European and US cities. Airlines and airports that slashed jobs during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up with soaring demand as travel resurges after two years of virus restrictions.

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