Guy El Khoury
Despite the increasing global interest in renewable energy sources, electricity generation remains largely dependent on fossil fuels with approximately 70% of the world’s electricity currently being generated using coal, natural gas, and petroleum products. Coal, the most carbon intensive of the fossil fuels, accounts for the largest share of electricity generated globally, with 40% of all electricity generated.
Such reliance on fossil fuels is coupled with a relatively low conversion efficiency from fossil fuels to electricity, which averages 35%. The remaining 65% of the energy contained in fuels used is in effect wasted, lost as heat in power plant turbines and generators.
In this context, it is not surprising to learn that electricity generation stands as the top contributor to global Carbon emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), electricity generation currently accounts for approximately 50% of global carbon emissions.
In the Middle East and North Africa region, electricity and heat production are responsible for 41% of total carbon emissions according to IEA data from 2009. And while not representing a consumption sector, electricity generation ranked well higher than any individual sector, including transportation, which comes second and accounts for 25% of the region’s total carbon emissions. Yet carbon emissions from electricity generation is not equal across the region. In fact, the top 5 contributors to carbon emissions from electricity generation – namely Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Kuwait, and Iraq – together represent 70% of the region’s electricity generation carbon emissions, according to 2009 data by the IEA, a share that represents approximately 30% of the region’s total carbon emissions.
Continue reading Carbon Footprint of Electricity in the Middle East
Karim Elgendy and Wissam Yassine
Developing transportation networks and facilitating access and mobility are major constituents of the economic development of any country or region. Yet transportation also poses great economic and environmental challenges as a major energy consumer and a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.
In the Middle East, the transportation sector is challenged on both fronts. On one hand, its underdeveloped and inefficient networks continue to hinder economic development. In addition, the transportation sector represents a major consumer of energy in the region and a primary contributor to carbon emissions. In 2008, the transportation sector was estimated to be responsible for 31% of the region’s total energy use – a relatively high proportion compared to the global average of 27% – while the road sub-sector alone was responsible for 18% of energy use – compared to 14% globally.
Continue reading Sustainable Transportation in the Middle East
UPDATED – Climate change refers to the current changes in the Earth’s climate patterns due to the increase in greenhouse gases emitted by human activities. The driving force behind this pattern is an increase in the Earth’s surface and water temperature. In fact, over the last 130 years, the global average temperature of the planet rose by 0.8 °C. However, the impacts of this temperature increase on climate patterns in different regions varied widely (Figure 1).
National scientific bodies in all major countries agree that the cause behind global warming and climate change is the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and growing livestock. Climate models have been created to forecast the expected increase in the average global temperatures over the coming years based on current and expected emission levels. These models show that the global average temperatures are expected to rise by up to 6 °C by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as they have in recent decades.
Continue reading An Introduction to Climate Change
Following on Carboun’s recent article discussing the two trends of energy and carbon emissions in the Arab World. Carboun has recently released a visual guide to energy and emissions with the goal of explaining the fundamentals of energy use in the region and how it relates to carbon emissions, economic development, climate change, and renewable energy. The guide, which was researched and designed by Karim Elgendy, was based on raw data provided by the World Bank and the World Resources Institute. It aims to explain the regional trends in local details but within the global context. Copyrights for all infographics are reserved for Carboun. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof without prior written consent from Carboun.
Continue reading A Visual Guide to Energy and Emissions in the Middle East
Discussions on the environment in the Arab World have traditionally been limited to the negative impact of region’s fossil fuel exports on climate change. In recents years, a more regional discourse has emerged that also addressed the region’s water scarcity, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation, and the expected impact of global climate change and sea level rise on its most vulnerable regions.
Map showing emissions in countries of the arab world as percentage of global emissions. Copyrights: Carboun
However, such discussions often overlooked the region’s own energy and ecological footprints and the impact of its own energy use on climate change. In the past , such disregard may have been justified by the fact that the region had not yet experienced the kind of economic development and prevalent consumerism that was common in most of the developed world. Such justification was supported by the region’s historically low rate of energy use and carbon emissions. In fact, the Arab world which constitutes 5% of the world’s population, emits just under 5% of global carbon emissions according to World Bank data, and except for Saudi Arabia, no single Arab country is responsible for more than 1% of global emissions. The energy use of an average Arab person is still below the world average and less than half that of an average european.
Continue reading Two Trends of Energy and Carbon Emissions in the Arab World
Infographic representing a comparison between residents of different countries around the Arab World in terms of their carbon emissions per capita. Emissions of each country is compared to the emissions of an average human and is represented by the number of average humans each resident represents. Infographics available in English and Arabic. Copyrights for all infographics are reserved for Carboun. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof without prior written consent from Carboun.
Continue reading Carbon Emissions in the Middle East
In the western context, notions of sustainable development often refer to the need to adjust existing economic models in order to maintain better balances between economic growth and social needs, while protecting local ecologies and reducing the negative impact of growth on the global environment.
In the developing world, however, sustainable development takes on a rather different meaning. With the agendas of developing nations focused on addressing basic developmental challenges such as economic growth, water scarcity, food security, and health, other environmental and social aspects are considered secondary at best and for the most part a luxury that a developing nation cannot afford.
The Environment and the Middle East – Pathways to Sustainability – Volume 1.
In the absence of functioning economic models in the developing world, sustainable development here is not about adjustments to maintain balances. Instead, it is about using this economical tabula rasa to build the foundations of a new economic model in which sustainability and the environment are integral. One of these economical foundations is the built environment.
The built environment of our cities plays a major role in shaping the way we live and work, and given its relatively long lifespan its impact is long lasting. Our buildings determine how much energy we use to maintain thermal comfort while our infrastructures determine how much energy we need for transportation. It is estimated that 40% of carbon emissions worldwide is produced from the occupation of buildings with at least a portion of transportation’s 20% share being a consequence of the way our cities are planned.
Our built environment also influences our impact on the local environment as well as our collective health and wellbeing. Thus, as the cities of the developing world continue to grow, they continue to make decisions about the direction their development takes.
In the Middle East, the role of the built environment is becoming more pronounced as the region continues to experience rapid population increases and urbanization. Increased urban densities together with the rise of consumerism, have not only led to an increase in environmental degradation locally, but they have also meant that the region’s traditionally low energy use — and consequently carbon emissions– are set to rise and to play a larger role in global climate change.
But embracing sustainable development in the Middle East faces many challenges which prevent it from becoming part of the region’s development framework and its building industry practices.
Continue reading Sustainable Development and the Built Environment in the Middle East: Challenges and Opportunities