x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Oil industry skews Abu Dhabi's carbon footprint

Results of Abu Dhabi's first in-depth green house gas inventory are unveiled.

ABU DHABI // The energy sector accounts for nearly three-quarters of Abu Dhabi's carbon footprint, the first official audit of the emirate's greenhouse emissions has found.

Power and desalination plants alone contribute nearly a third of greenhouse emissions. Extracting and refining oil and processing natural gas are also major emitters.

Net greenhouse emissions were 45.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person, several times higher than the world average, but environment officials said yesterday the oil industry skewed the figures significantly.

"It is not really representing a clear picture of Abu Dhabi's emissions performance because Abu Dhabi emirate is a very important global oil producer with a very, very small population compared to the global population," said Shaikha Al Hosani, director of environmental monitoring and analysis at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

The Greenhouse Gas Inventory estimates that in 2010 the emirate produced 99,101 gigagrams (Gg) of carbon dioxide equivalent, less than 0.5 per cent of the world total.

US greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 were 6,802,225Gg and Romania emitted a similar level to Abu Dhabi with 97,219Gg.

The inventory estimates that mangroves and forests captured 4,609Gg, thus reducing the emirate's net emissions to 94,491Gg.

The inventory is conducted by the environment agency using United Nations-endorsed criteria to measure the man-made sources of carbon dioxide and nine other gases known to contribute to global warming.

It will be compiled every two years and inform policy on tackling climate change, said Razan Al Mubarak, the agency's secretary general.

"The results of the inventory will allow for the development of a legislative regulatory framework that is tailored to the socioeconomic landscape and our carbon footprint to ensure that the development and growth of our emirate is one that is sustained and protected from the effects of climate change," she said.

The energy sector, which includes both producing fossil fuels and burning them to produce electricity and water and to power cars and planes, accounts for 72.6 per cent of Abu Dhabi's emissions. Within this figure, power and desalination plants accounted for 30,840Gg, nearly a third of the emirate's overall footprint.

Extracting and refining oil and processing natural gas accounted for 17,206Gg, and the transport sector produced 18,547.28Gg - 63 per cent of which was accounted for by road transport.

Aluminium production emitted 8,665Gg and the iron and steel industry were also identified as major emitters.

Darryl Lew, executive director of the environment quality sector at the agency, said more important than per capita measurements were efforts to compare the emissions of various sectors in Abu Dhabi to counterparts abroad.

"The greenhouse gas inventory is only the start of a journey for EAD and the emirate and its entities," he said. "One of the things that we need to do now that we have this information is we need to go into some of these sectors and work with them.

"A lot of our industrial emissions are from plants that are here and if we were to close them down or force them out through huge regulation, another country would simply fill that gap in the market and it could do it with a lot worse technology and a lot worse emissions than we do it here," he said.

"The first things we should identify as an emirate are the win-wins, where you invest in better technology that is available on the market to reduce your emissions and that technology has a very short pay-back, two or three years … and actually saves money in the long run.

"EAD has some ideas but over the rest of this year and next year, this is really what we want to talk about with our stakeholders."

vtodorova@thenational.ae