Carbon neutrality: what can businesses do to match government initiatives?
After a brief interlude during 2020, the environment took a breather. Although the year will be sadly remembered for the devastation it caused, with lockdowns and movement restrictions, the upside was the positive effect on the environment, however brief.
A good example of this is in China, the lockdowns and other COVID-19 restrictions resulted in a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions and a 50 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions.
The images of smog-free cities or animals roaming the streets elicited in media and social media highlights increasing public concern about the fate of our environment.
Already, we can see a growing global consensus towards tackling climate change. More and more countries around the world are committing to act on setting targets towards carbon neutrality.
In the Middle East, countries have pledged to take collective efforts to accelerate climate action for the success of the Paris Agreement. At the Regional Dialogue for Climate Action, the GCC countries called for enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and net-zero commitments ahead of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
The ‘UAE Energy Strategy 2050′ aims to increase the contribution of clean energy to the total energy mix from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent. Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy strategy aligns with the Vision 2030 framework to reduce the Kingdom’s carbon footprint by installing 27.3 GW of solar and wind energy capacity by 2023 and 58.7 GW by 2050. Meanwhile in Qatar, the National Vision QNV2030 puts sustainability at the heart of the country’s human development, social development, economic development, and the environment.
The Saudi government has unveiled plans for a 100-mile long linear city without cars and streets as part of the Neom project, powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Separately, Tarshid, the Saudi national energy services company, was established by the Public Investment Fund to catalyze a more energy-efficient Saudi society and be a pioneer in the energy efficiency field and build a more sustainable future.
Expo 2020 in Dubai also incorporated sustainable technologies in the planning phase, ensuring that the event will be the most sustainable Expo ever. This aligns with the Dubai Plan 2021, the UAE Vision 2021 and the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As a result, the Expo’s impact remains long after its conclusion, inspiring millions of visitors and followers and leaving a legacy of sustainable infrastructure and cutting-edge sustainability practices.
From this we can see that the region is committed to transforming climate challenges into economic opportunities. However, to achieve a carbon-neutral world, the business community needs to re-evaluate their long-term business plans and work in conjunction with the sustainability goals of national governments.
Therefore, the new way of working must be more tempered towards these sustainable climate goals. With this progressive shift in working methodology, the nature of opportunities also evolve to develop new business lines. Working with customers to achieve their carbon goals will now be a new working philosophy. A common misconception is to consider the cost and not the value of sustainability.
Changing mindsets will be important for the success of sustainable technologies and solutions as the outright cost may be more than traditional methods but the key is in understanding the real value such technologies and solutions provide. For example, the upfront cost of investing in energy efficiency technologies is mitigated by considerable long-term savings and decarbonization. Moreover, energy services companies offer financing programs compatible with companies’ business goals. This is where the differentiator comes in, companies such as ENGIE Solutions can develop and finance projects that contribute to energy-efficient assets, technology, and digital solutions to achieve these goals.
ENGIE Solutions uses Smart Building Technology that combines AI and Machine Learning technology to automatically and continuously assess for operational and energy savings, as well as ensuring asset performance. Additionally, ENGIE Solutions’ Energy-as-a-Service offering provides customized and guaranteed energy efficiency solutions aimed at reducing consumption for clients. The services are delivered through performance-based contracts adapted to clients’ needs, industry sectors, and the criticality of facilities.
Another widely held belief is that only large organizations should concern themselves with pursuing decarbonization strategies. But considering that SMEs constitute close to 90% of the total companies’ base in the GCC, their contribution to tackling climate change cannot be overemphasized. Moreover, simple strategies such as installing smart meters or carrying out a simple energy audit to plug gaps in unnecessary energy consumption will go a long way in helping nations achieve their sustainability goals. An added advantage is that cash-strapped SMEs can save money in the long run.
As business leaders in the Middle East, we have a unique role in shaping a future for future generations to come. The time is now for businesses to enact change by improving internal processes and aligning with global sustainable initiatives. We must approach energy and renewable solutions with a comprehensive mindset and invest in long term solutions to ensure cities, communities, industries, and properties run efficiently and sustainably. The technology, expertise and finance options are there to make a significant dent in current carbon emissions levels with sustained benefits for decades to come.