Saudi Arabia’s CO2 Emissions Have Increased Over 3x Since 1990

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Saudi Arabia Country Managers Abeer Abdulkareem and Amgad Ellaboudy

Saudi Arabia’s most current carbon dioxide emission number sits at 582.1 million tons per year, as of 2019. This is more than a threefold increase from its baseline emissions in 1990 of 185.5 million tons per year. Saudi’s share of global emissions has steadily risen over the years, to about 1.62% of global CO2 emissions as of 2017. Saudi’s emissions come mainly from the burning of natural gas & oil to satisfy its electricity and heat/ cooling needs. Emissions data is tracked by the Global Carbon Project, sponsored, and managed by the Integrated Carbon Observation System.

The government plans on reducing the country’s emissions by 130 MtCO2e per year by 2030, from a business-as-usual baseline, originally and partially through a commitment to generate 57.8 GW of energy through renewables by that same year, as part of its “Saudi 2030” plan. However, this commitment has been delayed to 2040, in response to lower oil prices and therefore reduced revenue from its oil exports. Saudi Arabia has expressed and shown that it will transition to renewables only if it can support and strengthen its oil exports, which its economy still greatly depends on. This runs contradictory to the global movement and the Paris Climate agreement to reduce emissions and move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

The Saudi Arabia Energy minister said during the Future Investment Initiative conference that was held in Riyadh in January this year that his country is committed to achieving carbon neutrality. When it comes to reality, however, about 42% of the Kingdom’s power was produced from oil in 2020, making it the world’s largest consumer of oil for electricity production, with the remaining 57.8% of electricity derived from natural gas. According to IRENA, the country had only installed 397MW of renewable energy by the end of 2019, 394MW of which was solar power or 0.4 GW of renewable energy capacity.

Saudi Arabia has not updated its pledge to Paris Agreement since it submitted its original NDC in 2016 to annually abate up to 130 MtCO2e by 2030 through contributions that have co-benefits in diversifying the economy and mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This pledge is consistent with the Kingdom’s plans to generate 57.8 GW of energy through renewables by 2030, as part of its “Saudi 2030” plan, a goal that has been further delayed to 2040 as described above.


Prince Abd-Al-Aziz Bin Salman

Minister of Energy


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