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Most Bizarre: Now Saudi Arabia Plans To Cash In On Carbon Credits

Saudi Arabia has outlined plans for its first attempt to earn credits on the international carbon market, after similar efforts by the UAE and Qatar.

The project at a landfill site outside of Medina would generate slightly more than €2 million (Dh9.3m) a year at current carbon prices by keeping emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, out of the atmosphere, documents submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change show.

The move marks a significant development for a country that has long been reluctant to acknowledge the threat of climate change and take action to reduce it, said Mari Luomi, a Gulf climate expert at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs in Helsinki.

“The logic goes that not taking advantage of the current financial resources … makes it easier for countries like Saudi Arabia to argue against the structures of the current burden-sharing agreement,” Ms Luomi said.

“Participation in the international climate regime might create pressure for the GCC OPEC states, which have traditionally been reluctant to admit to any responsibility for their emissions, to take new international commitments.”

Under the 1998 Kyoto Protocol, signed by Saudi Arabia in 2005, companies in developing countries can earn credits for every tonne of greenhouse gas they keep out of the atmosphere.

The credits can be sold on to companies in industrialised countries that need to offset their emissions.

UAE companies have already registered several projects under the scheme, called the Clean Development Mechanism.

Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government’s clean energy company, hopes to become the first in the Gulf to receive credits for a solar panel array and an energy-efficiency investment at a power station in Taweelah. Qatar registered an oilfield project in 2006 but has not yet received credits.

The Saudi project in Medina would pipe methane to an incinerator, creating carbon dioxide, which has less impact on the environment.

The project, requiring about US$4.6m (Dh16.8m) in investment, must be approved by Saudi authorities before it can be registered with the UN.

The National, 12 September 2010