From Climate Antagonists to Low-Carbon Protagonists? The Changing Role of the Gulf OPEC States in the UNFCCC

FNI Climate Policy Perspectives 6, October 2012

Surging domestic energy consumption in the Gulf region is increasingly threatening oil and gas export revenues. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are initiating multiple experiments to improve energy efficiency and introduce renewable energy, prompting the emergence of new domestic actors. Still, the legacy of rentierism hinders many of these efforts.

The former antagonistic stance of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in the international climate regime is being replaced by cautious signals of a more constructive engagement, such as in the willingness of Qatar to host COP 18.

The resulting opportunities for constructive and innovative dialogues should not be wasted, and premature statements from Northern governments predicting a failure for COP 18 might be counterproductive. Climate diplomacy should instead try to strengthen the position of those groups in favour of new domestic energy policies.

Technical support for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) pilot projects in the GCC by the EU and other progressive countries in the climate regime could serve as a catalyst for creating sustained synergies between new energy and climate policies in the region.