Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Geopolitical Informations

32.21 million (2016)
Total area
2,149,69 km2

Main legislative bodies

  • None

Latest News

UAE-Saudi Arabia seal cooperation to boost renewables in the region

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy and Masdar from the United Arab Emirates on Monday (June, 16) signed a framework agreement to strengthen cooperation in renewable  and clean energy development in the Gulf area. Both energy companies highlighted  an “increasing interest in renewables across the region” in their official statements [Masdar; King read more…

China launches first phase of national ETS

Chinese government on Tuesday (Dec.19) released details about the start of the long-awaited national carbon trading scheme, Reuters reports. Once operational, China’s ETS will read more...

Macron’s climate finance rally to accelerate global response to climate change

On the two-year anniversary of the Paris climate Agreement, the French presidency organized an international summit to increase climate financing to accelerate efforts to read more...

Climate Policy Facts


Year Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF ( MtCO2e) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per Capita ( tCO2e Per Capita) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per GDP ( tCO2e / Million $ GDP)
1990 200.07 12.35 350.33
1991 222.72 13.3 357.46
1992 238.94 13.84 366.51
1993 245.19 13.81 376
1994 261.36 14.36 398.16
1995 269.39 14.51 409.57
1996 282.35 14.98 415.21
1997 265.74 13.94 380.92
1998 281.66 14.61 392.6
1999 287.41 14.65 403.64
2000 300.06 14.9 401.86
2001 311.32 14.9 414.67
2002 328.58 15.05 437.1
2003 347.29 15.2 426.64
2004 367.92 15.43 416.11
2005 384.89 15.59 405.85
2006 404.2 15.93 403.7
2007 418.73 16.16 394.57
2008 446.19 16.92 387.77
2009 471.11 17.58 402.07
2010 510.14 18.71 405.25
2011 532.89 19.2 389.91

The line chart shows the country’s carbon emissions by year, expressed in million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) for emission totals, and in tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) for per capita and per dollar of GDP values. It is based on data from CAIT platform provided by the World Resource Insititute, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

By selecting or deselecting each item, you can compare or give prominence to particular emission trends.



Energy Source Production (ktoe) TPES (ktoe)
Coal 0 0
Oil 558779,567 134025,257
Natural gas 66223,777 66223,777
Nuclear 0 0
Hydro 0 0
Geothermal 0 0
Solar thermal 0 0
Solar photovoltaics 0,086 0,086
Tide, wave, ocean 0 0
Wind 0 0
Biomass 0 0,096
Biofuels 0 6,621
Waste 0 0

The double-doughnut chart shows the country’s energy production and TPES (Total Primary Energy Supply), expressed in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). It is built on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Energy Agency libraries, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

The INNER RING represents the country’s energy production from each energy source, corresponding to the quantities of fuels extracted or produced.

The OUTER RING shows the country’s total primary energy supply of each fuel. It represents the net quantities of fuels made available on the domestic market, after foreign transfers and trading. According to IEA’s definition, TPES equals production plus imports minus exports minus international bunkers plus or minus stock changes.

Differences between production and TPES are significant as they highlight the actual country’s behaviour in the matter of a given energy source. Production values and TPES values of the same energy source may vary widely, especially in case of the much-traded fossil fuels.

Energy data refers to year 2012.

National Policy


Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy based on Islam. The kind of Saudi Arabia combines thus legislative, executive and judicial functions. Therefore, the king is both head of government and head of state as well as the commander in chief of the military. The government consists of the Council of Minister, which is also denoted as Cabinet. In total, there are 23 ministers, which are mostly related to the royal family, as are almost all civil servants in leading positions. The king is also advised by the legislative body of the “Consultative Council”. The council proposes new laws as well as the amendment of existing laws. However, its 150 members, who are appointed by the king for a four-year term, do not have any say in the state budget, which is generally not fully disclosed to the public. Moreover, decisions are made by the king in the end, in most cases in close consultation with the princes of the royal family and the religious establishment. Hence, royal decrees form the basis of the country’s legislation.
All citizens have the right to attend, meet and petition the king directly through traditional tribal meetings. The country is divided into 13 provinces, which are lead by governors and in turn again their own councils for support. The governors are also in most cases related to the royal family. The judicial system of Saudi Arabia is based on the sharia.

Since 2015, King Salman is the head of Saudi Arabia, born in 1935. His son, Prince Muhammad bin Salman is the current Crown Prince and heir apparent to the throne, following his appointment in June 2017.

It is estimated that the Saudi population will double until 2050, then amounting to 60 million. More than half of the population will be younger than 25 in 2050. Saudi Arabia is currently challenged with several problems. First, the low oil prices encumber the state budget due to the high dependence on oil revenues (see below). As a result, budget balance has turned from large surpluses before 2014 into considerable deficits. In addition, there is a bloated patronage network further burdening the country’s balances. On top of that, unemployment rates are rising, especially of the Saudi youth (15-24 years) with an unemployment share of 41 percent in 2013. This is also linked to the unattractiveness of the private sector in Saudi Arabia.


In 2015, Saudi Arabia submitted its INDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance to the COP21 in Paris (see section on ‘International Policy’).

Vision 2030 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2016
The Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia has the target to diversify the Saudi economy to get less dependent on the revenues of its oil production. Hence, the plan addresses multiple sectors, such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism. Additionally, the strategic position between Africa, Asia and Europe shall be better utilised to make Saudi-Arabia a regional logistical hub. It includes more than 80 projects and multiple targets.
One aspect included in the plan is to achieve environmental sustainability. This relates to the preservation of the environment and of natural resources. To this end, the efficiency of waste management shall be increased, comprehensive recycling projects established, all types of pollution reduced and desertification tackled. In addition, water management shall be improved.
Another commitment is the establishment of a functioning renewable energy market. The Vision 2030 thereby sets an initial target of generating 9.5 GW of renewable energies by 2023 [1], which is a significant curtailment compared to earlier targets (see below) and would correspond to a share of merely 5 percent in electricity consumption. Private sector engagement shall be increased significantly through a review of the legal and regulatory framework to allow for greater renewable energy investments in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, a domestic supply chain for renewable energies shall be developed to boost the national economy and to create jobs. Required raw ingredients such as silica and petrochemicals should also be produced in Saudi Arabia based on the existing resources. Public-private partnerships may be set up to build respective capacities and enable sufficient support. Beyond that, the fuel market shall be liberalised for the competitiveness of renewable energies. These measures are supposed to be implemented under the umbrella of the new “King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative”.
Besides, the competitiveness of the energy sector shall be increased by raising the efficiency of governmental support systems. The section explicitly addresses the harming role of non-targeted subsidies and sets out the aim of stimulating productivity and competitiveness by free market prices in the long-term. Again, the diversification of the energy system is called for. However, in contrast to earlier strategic documents (see below), nuclear energy is not mentioned in the Vision 2030.
In 2016, several reshuffles in relevant positions have been made by King Salman to provide for the implementation of the Vision 2030 and prevent competition among entities for leadership.
Full document available here.

9th National Development Plan 2010-2014
The plan, aimed at sustaining economic development, allocated USD 385 billion to pursue five goals: improving living standards; developing human resources; promoting regional development; diversifying the economy; and raising competitiveness. One of the identified priorities is the development of new capacities for energy conservation and renewable energy systems in the public and private sector. Previous National Development Plans (4th – 7th plans) stressed the importance of energy efficiency measures, which have only a secondary role in the latest plan.
Brief Report available as pdf.


Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest energy exporter. In 2014, oil revenues accounted for 87 percent of total revenues and 32 percent. In 2012, it was still more than 90 percent of total revenues. Due to the tumble of oil prices, the numbers are significantly lower for 2015 following a decline of more than 50 percent in oil revenues between 2014 and 2015. Oil revenues constituted back then 72.5 percent of total revenues and oil production corresponded only to 18.4 percent of GDP (all number retrieved from the Fifty-Second Annual Report of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency). The energy mix of Saudi Arabia itself is thus also dominated by its fossil fuel resources: Almost one quarter of total oil production is consumed domestically as well as almost all Saudi produced gas. However, it is estimated that Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves could be depleted already in 2030. Thus, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman stated that Saudi Arabia plans to overcome its oil dependency within the next 20 years.

Saudi Arabia’s energy sector is highly influenced by fossil fuel subsidies, a characteristic feature of energy-exporting countries in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). Energy subsidies have amounted to as much as 9 percent of GDP. This results in low retail prices for electricity, which constitutes a disincentive for energy conservation activities and has led to an entitlement mentality. As a result, Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest energy consumption per capita, which is three times the global average. Nevertheless, energy consumption is still predicted to triple by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.

Nevertheless, the government has been promoting various energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, under the rationale that lower energy consumption at the domestic level would result in higher profits from energy exports. Saudi Arabia has a particularly high potential for solar and wind power. However, due to a variety of barriers, wind and solar power account for less than one percent of the energy mix. If the deployment of renewable energies would constantly increase from 2016 values, a capacity of merely 1.6 GW would be reached in 2023.

Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) 2013
Legislation on minimum energy performance standards is developing rapidly in the whole MENA region. In Saudi Arabia, the latest MEPS were introduced by Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organisation (SASO) in 2013 as a mandatory measure for reducing energy intensity of air conditioning through standards and labelling. The regulation works under the framework of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Program (SEEP), launched in 2012.

Renewable Energy Programme for Saudi Arabia 2012
The Programme was announced by KACARE, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (see below), in 2012. In 2013, a White Paper was published with a roadmap for the launch of the Programme. A central mechanism in the Renewable Energy Programme is the Competitive Procurement Process (CPP), under which renewable energy generators will be invited to submit their bids for power purchase contracts that will last for 20 years. There are supposed to be several tenders, but also a transfer into a feed-in-tariff system was considered. The launch of the procurement process has been severely delayed, which has been attributed for instance to the influence of Saudi Aramco and other players such as the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC). This has supposedly resulted in opaque hierarchies and delayed decision-making processes. Moreover, there is a lack of expertise in renewable energy technologies as well as of managerial and administrative skills, which all constrain making progress. Political support has so far been quite limited due to the dominance of the oil lobby. Only in February 2017, the renewable energy tender programme has been launched.
Draft of the KACARE White Paper of 2013 is available as pdf.

Royal Decree establishing King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) 2010
The Decree established KACARE as a central figure in renewable energy-related research, setting and implementation. Among the activities performed are the mapping and measuring national renewable energy sources, and action plans for introducing a sustainable energy mix throughout the country. KACARE set the target of reaching 23.9 GW of renewable energy production by 2020 and 54 GW by 2032, mostly relying on solar energy (41 GW) but including also wind (9 GW), biomass and geothermal. However, the renewable energy targets were first postponed (54 GW until 2040) and then replaced and significantly downscaled in the Vision 2030 (see above). KACARE also included the aim to build 16 nuclear plants by 2040 with a total capacity of 17 GW. However, the Vision 2030 refrained from this goal by not mentioning nuclear energy (see above). The programme thus seems to have lost considerably in importance after the death of King Abdullah in 2015, by whom the programme was founded. It has been speculated that the renewable energy activities under the KACARE might be absorbed by the new King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative under Vision 2030 (see above).
Full document available as pdf.

National Energy Efficiency Program (NEEP) 2005-2030 (2008)
The NEEP was launched with the purpose of improving energy efficiency, in collaboration with public and state-owned enterprises. Targets include:

  • 30 percent reduction in electricity intensity in the 2005-2030 period;
  • 50 percent reduction in peak demand growth by 2015 compared to the 2000-2005 increase.

The National Energy Efficiency Program operates on four areas: regulation, information, capacity development of energy efficiency managers and public awareness. It focuses on housing and buildings, consumer appliances, heavy industry, water and transport.
In 2008, the NEEP identified eight priority objectives, including energy audit services and industry support, more efficient use of oil and gas, energy efficiency labels and standards for appliances, construction codes, training and public awareness. As a consequence, a national database on energy supply and demand has been set up. Trainings for energy efficiency experts have been organised as a capacity-building measures, with more than 300 attendants. Moreover, nationwide public awareness campaigns have been launched to influence citizens’ energy consumption behaviour. While the young Saudi population has increased its awareness and sensitivity regarding energy efficiency, the topic has so far mostly remained within academic circles. With respect to regulations, the energy efficiency standard for air-conditioners has been updated and energy labels for washing machines, refrigerators and freezers introduced in 2015. A regulation addressing the phase out of inefficient lighting appliances is currently under preparation.
In accordance with the above-mentioned objectives of the NEEP, a designated energy efficiency agency, the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center (SEEC), was established in 2010. The SEEC focuses mainly on household and industrial consumers. Measures include the installation of high-efficiency air conditioning units and better insulation of new buildings. The SEEC is also the body in charge of the SEEP programme setting out minimum energy performance standards (see above).

Electricity Distribution Code (2008)
The code provides a regulation for the national electricity market. The law addresses various market actors such as electricity generators and distribution service providers specifying rules and requirements for accessing and using the distribution system, including the obligations with regard to information exchange.
Full document available as pdf.

Energy Conservation and Awareness Department
There is an Energy Conservation and Awareness Department in the Ministry of Water and Electricity, which can impose limits on the maximum power used by electricity consumers.


As in the case for the energy market, fossil fuel subsidies have a strong impact on citizens’ behaviour with regard to transport, encouraging the use of private means of transportation. In 2013 the Saudi Arabian High Commission for the Development of Riyadh contemplated the option of increasing fuel prices to encourage public transportation. The city of Riyadh is also considering imposing fees on car parking to lower private transport.

To improve the energy performance of private transport, a 2008 regulation on the importation of vehicles prohibited the import of vehicles older than five years.

Various projects aiming at strengthening the public transport system are being carried out. These include the expansion of the railway system, together with other light-rail, tramway, metro and bus rapid transit projects.


In the second national communication submitted by Saudi Arabia to the UNFCCC in 2011, afforestation projects with a total area of 29.68 km2 are envisaged. In addition, an afforestation project to plant 500,000 trees in the city of Jeddah was mentioned. In the third national communication of 2016, it is reported that 160,000 trees have been planted in Jeddah as well as 360,000 flowers and herbs. Several further, smaller afforestation projects are listed. Moreover, the Green Jeddah Programme has been established, representing Saudi Arabia’s first youth-led eco-friendly initiative aiming at promoting green practices.

Under the 8th Development Plan 2005-2009 several strategies related to agriculture, forestry and land use change were issued, the most relevant being the National Forestry Strategy and Action Plan in 2006 and the National Biodiversity Strategy in 2008.


Saudi Arabia is generally highly vulnerable to climate change due to water scarcity, sea level rise, heatwaves and sandstorms. In 2100, average summer temperature may rise to 60 to 70°C from 45°C today, rendering possibly parts of the country uninhabitable. Not differently from the other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in Saudi Arabia water is considered a scarce, and therefore important, resource. Water conservation measures are paramount activities to contrast water scarcity. A means to increase the amount of available water is desalinisation, a process characterised by large energy intensity. Therefore, optimising the use of energy with this regard is an activity of great importance.

The second national communication submitted by Saudi Arabia to the UNFCCC in 2011 lists several proposed adaptation measures. These are divided into three thematic areas. First, coastal zones shall be prepared with respect to sea level rise by means of spatial planning, sand nourishment, dune management, salt marsh management, sea grass beds and sea dikes. Priorities relating to water resources are to reduce uncertainties in hydro-meteorological trend predictions, the protection and restoration of ecosystems, and to close the gap between water supply and demand. The last section on adaptation deals with desert ecosystems and biodiversity. Measures include legal and institutional measures, conservation and sustainable use practices, strengthening of monitoring and evaluation systems, and strengthening environmental education and awareness at all levels. The third national communication of 2016 relates to the areas of water resources, desertification, health, and agriculture and food security. However, it does not list specific measures.

Beyond that, the 9th National Development Plan (see above) identified a number of targets related to adaptation, such as increasing dams storage capacity by 85 percent and desalinisation plants capacity by circa 50 percent.


[1] The Vision 2030 itself does not indicate any target year for achievement, which is why it was first assumed that the target relates to 2030. However, a few days after the presentation of the Vision, it was clarified that the target shall be reached already in 2023.



Borgmann, M. (2016): ‘Potentially Game-Changing Saudi Arabian Government Restructuring Bolsters 9.5 GW Renewable Energy Target by 2023’, Apricum.

GLOBE Climate Legislation Study 4th Edition (2014) (pdf)

Profile of Saudi Arabia on the website of the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

IEA’s Saudi Arabia Climate and Energy Policy overview

IEA’s online database on energy subsidies

KACARE website

Ministry of Economy and Planning website

RCREEE’s Arab Future Energy Index (AFEX) on Energy Efficiency (2015) (pdf)

RCREEE’s Arab Future Energy Index (AFEX) on Renewable Energy (2015) (pdf)

SEEC website (in Arabic)

Sons, S. (2016): ‘Saudi Arabia: Oil as Burden in the Struggle for Energy Diversification’. In: Roehrkasten, S., Thielges, S. and Quitzow, R. (eds), ‘Sustainable Energy in the G20 – Prospects for a Global Energy Transition’, IASS Study, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany.

International Policy

General features

  • Party to the UNFCCC (Non-Annex I country)
    • Date of signature: —
    • Date of ratification: 28 December 1994
    • Date of entry into force: 28 March 1995
  • Member of Kyoto Protocol
    • Date of signature: —
    • Date of ratification: 31 January 2005
    • Date of entry into force: 1 May 2005
    • Date of acceptance Doha Amendment: —
  • No signatory of the Copenhagen Accord
  • Party to the Paris Agreement
    • Date of signature: —
    • Date of ratification: 3 November 2016
    • Date of entry into force: 3 December 2016
  • Post-2020 action:
    • Saudi Arabia submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) in advance of the COP21 (Paris), in 2015 (for more information on INDCs see here). Following the ratification and the entry into force of the Paris Agreement, the INDC has become the country’s first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). Saudi Arabia will implement actions in pursuit of adaptation and economic diversification that have GHG emission avoidances as co-benefits. In total, these measures may lead to an annual abatement of 130 million tons of CO2eq between 2020 and 2030. The plans are not dependent on international financial support but on technology cooperation and transfer as well as capacity building support. Moreover, the implementation of these measures is contingent on economic growth and significant oil export revenues. Hence, international climate change policies should not pose a disproportionate burden on the Saudi Arabian economy. Therefore, two scenarios are considered for the development of a dynamic baseline: One with sufficient oil export revenues contributing to economic diversification and thus the implementation of actions mentioned in the NDC; and another one assuming higher domestic oil consumption and accelerated industrialisation in case of lower export revenues and thus only partial implementation of NDC actions. Finally, Saudi Arabia reserves the right to further elaborate on its NDC and make additional submissions to account for the two different scenarios.
      Actions included in the NDC are listed in the following three categories:
      – Contributions to economic diversification with mitigation co-benefits (energy efficiency; renewable energies; carbon capture and utilisation/storage, which includes the building of the world’s largest carbon capture and use plant and piloting carbon capture and storage projects; utilisation of gas; and methane recovery and flare minimisation)
      – Contributions to adaptation with mitigation co-benefits (water and waste water management, which reduces energy consumption; urban planning to promote mass transport systems; marine protection enhancing carbon sinks while reducing coastal erosion and conserving related ecosystems; and reducing desertification and land degradation by improving land management practices)
      – Adaptation measures without mitigation co-benefits (integrated coastal zone management planning; early warning systems for extreme weather events; and integrated water management planning)
      The Climate Action Tracker has rated the NDC of Saudi Arabia as “inadequate”. To meet a minimum fair contribution, Saudi Arabia would have to at least triple its abatement efforts. It is particularly criticised that Saudi Arabia has not presented any baseline to its NDC target and that is has not quantified any measures included in the NDC.

Multilateral and Bilateral Cooperation

  • Saudi Arabia is a member of the Group of 20 (G20).
  • Saudi Arabia s the most influential member state of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
  • Saudi Araba has also joined the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
  • Saudi Arabia has pledged to double its expenditures on clean energy research by 2020, as it launched Mission Innovation with several other countries at COP21 in Paris in 2015.
  • Since 2013, Saudi Arabia is part of the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), which aims to reduce methane emissions.
  • Already in 2005, Saudi Arabia became a member of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF). Moreover, it is involved in the “four Kingdoms” (UK, Netherlands, Norway and Saudi Arabia) initiative for Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage.
  • Generally, Saudi Arabia has worked on improving its international image as a responsible and reliable partner in bilateral and multilateral climate policy initiatives.

Negotiating position

Saudi Arabia’s standpoint in international negotiations is influenced by opposite interests. On the one hand, the kingdom has the largest oil reserves in the world, and its economy, highly dependent on fossil fuel exports, is experiencing a fast growth; on the other hand, climate change is estimated to have a disruptive impact on Saudi Arabian landscape, which is characterised by an arid climate and water scarcity.

Being part of the developing economies of the G20 group, Saudi Arabia has strongly criticised the attitude of developed countries to push for some kind of commitment between G20 members, arguing that climate change financing is a burden to be borne by developed countries, whereas developing economies should take mitigation pledges on a voluntary basis.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia boycotted international climate agreements and questioned the scientific evidence on the impacts of climate change. Generally, Saudi Arabia obfuscates its own large contribution to GHG emissions and has so far rather ignored its high vulnerability to climate change.

Saudi Arabia is a member of the G-77 and China, the Like-Minded Developing Countries as well as the Arab Group.

Sources are either given as references in the text or listed under the references in the section on ‘National Policy’.