The race to achieve net zero emissions just got faster

A decision to bring forward a key Adnoc climate target by five years demonstrates leadership in the sector

The sun rises over Adnoc headquarters in Abu Dhabi. The energy company wants to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. AP
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Fighting climate change, we are frequently told, is a race against time. It can be frustrating, therefore, when we learn that international benchmarks for tackling this evident global crisis are being missed, or that important action has been delayed. Images of extreme weather, droughts and wildfires taking place right now, coupled with scientific reports that show temperature records being broken, only underline the urgency required to change course.

In an effort to buck that trend, Adnoc, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, is bringing forward its deadline to achieve net-zero emissions by five years to 2045. It also wants to eliminate methane emissions seven years from now. These are ambitious goals, but they are certainly achievable; the energy company has hit other challenging environmental targets in the past. In 2020, it was among the five lowest greenhouse gas emitters in the oil and gas industry.

A year later, Adnoc started commercial operations at its Al Reyadah carbon capture, utilisation and storage facility, and at the start of this year the company earmarked $15 billion for decarbonisation projects as well as enhanced investments in hydrogen and renewables. From 2016 to 2021, Adnoc Drilling operations cut overall carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 130,000 tonnes and diesel consumption by 12 million gallons. Since the business began, Adnoc has recorded a near-90 per cent reduction in natural gas flaring.

Commercially and technically, this demonstrates leadership in the sector. Given Adnoc’s range of international partnerships with fellow producers, setting and meeting environmental targets can present a template for reducing emissions across the board. The work to meet such goals speeds up the development of a more sustainable model for energy production, so setting bold environmental targets ensures relevance and profitability in a changing market. In short, racing to achieve zero emissions also makes good business sense.

In the meantime, oil and gas remain vital to the world’s economy. This week, for example, the UK government committed itself to granting hundreds of licences to look for fossil fuels in the North Sea. Nevertheless, to have a major energy producer like Adnoc not only invest billions in mitigating the effects of its business, but also commit significant resources to developing cleaner energy is a smart way to manage the transition that is already taking place.

This striving to achieve key targets like net zero as early as possible also provides a counterpoint to those who claim that energy producers’ involvement in climate action is inimical to progress. The considerable resources of companies like Adnoc, its technical know-how and international links are vital contributions in the fight to reduce global warming.

Government also has its role to play in this fight, and the Emirates has its own long-term plans in place, such as the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the National Hydrogen Strategy 2050. Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who approved Adnoc’s accelerated decarbonisation plan, noted that these ambitious targets marked a new chapter in the company’s transformational journey to a lower carbon future. Speaking yesterday, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Suhail Al Mazrouei, also welcomed what he called Adnoc’s “significant steps to make today's energy cleaner”.

"While charting our net-zero pathway, we focus on creating a balanced mix of traditional and clean energy sources,” he added. “We are proud to be at the global forefront of adopting and investing heavily in technologies to reduce energy-related emissions and increase energy efficiency.”

At an event earlier this month, Cop28 President-designate Dr Sultan Al Jaber, who is also the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and managing director and group chief executive of Adnoc, urged the oil and gas industry to allocate capital at scale to develop clean energy solutions. With that call and yesterday’s announcement, it seems that the race to meet the UAE’s latest ambitious climate target is on.

Published: August 02, 2023, 3:00 AM