Energy 2050 COP21 side event on diversification of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) economies, innovation clusters and co-production at the UN climate change conference in Paris

How the EU can work with GCC needing to diversify their economies and develop innovation clusters and co-production?

This side event, moderated by Mohammed Al Shamsi, Saudi Arabia, highlighted initiatives between the EU and GCC on economic diversification and identified barriers and solutions for scaling up investments in low-carbon technologies. Al Shamsi noted efforts in GCC countries since 1980 to diversify their oil-based economies, highlighting that evidence shows they are on a path towards low-carbon economic development.

Mustafa Babiker, Senior Consultant, Saudi Aramco, underscored that economic diversification is key to sustainable development and will allow economic growth alongside improvements in the social well-being of the population. He noted that despite improved trends, challenges remain, including heavy reliance of the GCC economies on the oil sector, especially in terms of exports and revenues. He noted the increase of foreign direct investment since 2000 and presented opportunities for diversification in different economic sectors, including petrochemicals, high technology and financial services. He also discussed challenges in with the region’s agricultural potential, stressing limited water availability, and in the manufacturing sector, underscoring limited competitiveness and domination by low value-added activities.

Jon Price, University of Sheffield, presented on diversification through innovation, manufacturing, co-production and training. He provided an overview of the transformation in Sheffield, from a fossil fuel intensive production economy in the 1980s to the Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Park which provides opportunities to develop industry across a range of sectors. He presented the main partnerships that enabled the transformation, as well as efforts regarding training and capacity building. He underscored that the transformation of a coal mine in the area has led to wealth creation for the economy, noting that the application could be replicated in GCC countries.

Addressing solar driven economic diversification in the GCC countries, Anthony Ryan, University of Sheffield, drew attention to solar thermal technologies and their potential for agricultural development in the GCC region. Noting that traditional outdoor agriculture in the GCC countries makes no sense, as the climate “is too hot, too dry and the region too sandy,” he provided examples of solar thermal plants in, among other places, Spain and Australia. He described the process, based on sea water and sunshine, which involves, inter alia: solar thermal desalination; solar powered heliostats and pumps; and evaporative cooling for temperature and relative humidity in greenhouse hydroponic/drip irrigation. He offered insights into the integration of technologies to diversify business growth in GCC countries, including: solar desalination technologies; genetically modified cultivars optimized for hydroponics; and the transition from oil and gas to polyolefins.

In the ensuing discussion, participants addressed, inter alia: 3-D printing applications; the importance of capacity building and human resources; the service sector in the GCC countries; and cost effectiveness, including returns on investments in solar agriculture.

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Further details of the event:

Date: Saturday 5 December 2015
Time: 13.00 – 14.00 CET
Location: GCC Pavilion (participation requires UN accreditation)
Partners: Energy 2050, The University of Sheffield, UK; GCC Gulf Cooperation Council countries

  • Chair: Dr. Awwad Harthi, Saudi Aramco
  • Pro-Vice-Chancellor Prof. Tony Ryan OBE, Director of The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, The University of Sheffield
  • Mr Jon Price, Director of Energy Innovation & Knowledge Exchange, Energy 2050, The University of Sheffield
  • Dr. Mustafa Babiker, Saudi Aramco