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Can AI lead the way in monitoring and managing carbon emissions in the Middle East?

Solutions such as BCG's CO2 AI can track carbon footprints, simulate the impact of corrective measures, and provide a roadmap with realistic targets.

[Source photo: Venkat Reddy/Fast Company Middle East]

Last August, a headline read, – “The Middle East Is Becoming Uninhabitable”. Obviously, the article caused panic and confusion, although we already know the reason — climate change. While this created anxiety, it also highlighted the need for drastic measures.

With increasing hot days triggering droughts, climate change is expected to cause financial losses of almost $730 billion annually by 2030. Major Gulf economies and corporations have pledged to reach net-zero emissions to tackle this crisis.

The UAE hopes to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050, while Bahrain and Saudi Arabia hope to achieve the same milestone by 2060. At the same time, Qatar is eyeing a 25% reduction in its carbon footprint by the end of this decade.

In the energy sector, UAE’s major oil producer ADNOC, eyes reducing a quarter of its emissions by 2030, and ARAMCO hopes to reach the net-zero target halfway into this century. Leading retail and leisure conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim group aspires to reduce its operations’ carbon and water footprint by more than 35%.

While these are bold targets, what is being done to achieve them?

Among major cities, Dubai made its eco-friendly promises and reduced emissions by 33% in 2020. The Emirate is also home to the MBR solar park in Dubai, which will reduce CO2 released into the environment by 6.5 million tonnes annually upon completion in 2030.

Saudi Arabia is also transitioning to clean fuels by building a $5 billion green plant in NEOM to generate green hydrogen, powered by solar and wind energy. The country also seeks to become the world’s leading supplier of green hydrogen and blue ammonia to replace fossil fuels. Its state-owned oil company Aramco is investing in tech to capture carbon from industrial units, to be recycled as fuel.

Qatar, another major economy, relies on electrification to erase its carbon footprint while recycling natural gas to produce protein from methane, which is then fed to fish to ensure food security via aquaculture amid climate change. But, eventually, the success of these initiatives is the capability of measuring their impact as precisely as possible.

DMSat-1, Dubai’s first nanometric environmental satellite, developed by Dubai Municipality, assesses air pollution in the UAE – particularly dust levels — and collects data on CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere around the UAE. The World Economic Forum has recommended digital tech as a tool to reduce carbon output by 15%, and AI can lead the way. Smart tech can monitor emissions and predict power consumption for more sustainable business operations.


AI has the potential to measure the composition of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere with high accuracy using granular data and can help reduce emissions significantly.

Beyond residences and offices using smart meters to monitor and control power usage, every sector, from manufacturing to real estate, can go green with AI. Arloid has partnered with Smart Energy Savings (SES) among firms providing AI for sustainability in the Middle East. SES is known for setting up an off-grid hybrid power plant in Saudi Arabia to reduce carbon emissions.

Another solution that can help companies decarbonize their operations is BCG’s CO2 AI, which can help reduce emissions by up to 40%. The firm’s analysis shows that by 2030, machine learning and smart monitoring for corporate sustainability can save up to $2.6 trillion.

BCG’s AI uses a multipronged approach to track efficiency and deliver insights. CO2 AI leverages natural language processing to analyze a company’s operations and provide an accurate picture of its CO2 footprint and sources. It uses AI-driven optimization to calculate and visualize the actual impact of measures to reduce emissions.

Based on this data, a roadmap is created with realistic targets, keeping the reduction of greenhouse gases as a priority. Finally, it uses the Initiative Tracker to monitor the impact of sustainable measures in real-time and provides instant progress reports.

BCG has partnered with CDP, a not-for-profit organization that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states, and regions to manage their environmental impacts. It allows enterprises and cities to release data on their environmental impact. Companies can seamlessly share insights and collaborate through the platform designed for sustainable operations.

Integrating AI to track and reduce carbon footprint will enhance overall operations’ efficiency and reduce resource usage. The deployment of machine learning across sectors will accelerate initiatives for achieving net-zero emission targets.


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