Net-zero by 2050: Short-term targets will help achieve long-term visions

15th November 2022
Katherine Bruce
Service Lead - Sustainability & Climate Change Advisory

We are excited to be seeing a bigger push towards achieving net-zero in the MENA region, with Egypt hosting COP this year and the UAE hosting next year’s. It’s fantastic to see the good intentions of regional governments and we hope these events will further encourage quick action and implementation in this part of the world.

But while the plans, pledges and innovative ideas and solutions in the making are certainly positive moves, we need to see changes happening now. The importance of adopting these actions at a fast pace cannot be stressed enough.

Our COP27 Hub and our podcast, ‘Anticipating COP27’ feature additional insights from WSP’s experts.

Katherine Bruce, WSP Middle East’s Service Lead for Sustainability and Climate Change Advisory, leads her team in supporting clients to set and achieve sustainability goals.

Right now, Katherine is particularly focused on shorter-term actions that can be implemented right now, to get organisations on track to reach net-zero.

Katherine says: “Many organisations currently spend so much time measuring and collecting data, trying to understand their carbon footprints, and setting future targets and big goals, but actually, we should be looking at what we can do on a monthly or even daily basis. Net zero by 2050 is a fantastic goal to set, but we need short-term targets to achieve a long-term vision. An effective approach involves breaking down these ambitions to a micro-level and considering the steps we take each day.”

COP28 is to be hosted in the UAE in 2023, so in the short term between now and then, rather than pledges or plans, organisations should focus on taking action.

Here are 7 steps your organisation can start taking right now to get closer to net-zero:

1. Don’t miss the low-hanging fruit

It’s easy to see reaching net-zero as one enormous, daunting journey, but the compounding effects of smaller actions on a larger scale will have a huge impact. Katherine recommends starting small, for example recycling office waste and lowering air conditioning units by a few degrees. “Take the low hanging fruit, then set a plan to achieve the bigger challenges in broken down steps. Following the 80/20 rule, you may find that 80% of your emissions are in 20% of your operations, you don’t need to wait until an accurate carbon footprint is ready to start taking action.”

2. Call in a third party to verify your carbon accounting

Katherine recommends having carbon accounting data verified, as not only will this establish the company’s carbon footprint to offset it accurately, but it also confirms that the data isn’t manipulated or misrepresented, which also benefits marketing, client perception and investor interest. It will support the company’s economic and business goals and set a good example in your industry.

3. Set a company specific net-zero target and action plan

A company-specific net-zero plan shows intent, especially when working towards a date even sooner than your government’s. Our team can support with setting a plan of action and identifying steps. WSP’s own 2040 net-zero commitment targets were approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative.

4. Set targets and KPIs that hold your leaders accountable

Ensuring actions are taken within your organisation requires holding leaders accountable, involving all departments, and regularly checking in and requesting evidence of their actions towards reducing emissions. Incorporating decarbonisation into annual KPIs and bonuses based on how well short-term sustainability goals have been met is a good way to ensure actions are taken to achieve those all-important goals.

5. Seek advice to devise and implement sustainable strategies in the most effective way

Implementing a sustainable strategy can be a complicated and overwhelming task and with so many different routes, it might be difficult to know if the most effective road is being taken. With the support of sustainability advisors, organisations can be more confident in their strategies, implementation, and results.

6. Embrace climate change as an opportunity and develop climate change friendly offerings

We are heading into a more consumer-led market, and consumers are increasingly favouring sustainable options, which are becoming more accessible. If you aren’t already supplying this or showing your intent towards achieving net-zero, you will soon be missing out on opportunities with a huge and rapidly increasing portion of the market. Lower-energy production methods will also save money and improve your organisation’s longevity.

7. Factor sustainable strategies and initiatives into every part of your business

Rather than an afterthought, add on, or a CSR initiative, sustainability strategies and net-zero commitments should influence every department. This is not an added cost to your business, it will set you apart and ahead of competitors. WSP’s Future Ready programme runs through all departments and projects, and it helps us deliver lower-cost solutions for clients and build a more resilient and innovative world. We hope to see more companies embedding sustainability into all of their actions.

Katherine says the compounding impact of small steps taken by companies is what will really make a difference. “Focusing more on the here and now is what will help us towards those longer-term goals, except we’ll be starting to make an impact right now!”










What is absolutely key, is for organisations and governments to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint, beyond only disclosing their emissions.

Most organisations that account their carbon emissions do so with the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol. These standards classify a company’s GHG emissions into three scopes.

Many companies measure and report their carbon emissions in Scopes 1 and 2, from owned or controlled sources, or indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy. Scope 3 is challenging as these emissions are more difficult to measure and verify, but they tend to account for most of a company’s emissions

Katherine’s team is helping clients to manage their carbon measurements and reporting within Scope 3 and creating sustainability action plans too. One of the bespoke solutions devised by WSP’s team to support with this is an embodied carbon accounting calculator, which is a tool to help with tracking the carbon footprint of materials in the construction sector.

While our regional teams leverage WSP’s global expertise, they must also use their knowledge of local requirements and challenges to find practical, region-specific solutions. Our solutions aren’t one size fits all, which is why a dedicated sustainability advisor can help to speed up the journey to net-zero.

The excitement about COP coming to the MENA region has been built, with some scepticism from our peers around the world, but for those countries and companies that do follow through and show their intent through responsible actions, the benefits could be great.


Will COP27 and 28 encourage greater climate action in the region?

Even with the UAE, KSA and Oman’s strong pledges at public sector level, in general our region is a little less mature in terms of taking on policies that encourage uptake compared to other parts of the world. For example, seven of the top ten best prepared countries for net-zero are in Europe, and Finland is going beyond net-zero and aiming to create environmental benefit to become climate positive.

MENA countries’ net-zero commitments

The excitement about COP coming to the MENA region has been built, with some scepticism from our peers around the world, but for those countries and companies that do follow through and show their intent through responsible actions, the benefits could be great.

Our teams have supported the designs for some unique sustainable projects in the Middle East such as the Etihad Arena, the Emirates Green Building Council’s 2018 Sustainable Building of the Year, for its flexibility and passive energy-reducing design strategies, as well as EXPO Route 2020, the world’s first mass infrastructure project to achieve LEED Gold rating.

With projects like these being noticed internationally, we are determined that even more developments with forward-thinking solutions will take the lead in showing the world that efforts really are being made in the MENA region to drive change and follow through on regional governments’ pledges, before COP28 in the UAE.

Companies can make themselves more attractive to the global investment community through reliable carbon accounting and reporting.


Government pledges show intention, but we need policies, action and transparency to drive change and engage stakeholders

Some of the responsibility in ensuring companies reach net-zero lies with governments and policy makers. Governments unfortunately cannot expect all companies to comply without taking the lead by providing practical recommendations and enforcing legislations.

“Carbon incentives or taxes, at least for certain industries or company sizes, can support in reducing emissions,” Katherine says. “We have seen success and positive results with this in other regions like with the European Climate Laws.”

We asked Fahdah Albusaily, Assistant Design Manager working in WSP’s Riyadh office about her perspectives on the impact of governmental initiatives. “It is clear that the global climate crisis needs concerted efforts around the world. Saudi Arabia is fully aware of its responsibility to advance the fight against climate change and is working to lead the next green era. Vision 2030 is a key player in this and the Saudi Green Initiative has been launched to raise vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation and preserve marine life. This encourages us as individuals to make changes as well to protect the earth for the next generation.”



Companies can make themselves more attractive to the global investment community through reliable carbon accounting and reporting.

Katherine tells us investors globally are more frequently demanding reliable carbon accounting from the companies they invest in. “This is particularly effective in keeping companies accountable. The positive impact could be even greater if more awareness is raised about the benefits for those stakeholders involved”.

Greater investment into research and awareness could encourage a cultural shift that would allow for more action to be taken. More understanding would support organisations and individuals to know where their responsibilities lie, and actions that will make a difference. WSP aims to highlight the positives of climate resiliency solutions both for the environment and businesses, but we would be delighted to see greater awareness encouraged across the region.

As global sustainability leaders, we understand the importance of seeing through climate change pledges.

We have a crucial role to play in finding solutions to some of the world’s biggest environmental and social challenges, and with WSP’s pledge to achieve net-zero emissions across our value chain by 2040, and by taking a Future Ready approach to all our client work, we aim to inspire solutions that are effective now, and well into the future.

Climate change is everyone’s issue, and we need to tackle it together.

We are determined that by next year’s COP28 in the UAE, we will be well on track towards making UAE 2050 a success.

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