The largest producer of oil, Saudi Arabia, has set a target to attain “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2060 as the kingdom joined more than 100 countries around the world that are campaigning to address the issue of climate change because of global warming,
Saudi Arabia has however not indicated that it would curtail oil and gas investments or loosen control of energy markets by shifting away from fossil fuel production even though the kingdom has pledged to cut down carbon emissions inside its own national boundaries.
Despite efforts by the country to diversify its sources of revenue as the world is slowly but surely moving away from its reliance on fossil fuels, energy exports remain the mainstay of Saudi Arabia’s economy. The country is expected to earn $150 billion in revenue from the sale of oil this year alone.
The country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the announcement in prepared remarks at the commencement of the first-ever Saudi Green Initiative Forum of the country, which was scheduled to coincide with the start of the global COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
By 2030, Saudi Arabia would plant 450 million trees and repair vast expanses of degraded land, which would help to cut down about 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions and strive to transform the landlocked capital Riyadh into a more sustainable capital, according to the prince.
On their claimed net-zero target date of 2060, the country joins the ranks of Russia and China on this issue. The United States and the European Union have set the year 2050 as their target top become carbon neutral.
According to analysts, this declaration by Saudi Arabia also helps it to secure the kingdom’s continuing participation in global climate change negotiations. There has been opposition from Saudi Arabia to those who have urged the phasing out of fossil fuel as soon as possible as the kingdom has warned that doing so too soon might result in price instability and shortages of fuel all around the world. In recently leaked papers it was revealed that the kingdom and other countries are pressing behind the scenes to modify the terminology around emissions ahead of the COP26 session.
When transitioning domestically from fossil fuel dependency, the kingdom may use the domestically subsidised oil and gas to export to China and India, where demand is likely to rise in the coming years.
“The kingdom’s economic growth is driven by export of its energy sources. It’s no state secret,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said at the forum in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia plans to achieve net-zero emissions through a “Carbon Circular Economy” strategy that emphasises “reduce, reuse, recycle, and eliminate.”
It’s a controversial policy among climate campaigners since it promotes the still-unreliable technology for carbon capture and storage instead of focusing on fossil fuel phase-out.
The latest declaration by Saudi Arabia included little detailed information about how the kingdom plans to reduce emissions in the near and medium term, including when emissions in the country will reach a peak. Drastic reduction in carbon emissions must be made as quickly as possible to guarantee that global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), as agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement, experts have warned.
“We believe that carbon capture, utilization and storage, direct air capture, hydrogen and low carbon fuel are the things that will develop the necessary ingredients to really make sure this effort will be inclusive,” Prince Abdulaziz said of the global energy transition.
(Adapted from USNews.com)