Saudi green strategy not viable, fails to address climate crisis
The Saudi Arabian pledge is to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 - yet only through reliance on CCS technology.
Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday and Friday at the COP27 conference in Egypt that it plans to compensate oil production with the construction of the world’s largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) hub in partnership with Aramco, Saudi's national oil company. Many observers consider this plan to be dangerous in terms of causing further delays in the implementation of real and efficient climate action.
The strategy proposed by the Saudi delegation at the COP27, which they dubbed the "Circular Carbon Economy" approach, would contribute to reducing emissions by 278 mtpa by 2030.
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said the center will be fully operating by 2027, adding that it would initially start by extracting and storing 9m tonnes of CO2 per year, which means it would have the capacity to store 72m tonnes by 2035. But the goal set by Aramco is 44m tonnes of captured and stored CO2 by 2035.
But several critics argue that a focus on CCS technologies is not viable to address the world's addiction to fossil fuels.
"All that was on display was illusions and false solutions that are a waste of time and money,” said Ghiwa Nakat, Executive Director at Greenpeace MENA (Middle East and North Africa). "We acknowledge the difficulties for an economy that has been over-reliant on oil for decades in letting go of what they see as a golden age. It’s surprising that an innovator like Saudi Arabia should stick with oil when it would do better to make peace with the end of an era."
#COP27 Global climate talks— earth like me (@earthlikeme) November 19, 2022
You know how the saying goes: it's better to #prevent #disease than to #cure it. It's cheaper and it doesn't hurt.
But #SaudiArabia #oil is easy #money!
‘False solutions’: scepticism over #Saudi #CarbonCapture planhttps://t.co/AskMCmdrNn pic.twitter.com/TmsKKO2eWY
Saudi Arabia has a well-known history of denying the science of human-made climate change. It is also well known that the country systematically avoids crucial discussions on mitigating the climate crisis. But some believe that the promotion of CCS marks an important shift in its approach to the environment.
Saudi Arabia pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 - yet only through reliance on CCS technology.
Six years ago, the government launched a strategic framework intended to lay the groundwork for Saudi Arabia to reduce its dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors, such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.
In the framework's report "Saudi Vision 2030," it states that oil currently accounts for 46% of the country's GDP.
"We are determined to reinforce and diversify the capabilities of our economy, turning our key strengths into enabling tools for a fully diversified future. As such, we will transform Aramco from an oil-producing company into a global industrial conglomerate," the report stated.
While it states that the Kingdom aims to produce 9.5 GW of renewable energy by 2030, in other parts, it says, "We will double our gas production, and construct a national gas distribution networks."
On October 31, it was reported that the Minister of Energy of Saudi Arabia Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and the head of the UAE's Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Sultan Al-Jaber, stressed that investing in oil production is vital to the global economy during the ADIPEC conference on energy held in Abu Dhabi.
Since OPEC+ decided to reduce daily oil production by 2 million barrels, tensions between the US and Saudi Arabia have been heavily raised, particularly after Biden vowed “consequences” for the kingdom following the move which the US president considered "politicized".
A former climate negotiator and current civil society observer who has attended 17 Cops, including Cop27, said, "Saudi Arabia had two major tactics. One was procedure obstruction, which is something they’ve done, and they’re still doing. Because it’s the United Nations system, one country can object and hold up or halt the process, and that’s what they usually do. They either do this through fighting not to get important items on the agenda, or taking them off the agenda," the source said, as quoted by The Guardian.
This followed many years of efforts to “limit the input of science” into negotiations, particularly on discussions on limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
"They normally used a procedural excuse not to put temperature targets on the agenda, saying it’s not part of the agenda or the mandate of this particular body to do that. Or they would discredit the IPCC reports, saying that they’re political."
"So it’s all about avoiding any mention of science as being embedded in the process and procedural obstructions. They also sometimes do things directly, so whenever you’re approaching consensus on an issue, they just raise something. This destroys all the effort that has been made, when everybody’s exhausted, and they do it at the last minute – or they do it via other countries," the negotiator added.
Greenpeace Mena director Ghiwa Nakat said, "The Saudi negotiators have put a lot of energy and effort into blocking any mention of the 1.5C warming limit as well as any language around the importance of phasing out – or even simply phasing down – fossil fuels. This is consistent with their historical pattern of blocking an ambitious outcome, most notably on matters relating to emission reduction and energy transition."
“Saudi Arabia has been complementing its work in the negotiation tracks with its typical flurry of statements around the importance of fossil fuels in the energy transition. However, this year it has scaled up its communication on CCS as the miracle solution that would allow fossil fuels to exist in a net zero world,” she added.