Friday, January 21

Saudi Arabia commits to zero net emissions by 2060

Saudi Arabia has pledged to eliminate global warming emissions within its borders by 2060.

It marks a sea change for the world’s largest oil exporter, although officials included many warnings and emphasized that Saudi Arabia and other countries would need to pump crude in the coming decades.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler, made the announcement in Riyadh on Saturday at the opening of a climate conference. His government has consistently argued against cutting investments in fossil fuels and has blamed climate activists for the increase in energy prices this year.

While Saudi Arabia’s new target aligns it with China and Russia, the time frame lags behind other major economies such as the US, UK and the European Union, which all aim to be net zero by 2050.

The United States and European nations have lobbied Saudi Arabia to accelerate efforts to curb emissions and invest more in renewable energy. The crown prince’s decision gives them a boost ahead of the crucial COP26 climate forum that starts this month in Glasgow.

“I hope this landmark announcement will boost the ambition of others ahead of COP26,” UK President Alok Sharma said for the talks on Twitter. “We await the details.”

Prince Mohammed underscored the difficulty of reducing emissions in a desert country so dependent on oil and burning massive amounts of fossil fuels for air conditioning and desalination of seawater.

Saudi Arabia will achieve the goal in a way that “protects the kingdom’s leading role in strengthening the security and stability of global energy markets, in light of the maturity and availability of technologies necessary to manage and reduce emissions.” he said in a speech recorded on the Saudi Green Initiative forum.

The government will rely heavily on carbon capture, Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said. Its goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tons per year by 2030, more than double its previous goal, it said.

State-owned energy company Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, has set a goal of achieving net zero emissions from its wholly-owned operations by 2050.

Still pumping oil

The government’s goal does not necessarily mean that Saudi Arabia has to cut oil production, as it only applies to territorial emissions. Those generated when the kingdom’s crude is burned in cars, factories and power plants abroad will not count, according to United Nations accounting standards.

Instead, Aramco is in the process of increasing its production capacity even further, from 12 million to 13 million barrels per day. The project is expected to take six years and cost billions of dollars.

The company’s chief executive, Amin Nasser, said it is “not at all contradictory” to commit to reducing emissions while boosting oil production.

“There will be a lot of skepticism,” said Ben Cahill, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For the world’s largest oil exporter to become a net zero economy is quite strange.”

Still, the new target comes amid a shift between major petrostats. This month, the United Arab Emirates became the first Persian Gulf nation to say it would neutralize its emissions by 2050. Russia followed less than a week later, although President Vladimir Putin set a later deadline of 2060.

Gesture to Biden

Saudi Arabia can be particularly vulnerable to global warming. It has suffered from several severe heat waves in recent years, with temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).

It is the 10th largest emitter of carbon dioxide globally and the highest per capita among the G-20 countries. Reaching net zero will drastically reverse the trend of increasing emissions in the last two decades.

The decision is likely to go well for US President Joe Biden, said Karen Young, a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC Ties between Washington and Riyadh have been strained since Saudi agents killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 .

“The goal of net zero firmly establishes Saudi Arabia in the G20 economies that are driving this agenda,” he said. “It is also probably a conciliatory gesture towards the Biden administration.”

The country also pledged to join the Global Methane Pledge which aims to reduce emissions of the highly potent gas by 30% by 2030. Reducing methane leaks is seen by scientists as one of the fastest ways to slow change. climate.

Our way

Prince Abdulaziz said that each government’s approach to curbing emissions was different and that Saudi Arabia would continue to invest in oil.

The world “cannot function without fossil fuels, without hydrocarbons,” he said. Neither they nor renewables “will be the savior. It has to be a comprehensive solution. ”

He added that the COP26 talks must be “inclusive.”

“Inclusiveness requires that you be open to accepting what everyone is going to do as long as they contribute to reducing emissions,” he said. “The tools on your team are completely different from mine.”

Saudi climate negotiators may try to soften other countries’ proposals to cut investments in oil and gas, according to Jim Krane, a fellow at Rice University in Houston and author of “Energy Kingdoms: Oil and Political Survival in the Persian Gulf.”

“Net zero for humanity, especially a quick one, will be devastating for the kingdom,” he said. “So they could still be somewhat obstructionist in global forums.”

Hydrogen plans

Saudi Arabia plans to increase the combination of solar and wind power in its local grid to 50% by 2030, Prince Abdulaziz said, reiterating an earlier announcement. Natural gas will make up the rest.

That will require the government to stop burning hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil each day at its power plants. It will also need to enhance previous efforts to increase renewable energy production.

The country is investing heavily in hydrogen, a fuel that is seen as crucial to the eventual shift away from oil and gas. Aramco plans to produce blue hydrogen, which is done by converting gas and capturing carbon emissions. Other companies, such as Air Products & Chemicals Inc., want to export green hydrogen, made from renewable energy, from the new city of Neom.

Saudi Arabia aims to produce 29 million tons of blue and green hydrogen annually by 2030, the energy minister said.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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