Saudi Arabia targets net zero emissions by 2060

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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, said yesterday that the country aims to reach ‘net zero’ emission of greenhouse gases, mostly produced by burning fossil fuels, by 2060.

This is 10 years later than the United States’ IEA projection which the Arab nation’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman dismissed as, “a sequel of the La La Land movie.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his energy minister stated that Saudi Arabia would tackle climate change, but also stressed the continued importance of hydrocarbons and said it would continue to ensure oil market stability. He also said the country would double the emissions cuts it plans to achieve by 2030.

What the Crown Price said

Mohammed bin Salman said in recorded remarks that the kingdom aimed to reach net-zero by 2060 under its circular carbon economy programme, “while maintaining its leading role in strengthening security and stability of global oil markets.” He said Saudi Arabia would join a global initiative on slashing emissions of methane by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030, which both the United States and the EU have been pressing.

The Crown Prince was speaking at the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI) ahead of COP26, the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow at the end of the month, which hopes to secure the agreement of participants to deeper global emission cuts to tackle global warming.

The SGI aims to eliminate 278 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year by 2030, up from a previous target of 130 million tonnes. Mohammed bin Salman said the SGI initiative would involve investments of over 700 billion riyals ($190 billion) in that time period.

The race to zero emissions

The United States, the world’s second-biggest emitter, has stated that it is committed to achieving net zero emissions, which means that the U.S. will emit no more greenhouse gases than it can capture or absorb, by 2050. However, China and India, the world’s biggest and third-biggest emitters, have not committed to this timeline.

Amin Nasser, chief executive of the state oil giant, Saudi Aramco stated that it was counterproductive to “demonize” hydrocarbons. He said Aramco aimed to expand its oil and gas production capacity while also achieving net zero emissions from its own operations by 2050. He also called for more global investment to ensure adequate crude oil supplies.

Hydrocarbons are still needed

Saudi Arabia’s economy remains heavily reliant on oil, although the crown prince is trying to promote diversification. Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said the world needed fossil fuels as well as renewables. He stated, “It has to be a comprehensive solution. We need to be inclusive, and inclusivity requires being open to accept others’ efforts as long as they are going to reduce emissions.”

He further added that the kingdom’s younger generation, “will not wait for us to change their future.” He said net-zero might be achieved before 2060 but the kingdom needed time to do things ‘properly.’

Conclusion

Another Gulf oil producer, the United Arab Emirates, this month announced a plan for net-zero emissions by 2050. The non-profit, Climate Action Tracker Consortium gives Saudi Arabia its lowest possible ranking, “Critically insufficient.”

Saudi Arabia’s first renewable energy plant opened in April and its first wind farm began generating in August. The country also has plans to build a $5 billion plant to produce hydrogen, a clean fuel, and state-linked entities are pivoting to green fundraising.