Oil-reliant Saudi Arabia faces questions over ‘net zero’ pledge

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060, says Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia’s pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060 must go hand-in-hand with a plan to phase out fossil fuels, experts said on Sunday.

They questioned plans by the world’s top oil exporter to raise its production capacity despite the pledge, and Greenpeace raised doubts over the timing of Saturday’s announcement.

With increasing global urgency to limit global warming, COP26 aims to set the world on a path to net zero by mid-century.

Saudi state oil firm Aramco said this month it plans to increase production capacity from 12 million to 13 million barrels a day by 2027.

For Ben Cahill, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the kingdom “will have to make a massive push on energy efficiency and decarbonising the power sector.”

The United Nations says more than 130 countries have set or are considering a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by mid-century, an objective it says is “imperative” to safeguard a liveable climate.

Saturday’s Saudi pledge came after neighbouring United Arab Emirates, also one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, said it was targeting carbon neutrality by 2050. Bahrain, which exports refined petroleum, made a promise similar to Saudi on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia, the largest crude producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, also draws heavily on oil and natural gas to meet its growing power demands and desalinate its water.

Crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, who made Saturday’s announcement, in 2016 announced his Vision 2030 to end Saudi Arabia’s addiction to oil by diversifying the economy through foreign investments, business opportunities and other measures.

In its announcement on Saturday, Saudi Arabia also said it plans to invest in “new energy sources, including hydrogen”.

– Waiting for detail –

Aramco’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 only includes emissions from its own operations. According to Bloomberg, more than 80 percent of the company’s total emissions come from customers burning its fossil fuels.

He said the “landmark pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2060 is a major step forward”.

Cahill, of CSIS, was more cautious.

mah/th/it

Originally published as Oil-reliant Saudi Arabia faces questions over ‘net zero’ pledge

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