Climate Change Conference

Saudi Arabia pledges to reduce CO2 emissions, investing in oil

La monarchia araba ha annunciato un calo delle emissioni di gas ad effetto serra. A patto però che i profitti dalle esportazioni di petrolio restino alti…

Just a few weeks ahead of the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), Saudi Arabia has announced its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On 10 November, the government said it wants to “achieve mitigation co-benefits ambitions of up to 130 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent avoided by 2030 annually through contributions to economic diversification and adaptation”. It is good news, of course, but mostly symbolically.


It’s very important that a nation that grounds its wealth on oil extraction has declared its will to fight climate change. It’s likely that the country dreaded a diplomatic isolation on environmental issues, considering that 157 countries (out of 195) submitted their pledges in view of the COP21 (Saudi Arabia has become the last country of the G20 to submit its national climate plan). However, from an “ecological” perspective, the decision is important but not particularly decisive.


World Leaders Gather For G20 Summit In Brisbane
Saudi Arabia has become the last country of the G20 to submit its national climate plan ©Paul Matthews/Getty Images


Firstly, the country is responsible for 1.2% of global emissions (equal to Italy, according to data published by the World Resources Institute in 2014). Secondly, the pledges submitted are “opaque”: the document is difficult to be judged, since it doesn’t specify if promises will result in a real emission reduction, which means a decrease compared to a reference datum (e.g. a certain year). From the paper emerges the idea that the country aims to emit, in 2030, less CO2 compared with the amount that would have been emitted without corrective actions (a scenario called “business as usual”). But it is just an interpretation. The real paradox is the fact that Saudi Arabia also stressed that its pledge is dependent on a diversified economy and a “robust” oil export revenues over the coming decades, as well as that it “reserves the right” to update its plan.


President Obama Hosts Saudi King Salman Bin Abd al Aziz At The White House
King Salman bin Abd al Aziz talking to Barack Obama, on 4 September 2015, at the White House ©Olivier Douliery/Getty Images


According to Célia Gautier of the NGO Climate Action Network, as reported by the news agency AFP, Saudi Arabia has understood that a global transition towards renewables is unavoidable. However, it’s difficult to say if the country will accept such process aimed at giving up on fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) by 2050. Yet, it would be a mere strategic choice, since Saudi Arabia’s potential is undeniably huge, in terms of renewable energies exploitation.

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