Saudi Arabia’s promise to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 has generated skepticism among experts and climate associations, who believe that it will only be able to achieve this goal if it phased out the use of fossil fuels.
According to the environmental organization Greenpeace, the fact that the Saudi crown prince, Mohamed bin Salmán, made this announcement on Saturday is no coincidence, as it occurred practically a week before the start of the COP26 in Glasgow (Scotland).
Although Riyadh displays certain ecological ambitions, it continues to be the world’s largest oil producer and does not intend to decrease its crude exports.
Oil giant Aramco this month expressed its willingness to increase its production capacity from 12 to 13 million barrels by 2027.
“We seriously doubt this announcement (on Saturday), since at the same time the kingdom intends to increase its oil production,” Ahmad al Drubi, a Greenpeace official in the Maghreb and Middle East area, told AFP. .
A “maneuver” before COP26
The Saudi promise “appears to be just a strategic move to lessen political pressure ahead of COP26,” this year’s edition of the United Kingdom’s UN climate conference, he added.
Saudi Arabia is not the only Gulf country that has promised a green conversion in recent weeks.
On October 8, the United Arab Emirates, an ally of Riyadh, announced that it would seek carbon neutrality until 2050, while Bahrain announced this Sunday that it wants to achieve the same goal by 2060.
The Saudi kingdom not only uses oil and gas to meet its demand for electricity, but also to desalinate water.
With a population of 34 million inhabitants, it emits 600 million tons of CO2 every year, which represents a figure higher than the emissions of France, which has almost twice the number of inhabitants.
Bin Salmán promised on several occasions in recent years that he would reduce his country’s dependence on black gold.
But these plans were hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the fall in the price of crude, which still accounts for 70% of the Wahhabi monarchy’s exports.
Increase your efforts
The Saudi authorities “should increase their efforts regarding the decarbonization of the energy sector,” Ben Cahill of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told AFP.
“The direct combustion of crude oil in energy production should be phased out and renewable energies should progressively replace gas,” he added.
According to the BBC, a major document leak revealed that several countries, such as Saudi Arabia or Japan, asked the United Nations to minimize the need to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels.
During his speech on Saturday, bin Salmán said he wanted to invest “in new sources of energy, such as hydrogen.”
But, according to Al Drubi of Greenpeace, hydrogen “maintains the status quo of dependence on fossil fuels”, necessary for the production of this type of energy.
“I am honored to announce these initiatives in the energy sector that will reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tonnes annually between now and 2030, which is almost double our announced targets so far,” said the crown prince.
He also promised the planting of 450 million trees.
But he did not specify how this promise would come true in a largely desert country.