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DUBAI: Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, pledged for a carbon neutral future during the Saudi Green Initiative in Riyadh.
Announcing a plan to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon by 2060, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Saturday that the move was in line with the Kingdom’s development plans, “while preserving and strengthening its leadership role. plan in the security and stability of global energy markets. . “
In a related announcement, Amin Nasser, President and CEO of Saudi Aramco, revealed his intention to make the world’s largest oil company a ‘net zero’ operation by 2050. “The road will be complex and the transition will have challenges, but we are confident that we can meet them and accelerate our efforts towards a low emissions future, ”he said.
The promises were the most eye-catching pieces on a day when Saudi Arabia reaffirmed its ambition to lead the world in tackling climate change, while retaining its traditional leadership in the oil and gas markets.
Nasser added: “We are not abandoning our existing sources of energy, but also investing in new sources. “
Also noteworthy is the commitment to double the amount of carbon the Kingdom will reduce in its national economy, removing 278 million tonnes of pollutants per year by 2030.
“These initiatives aim to modify the energy mix of the Kingdom, to ration and increase the efficiency of the production and use of energy, and to invest in new sources of energy, including hydrogen”, said the crown prince.
He also unveiled the first phase of the plan to eventually plant 10 billion trees in the Kingdom over the next decades, with an initiative to plant 450 million trees by 2030, to rehabilitate 8 million people. hectares of degraded land and to allocate new protected areas, to bring the total protected land in Saudi Arabia to more than 20 percent of its total.
Much of the national initiative will focus on the capital Riyadh, already in the midst of a “green” regeneration. “Riyadh’s transformation into one of the most sustainable cities in the world is already underway,” said the crown prince.
The first round of the new ‘green’ initiative would require an investment of 700 billion rupees, boosting job creation in Saudi Arabia and presenting investment opportunities for the growing private sector, in line with the Vision 2030 strategy aimed at to reduce economic dependence on oil.
But it was the net zero commitment and the promise to eliminate twice as much carbon as before that caught the attention of hundreds of attendees in Riyadh, just days before the start of the UN COP26 summit on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Kingdom joins a growing number of countries that have committed to net zero by 2060 – such as China and Russia – rather than the accelerated 2050 target desired by some Europeans and North Americans.
Some environmental activists have in the past criticized the Kingdom for failing to adopt a net zero target and for failing to do more to reduce national carbon production. The new targets will go a long way in satisfying criticism from the Kingdom in the context of the debate on “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) that could feature prominently in COP26.
Nasser said: “We have to consider that this announcement comes from the largest hydrocarbon producer in the world. Making this kind of commitment is great, and I’m sure others will follow in the Kingdom’s leadership.
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said the Kingdom could meet the net zero commitment before the 2060 calendar, using the circular carbon economy framework, which aims to reduce, reuse, recycle and eliminate CO2 greenhouse gases.
He said the technologies to meet the new goals will be fully mature by 2040, strengthening plans to meet the goals and setting an example for others.
“The Kingdom is not looking for financial support or subsidies to carry out this NDC and it will use the most suitable technology to do so,” said the minister.
“We can change our energy mix by using 50% to empower the electricity sector and all utilities, so 50% will go to renewables and the remaining 50% will be the development of more gas. This 50/50 will be a major element of this reduction that we have discussed, ”he said.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the event in Tuwaiq, Nasser explained that Aramco would meet its 2050 deadline by focusing on emissions from its own wholly-owned facilities, not its overseas operations, where they were “beyond our control”.
Nasser said there was no contradiction between his net zero target and Aramco’s strategy of increasing oil production, stressing that Aramco crude was less polluting than other types of oil. , and that it also planned to introduce strict controls on the production of methane, which is potentially more harmful than CO2.
He added that due to a shortfall in energy investment in recent years, available capacity was rapidly shrinking in global industry. “With the opening up of economies, there will be more use of hydrocarbons, more needs, more demand, and you will find yourself in a bad situation.
“We’re doing our part by maintaining our 12 million barrels a day, boosting our capacity by an additional one million barrels, but the rest of the world has to do its part. Demonizing the oil and gas industry is not good to help anyone, ”he added.
The SGI event will be held every year, to check the Kingdom’s progress towards its climate change goals. “We want to be held accountable,” Prince Abdulaziz said.
There were three areas of focus, he added: “Energy security, sustainable economic growth and prosperity, and addressing the serious problem of climate change. We can achieve all three without compromising one.
The new Saudi engagement was a message to the world, the prince said. “It allows us to say that we are with you. We share the same concern. We want to evolve.
But he insisted that some of the more extreme solutions, like banning hydrocarbons and halting investment in oil and gas, were not practical proposals for dealing with climate change.
“The world cannot function without fossil fuels, without hydrocarbons, without renewables… none of these things will be the savior. It must be a comprehensive solution, ”he said.