Saudi Arabia continued to block climate action at the Paris climate talks. The COP21 negotiations were marked by opposition from oil-producing states like Russia and Venezuela, but no country was more focused on trying to scuttle the talks than Saudi Arabia. By resisting carbon caps, periodic reviews, the 1.5C target, and full decarbonization by 2050, Saudi Arabia was accused of trying to “sabotage” the climate deal. Saudi Arabia has 18 percent of the world petroleum reserves is the the earth’s tenth largest polluter. The nation has been the world’s largest producer of crude oil until it was overtaken by the US in 2015. Saudi Arabia’s economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and it uses its oil wealth to power its electricity grid.
“They are seeing the writing on the wall,” environmental activist Wael Hmaidan told the Guardian, adding, “The world is changing and it’s making them very nervous. Anything that would increase ambition or fast forward this energy transition that is already taking place is something that they try to block,” Hmaidan said.
Not only did the kingdom take a hard line opposing a positive outcome at the Paris talks they tried to forge a block of resistance by throwing their weight around with other Arab countries. “We feel Saudi Arabia is playing a bully role in undermining the position of other Arab countries,” Hmaidan said.
In the Spring of 2015 Ali al-Naimi, Saudi minister of petroleum and mineral resources accepted that the world is moving away from fossil fuels and seemed to signal that his country accepted the shift.
“In Saudi Arabia, we recognize that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels. I don’t know when, in 2040, 2050 or thereafter,” he said.
Before COP21 Saudi Arabia seemed to soften its position when it released a plan to combat climate change. However, their proposal was criticized for being opaque.
“It is unacceptable for developing countries, like my own, to be asked to participate in this so-called ratchet mechanism,” the Saudis were reported to have told the session.
Due almost entirely to oil revenues Saudi Arabia is the 15th largest economy in the world, however, they tried to play the poverty card and resisted the Green Climate Fund suggesting that only industrialized countries should have to contribute. They even had the audacity to suggest that if tiny island nations were to receive compensation for climate change the Saudi kingdom should also be compensated for loss of oil revenues and the acquisition of green energy technologies. In response to periodic reviews, one Saudi delegate was quoted as saying, “We developing countries don’t have the capacity to do this every five years. We are too poor, we have too many other priorities. It’s unacceptable.”
At the end of the day Saudi Arabia failed to derail the talks and they were forced to go along with the rest of the world and sign the final climate agreement.
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