On this occasion, Friends of Europe has launched a series of short analyses of the INDCs submitted by key global players, drawing on the work done by the UNFCCC, World Bank and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. The aim is to clarify who is doing what, and assess if the announced commitments will be enough to limit the rise in global temperature to below 2°C.
This analysis focuses on Saudi Arabia, the last G20 member to submit its national contribution to the Paris climate talks. The country’s stance on the global climate change debate is influenced by two conflicting interests: on one hand it is extremely vulnerable to the adverse effects of global warming such as rising sea levels and heat waves, while on the other hand its oil-fuelled economy is responsible for over 1.36% of global emissions.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading oil-exporting country and the largest consumer of oil per capita (37.2 barrels per year), with oil sales bringing 80-90% of national revenue. Its vast crude oil reserves, the largest in the world, are therefore the main source of Saudi Arabia’s wealth, power and global influence and the reason why national authorities have always been reluctant to adopt any policies or make any commitments that could shrink these revenues. The country spends over 10% of its GDP on fossil fuel subsidies and is one of the highest subsidisers per capita in the world (US$3,395).
The last few years have however seen a slow departure from business as usual, as low oil prices, resulting from oversupply in the market, combined with slower economic growth, have pushed the government to look into possible options to diversify its energy mix and lessen its oil dependence. The rising energy demand – expected to triple by 2030 compared to 2010 levels – has added an additional burden as it risks reducing the kingdom’s oil export capacity and increasing the government spending on subsidies. To tackle these problems, the Saudi authorities have been supporting energy conservation measures in residential, commercial and industrial sectors, with the implementation of the National Energy Efficiency Programme (NEEP) in 2008 and the creation of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Centre (SEEC) in 2010. A 2010 royal decree established the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A. CARE), in charge of conducting research and developing alternative energy projects, namely renewables and nuclear power. The country has also been actively involved in the Four Kingdoms Initiative (established jointly with three other oil-producing nations: UK, Netherlands and Norway) for Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage.
Despite the positive change in the national energy strategy, Saudi Arabia’s INDC fits into the old narrative of denying responsibility for climate change. The outlined mitigation actions are more about improving energy security and efficiency than emissions reductions, which is seen as a ‘co-benefit’. Although Saudi Arabia announces its aim to reduce emissions by up to 130 Mt of CO2 equivalent annually by 2030, the pledge is conditional on the continuation of economic growth coming from oil revenues. If current policies are not changed, Saudi Arabia’s GHG emissions are forecast to rise by 600% compared to 1990 levels.
You may also look at Europe’s World special section 'On the road to Paris'.
Sources: UNFCCC, World Bank, JRC, IMF
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / FLICKR – Wen Zhang