Saudi Arabia Earns Praise For Vowing Net-Zero Carbon Emissions—But Pledge Comes With Caveats

Saudi Arabia has received praises after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced Saturday that his country will reach net-zero carbon emission by 2060. However, the announcement from the world’s largest oil exporter had many caveats.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was photographed during a meeting at Al Salam Palace,... [+] Jeddah Red Sea port on June 24, 2019. (JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images) AFP via Getty Images

The Key Facts

The crown prince spoke in a prerecorded speech at a climate forum being held in Riyadh. He stated that the country would strive to achieve net-zero emission within its borders. The calculations won't take into account Saudi Arabia's oil exports which are the nation's mainstay. Instead, only oil that is used within Saudi Arabia will be considered. Saudi Arabia is also 10 years behind the 2050 deadline set by the International Energy Agency to achieve net-zero emission. This goal was set by the U.S.A, U.K., and European Union. Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, praised Saudi Arabia's announcement and tweeted that it was a "landmark promise" and a major step forward. Fatih Birol (executive director of the International Energy Agency) tweeted Saturday that pledges by major fossil fuel-producing countries like Saudi Arabia were "essential to achieve international climate goals." Alok Sharma, who will be leading the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference said he was pleased with the announcement and that he hopes it "galvanize ambition from other countries" before the conference.

What to Watch

Although the U.N. conference is the first international summit on climate since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2011, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have stated they don't plan to attend. The conference will take place in Glasgow, Scotland between October 31st and November 12.

Surprising Fact

Saudi Arabia isn't the only major oil exporting Persian Gulf country to announce plans to reduce emissions to net zero. The United Arab Emirates stated earlier this month that they plan to achieve that goal by 2050. Saudi Arabia has set a 2060 timeline, which Russia and China will follow.

Chief Critic

The announcement by Saudi Arabia is being met with some doubt, particularly considering its plans to increase production from 12 million barrels per day to 13,000,000 gallons in the next six-years. Bloomberg reports that the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Ben Cahill said, "The world’s largest oil exporter is becoming a net zero economy is quite strange."

Important Background

Following dire warnings from international agencies regarding the effects of climate change, Saudi Arabia has made the announcement. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a disturbing report in August claiming that humans have caused irreversible climate changes. This is making extreme flooding, droughts, and heatwaves more likely. Saudi Arabia, a nation that is already vulnerable to heatwaves intensely, will likely feel the greatest immediate effects from rising global temperatures. According to the panel, further extreme weather can be prevented by reducing greenhouse gas emissions immediately.

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The World's Largest Oil Exporter Makes a Commitment to Zero Emissions (Bloomberg).

"Devastating": World Leaders Respond to Climate Report With Urgency and Anger Towards Rich Countries (Forbes).