The reasons are many but the British Prime Minister who according to the latest BBC piece of international broadcast, decided to visit some of the Gulf leaders to mainly talk about ending reliance on Russian oil and gas, will discuss energy security and other issues in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates today. But because critics have expressed concerns about the human rights records of these two countries, he pledged to also raise certain human rights issues although fostering some understanding between the Saudis and the West has always been left to the next day.
Let us here have a look at the supply of oil and gas issue that seems at this stage in contradiction with the latest world trend of distancing all advanced economies from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, the EU leaders appear to be subtly trying to gain and eventually incorporate the aggressed nation within their ranks; it will certainly increase their “Food Power” vis a vis the rest of the world.
Why is turning to Saudi Arabia for oil so controversial?
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying “the widest coalition” is needed to end reliance on Russian oil and gas.
But maintaining close ties with the Gulf kingdom is controversial among critics of its human rights record.
Why is Saudi Arabia so important for oil?
The US, UK and EU have announced that they will buy less Russian oil and gas, because of its invasion of Ukraine. However, prices have rocketed.
It should not be any surprise to witness first-hand that the good destiny of the planet appears to be postponed from COP to COP because of the obvious preponderance of petrodollars over any agreement, even at the now well-proven cost of jeopardising the planet’s Climate. The UAE must learn from UK’s COP26 when it takes climate leadership by Jonathan Gornall who rightfully forehears “voices will be raised protesting that handing control of COP28 to the UAE is akin to asking a fox to beef up the security of a chicken coop”.
One of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels will be in charge of negotiations to wean the world from its addiction to fossil fuels
With hindsight, it seems incredible that, until now, ever since COP1 in 1995 the words “coal” and “fossil fuel” have failed to make the cut in the final reports of any of the Conferences of the Parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.
That would be like a report by the World Health Organization on the global response to Covid-19 failing to mention the SARS-CoV-2 virus – unthinkable.
As every schoolchild in the world surely knows, the climate-change catastrophe looming over the planet has been generated by the unfettered burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – since the dawn of the coal-powered Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.
The annual failure of COP delegates to acknowledge the fossilized elephant in the room has, of course, been the product not of ignorance, but of the myriad social and economic pressures, experienced by multiple countries at different stages of development.
Forget elephants, the animal present at every COP for the past quarter of a century has been a giant ostrich, with its head buried deep in the ground. At Glasgow, the ostrich was finally allowed to raise its head, albeit only for a brief peak at reality. Even then, attempts to overthrow King Coal were watered down by last-minute interventions from its loyal subjects, China and India.
What the world needs now, more than anything else, is compelling leadership.
One announcement to come out of Glasgow was that COP28 in 2023 would be staged in the United Arab Emirates, home to the UN-created International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This isn’t the first time the COP roadshow has traveled to the Middle East – in 2012 COP18 was held in Doha – but a decade on the climate-change landscape has changed utterly.
Doha was not insignificant. It was one of a series of dull but necessary COPs that paved the way toward the Paris Agreement in 2015, and it was the first time that developing countries signed up to a legal obligation to reduce their emissions.
The Paris Agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To achieve that, the world needs to cut global greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 26 billion metric tons every year between now and 2030. To say that the total emission-reduction pledges scraped together in Glasgow of just over 6 billion tons fell short is to understate the huge gap between ambition and commitment.
It highlights the monumental scale of the challenge for the country presiding over these conferences. That the UK’s COP26 president Alok Sharma was almost in tears as he announced the watered-down deal goes some way to illustrate the personal and institutional commitments required by the host.
The kind of leadership needed to rally the world’s nations and their disparate interests to commit to an agreement often appears beyond possibility. Then there is the task of making sure the outcomes and expectations of any COP event are stuck to.
The UK had to draw deep on its resources and global leadership experience just to make Glasgow happen. With more than 25,000 delegates descending on the city, the policing bill alone was estimated at the equivalent of more than US$300 million.
The pandemic brought big challenges to hosting the event, but it also gave Sharma’s team an extra year to prepare after COP26 was pushed back from 2020. The UK won the bid to host the event in September 2019, but Sharma was only appointed president in January 2020 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson fired his predecessor Claire Perry O’Neill.
The jostling showed the escalating importance placed on the herculean task of cajoling global powers into alignment on saving the planet.
While many have called the COP26 outcomes a failure, Sharma won praise for his balanced leadership that involved building relations with small island states most at risk from rising sea levels while handling tricky meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.
It is some of these skillsets that the UAE will have to draw upon as it prepares to take the reins in 2023. The Emirates has been entrusted to host the event based on its existing commitments toward the environment and renewable energy, including investing heavily in the new sciences of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), and nuclear energy.
Yet the UAE has more to lose than many countries from the inevitable transition to sustainable fuels, but much more to gain than most in shaping the elements of tomorrow’s energy market – and, thanks to its oil and gas revenues, it has the necessary funds to invest in the future today.
But forging its own path is very different to consensus-building between nations with conflicting interests. What lessons can be learned from previous COP hosts and how the UAE can build on their efforts yet bring its own style of leadership is yet to be seen.
Doubtless many voices will be raised protesting that handing control of COP28 to the UAE is akin to asking a fox to beef up the security of a chicken coop. Fingers will also be pointed at comments this week from the group chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) that “the oil and gas industry will have to invest over $600 billion every year … until 2030 … just to keep up with expected demand.”
But to express alarm at this is to misunderstand the nature of a global energy system undergoing dramatic change.
None of the world’s countries can “simply unplug” abruptly from fossil fuels. The world is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and demand for oil and gas is rocketing – in the process creating the essential wealth in the Persian Gulf region necessary to fund and drive the transition to renewables.
For the UAE and countries such as Saudi Arabia, much of the profit being drawn out of the earth now is being plowed directly into the type of research and development that ultimately will save the planet.
The UAE is working hard to curb its own domestic consumption of fossil fuels. Last month, it announced it was aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – an ambitious target on a par with those of the UK, the US and the European Union.
How? Well, it turns out that oil was not the only economic blessing bestowed on the fossil-fuel-producing countries of the Middle East.
Sunlight is the resource that gives on giving and, in the Gulf, is available for the greatest part of the year. The UAE is already leading the way with domestic solar power plants and investing in solar technology.
COP28 in 2023 will put one of the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels in charge of negotiations to wean the world from its addiction to fossil fuels. It will put the UAE under a global spotlight that will require an exemplary level of leadership and diplomacy if the climate negotiations will continue to move forward.
And as the outcome of the UK meeting demonstrated, progress is incremental.
Jonathan Gornall is a British journalist, formerly with The Times, who has lived and worked in the Middle East and is now based in the UK.
A good question to ask after Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia declared targeting net zero emissions by 2060 would be how. That is How to know if a country is serious about net zero because achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2060 should follow a plan to phase out all usage of fossil fuels. In any case, here is Fergus Green, Lecturer in Political Theory and Public Policy, University College London thoughts on the current problematics of greenhouse gas emissions. Would we turn a blind eye until 2060? Anyway, would we still be there by then? The COVID-19 lockdown shed some light on the relationship between emissions and consumption. So why focus on the production side only and not on the biggest emitters of GHG’s?
The above image is for illustration and is of Phys.org.
How to know if a country is serious about net zero: look at its plans for extracting fossil fuels
Fresh emissions targets from Saudi Arabia and Australia – two of the world’s largest fossil-fuel producers – are due to arrive just in time for global climate talks in Glasgow. These would commit the two countries to reducing domestic emissions to net zero by around mid-century – though both are expected to continue exporting fossil fuels for decades to come.
For the leaders of countries and governments that produce fossil fuels, UN climate summits are a public relations boon. They get to talk up their commitments to a green and clean future without being held to account for their disproportionate role in fuelling the problem. It’s hard for experts, let alone the average citizen, to tell fact from fiction.
Because it’s only domestic greenhouse gas emissions that are counted for the purpose of the UN climate negotiations, burning exported fossil fuels counts towards the emissions of the importing country. Accordingly, the role that major fossil fuel exporters like Saudi Arabia (oil and natural gas) and Australia (coal and natural gas) play in stoking global heating is not accurately reflected in the talks.
Unlike some areas of international cooperation, like limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, climate-change summits aim to control something which evades easy calculation. Nuclear weapons and their production facilities are tangible, chunky and relatively few in number. Greenhouse gases are everywhere, invisible and caused by lots of different processes – from cow digestion to steel production.
These gases are also in constant flux. Emissions are produced from ubiquitous sources, but there are also natural systems – especially forests and soil – that suck carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere. These natural removals of carbon are known as sinks. That is why scientists and governments speak of net greenhouse gas emissions: emissions minus removals.
It’s relatively easy to monitor aggregate levels of CO₂ in the global atmosphere. This is why scientists have a clear picture of how badly off-track the world is with tackling the climate crisis. But all this complexity concerning sources and sinks makes it easy for governments and corporations to obfuscate their real contribution to climate change.
For example, countries with lots of uninhabited land, like Australia, have become especially adept at gaming the systems of accounting for net emissions of CO₂. Australia effectively gets credited for large amounts of carbon stored in forests, which make it look like overall emissions have been falling, even though emissions from burning fossil fuels have been growing for decades.
One sure-fire way of telling whether a government official is hoodwinking you when lauding their government’s climate credentials is to look upstream and see whether they’re producing the coal, oil or gas that ultimately causes about three-quarters of global emissions, and if so, what they’re doing about it.
Extracted fossil fuels are much easier to monitor and verify than greenhouse gas emissions. They come from a relatively small number of sources and are already measured by multiple parties for a range of purposes. Customers need proof that the shipments they receive reflect their contracts with suppliers. Governments collect production information to assess a company’s compliance with licensing requirements, tax liabilities and customs obligations.
Fossil-fuel infrastructure and projects are even easier to monitor. Oil rigs, gas pipelines and coal mines are large, making them easy to see both on the ground and via satellite. These features make it simpler to hold fossil fuel-producing countries to account for their contribution to global heating, compared with the more slippery measure of net emissions.
The fossil fuel production gap
In a new report, the UN Environment Programme and other research institutions found that governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – the goal of the Paris Agreement. Countries’ fossil-fuel production plans and projections in aggregate even exceed, by close to 10%, the levels of global fossil-fuel production implied by their own climate pledges.
Shockingly, governments are pouring fuel on the fire. G20 countries have directed more than US$300 billion (£218 billion) in new funds towards supporting fossil-fuel production, such as subsidies and tax breaks, since the beginning of the pandemic – about 10% more than they have invested in clean energy.
The report echoes recent calls for greater transparency around fossil-fuel production and the support – financial and otherwise – governments provide at home and abroad. Research by various organisations has provided a better understanding of this, but the information is incomplete, inconsistent and scattered.
Governments could help by disclosing plans, funding and projections for fossil-fuel production, and how they intend to manage a just transition away from coal, oil and gas. Fossil-fuel companies should disclose their spending and infrastructure plans, as well as all the greenhouse gas emissions their product is responsible for, and financial risks to their business from climate change.
Numerous environmental organisations are working to build a global picture of the sources and flows of fossil fuels. So even if governments fail to illuminate the activities of fossil-fuel companies and their role in it, they can still be named and shamed.
Talking only about a country’s net greenhouse gas emissions gives fossil fuel-producing companies and governments a free pass to bullshit their way through the climate negotiations. If we want to force the PR managers to really earn their money, we should turn the conversation to fossil-fuel production.
By Yousef Saba and Saeed Azhar, Marwa Rashad in a Reuters article that is about how Saudi Arabia targets net zero emissions by 2060 cannot be more explicit about this top oil exporter is obviously struggling to keep up with the current trends of worldwide deep resentment against all fossil fuels. The forthcoming COP26 will definitely enlighten us on this aspect as well as on the major contributors to Greenhouse Gas Emissions plans.
Meanwhile here are the main points of this article:
Doubles target to reduce carbon emissions
To tackle climate change while ensuring oil market stability
Could hit target before 2060, energy minister says
RIYADH, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said on Saturday that the world’s top oil exporter aims to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 and will more than double its annual target to reduce carbon emissions.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his energy minister said OPEC member Saudi Arabia would tackle climate change while ensuring oil market stability, stressing the continued importance of hydrocarbons.Report ad
They were speaking at the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), which comes ahead of COP26, the UN climate change conference in Glasgow at the end of the month, which hopes to agree deeper emissions cuts to tackle global warming.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aims to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 under its circular carbon economy programme … while maintaining the kingdom’s leading role in strengthening security and stability of global oil markets,” Prince Mohammed said in recorded remarks.Report ad
He said the kingdom would join a global initiative on slashing emissions of methane by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030, which both the United States and the EU have been pressing.
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is due to attend a wider Middle East green summit Riyadh is hosting on Monday. read moreReport ad
Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said Riyadh, a signatory to the Paris climate pact, had already submitted its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – goals for individual states under global efforts to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The SGI aims to eliminate 278 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year, the crown prince said, up from a previous target of 130 million tonnes.
Saudi Arabia in March pledged to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4% of global contributions. It said that would involve generating 50% of its energy needs from renewables by 2030 and planting billions of trees in the desert state. read more
HYDROCARBONS STILL NEEDED
Saudi Arabia’s economy remains heavily reliant on oil income as economic diversification lags ambitions set out by the crownprince.
Saudi officials have argued the world will continue to need Saudi crude for decades to come.
“The world cannot operate without hydrocarbon, fossil fuels, renewables, none of these will be the saver, it has to be a comprehensive solution,” the energy minister said.
“We need to be inclusive and inclusivity requires being open to accept others efforts as long as they are going to reduce emissions,” he said, adding that the kingdom’s young generation “will not wait for us to change their future”.
He said the net zero emissions target might be achieved before 2060 but the kingdom needed time to do things “properly”.
Fellow Gulf OPEC producer the United Arab Emirates this month announced a plan for net zero emissions by 2050. read more
The chief executive of UAE oil firm ADNOC, Sultan al-Jaber, also stressed the importance of investment in hydrocarbons, saying the world had “sleepwalked” into a supply crunch and that climate action should not become an economic burden on developing nations. read more
Saudi Arabia has been criticised for acting too slowly, with Climate Action Tracker giving it the lowest possible ranking of “critically insufficient”.
And experts say it is too early to tell what the impact of Saudi’s nascent solar and wind projects will be. Its first renewable energy plant opened in April and its first wind farm began generating power in August.
Megaprojects, such as futuristic city NEOM, also incorporate green energy plans including a $5 billion hydrogen plant, and Saudi state-linked entities are pivoting to green fundraising.
Some investors have expressed concerns over the kingdom’s carbon footprint. Others say Saudi Arabia emits the least carbon per barrel of oil and that de facto ruler Prince Mohammed is serious about economic diversification.
“Obviously the carbon footprint is an issue. However, we would highlight that realistically carbon is going to be slow to phase out, and oil is here for some time yet,” Tim Ash at BlueBay Asset Management said in emailed comments.
Reporting by Yousef Saba and Saeed Azhar in Riyadh, Marwa Rashad in London and Maher Chmaytelli in Dubai; Additional reporting by Raya Jalbi in Dubai; writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Nick Macfie and Jason Neely
Energy transitions in the producer economies of the Middle East and North Africa
Supporting Middle East and North Africa countries to help them diversify their economies towards clean and low-carbon energy
Oil and gas producers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are particularly exposed not only to climate change, but also to global efforts to mitigate it. This water-stressed region faces severe climate impacts, from rising temperatures to extended droughts, so must take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, many MENA countries are economically dependent on oil and gas exports, which could come under growing pressure from global efforts to decarbonise the energy sector. MENA countries must therefore find a way to accelerate development of clean energy while diversifying their economies away from reliance on oil and gas revenues.
The International Energy Agency is working with countries across the region to leverage their existing capacities and competitive advantages in traditional energy forms towards clean and low-carbon energy technologies. The aim is to help countries chart a low-carbon pathway for their own growing energy demand, while also exploring export opportunities for emerging low-carbon energy sectors, such as hydrogen.
This is a broad-ranging programme that cuts across the work streams of the IEA. It includes supporting renewable and clean energy deployment through policy reform; navigating the pathways available to countries seeking to implement national hydrogen strategies; and bolstering economic resilience through the promotion of local value chains. The programme functions through high-level dialogue; tailored support for national policy development; and thematic workshops and training.
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