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The kingdom plans to eliminate 280 million tonne of carbon emissions per year as against its previous target of 130 million tonne.
Saudi Arabia, one of the world's largest oil producers, aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions within its borders by 2060. The kingdom has set a new annual target to eliminate 280 million tonne of carbon emissions with the aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2060. The previous target was 130 million tonne per year.
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the announcement in Riyadh on Saturday at the opening of Saudi Green Initiative Forum, a climate conference that comes just days ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, in Glasgow on October 31. Countries from across the world will participate in the Glasgow conference to tackle global warming and its challenges.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aims to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 under its circular carbon economy programme in accordance with the kingdom's development plan," Prince Mohammed said in a recorded statement on Saturday.
Concerns over carbon footprint
Experts have expressed concerns over Saudi’s carbon footprint. "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 told Reuters.
What is net-zero carbon emission?
According to the UN, net-zero carbon emissions mean emitting close to zero greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This can be done by moving towards clean renewable energy. The UN had called for coordinated action by all countries in the world to secure global net-zero emissions and limit global warming to not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.
Why is it important for Saudi Arabia?
Saudi is the highest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide among G-20 nations, as per the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, and the 10th largest emitter globally. The kingdom has been under pressure from the US and European countries to speed up efforts to curb emissions and invest more in renewable energy.
In a call on October 11, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to have told Prince Mohammed that he “hoped to see a net-zero commitment” from the kingdom. The US and the EU also want Saudi Arabia to cut methane emissions by 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030.
In March, Saudi had committed to reducing carbon emissions by more than 4 percent of global contributions. The kingdom planned to achieve this by planting billions of trees in the desert state and generating 50 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.
Fellow oil producer United Arab Emirates has already announced plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Impact on oil exports
Saudi Arabia is heavily reliant on oil and gas exports which form the backbone of its economy. Saudi officials believe the world will require Saudi crude for decades to come. The government, therefore, plans to hike crude-production capacity to 13 million barrels a day from 12 million.
Also Read: Crude oil's roller coaster ride, explained
Having a net-zero goal does not mean Saudi will have to reduce its oil output. As per United Nations accounting rules, the target applies to territorial emissions only and does not count those generated from cars, power plants and factories abroad that use the kingdom’s oil.
Ties with the US
Saudi Arabia’s decision is likely to better its ties with the US, Karen Young, a fellow of the Middle East Institute in Washington, told Bloomberg. Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have been strained since the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi agents in Turkey in 2018.
The net-zero goal is “probably a conciliatory gesture towards the Biden administration", said Young.