The memos show that Saudi Arabia was privately pushed hard by the US to accept the Copenhagen Accord, and that climate change was a front burner issue for the Obama administration.
“Saudi officials are very concerned that a climate change treaty would significantly reduce their income just as they face significant costs to diversify their economy,” the US ambassador James Smith wrote, briefing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, he alluded to a possible negotiating tactic in the memo. “The King is particularly sensitive to avoid Saudi Arabia being singled out as the bad actor, particularly on environmental issues,” he wrote.
Analysts said the Saudi memos, in particular, show the lengths the Obama administration went to in order to sway a fierce opponent of international climate action.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, has a long blocked climate talks momentum at the international level, and among key allies like the US. US climate change policy has been effectively neutered by the political polarization created by Fox News and the US Chamber of Commerce, both of which are key advocates for the benefit of the oil industry.
Both use the US Republican party as a proxy, and demand a position against climate legislation as a condition of funding. Saudi Arabia invested in both organizations.
After the Copenhagen summit, there was a January 31 deadline for nations to be “associated with” the accord, by pledging the amounts that they could agree to cut.
“A/S Feltman noted the importance that the President places on climate change, and the Copenhagen Accord,” Smith wrote. “Given that Minister of Petroleum Al-Naimi was involved in crafting the final agreement, A/S Feltman noted the United States is counting on Saudi Arabia to associate itself with the accord by January 31.”
The vast majority, 138 nations, representing 87% of global emissions submitted pledges. Another 8 nations, mostly very minimal contributors: with well under 10% of emissions, refused to be associated with the Copenhagen Accord. Saudi Arabia is one of the few nations that joined neither group.
More on Copenhagen and Saudi Arabia:
Finding the Arab Delegates at Copenhagen
The Middle Eastern View of Copenhagen
The World’s Poorest Protest Saudi Arabia’s Obstructionist Role in Copenhagen