Saudi Acts as Oil Cheerleader at COP 17 Circus

Saudi, OPEC, COP 17, Durban, greenhouse gas emissions, Kyoto, carbon emissions, climate changeSaudi is pulling out the pom poms to protect OPEC oil-producing nations from losing money as climate change negotiations start at the COP 17 circus in Durban.

It’s that time of year again, when delegations suit up for the circus that has come to typify the United Nations Climate Change Conferences. Rich, polluting countries unwilling to sacrifice their high-flying lifestyles are threatening to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, which in part jeopardizes the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that helps MENA countries advance renewable energy projects such as Morocco’s 500 MW solar plant expected to break ground next year.

At present there are 388.92 parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere. The safe level is 350 ppm. The object of these expensive, carbon intensive meetings is to reach some kind of international agreement that requires everyone to reduce their carbon emissions, but they almost always fail because of self interest. For a perfect example of this, look at Saudi Arabia: despite showing the highest GDP growth in 8 years, one of the world’s most extravagant nations is protecting itself against new policies that might put their oil-wealth at risk.

OPEC’s Cheerleader 

According to Bloomberg, Saudi Arabia is arguing on behalf of all Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which Mohammed al-Sabban said in a speech at the Energy Dialogue conference in Riyadh is unfairly targeted by climate change mitigation policies.

Senior economic adviser to the Minister of Petroleum, al-Sabban said:

Saudi Arabia hasn’t asked for compensation for the loss of income from oil sales as consumers look to obtain energy from cleaner fuels such as natural gas or renewable energy… Rather the kingdom wants technological assistance from developed countries and more direct investment to diversify its economy.

Of the 12 OPEC nations, which Bloomberg notes collectively sell 40% of the world’s crude oil, 4 are among the top 50 richest nations in the world. Those include Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, and of course Saudi Arabia. Other OPEC countries in the region that are less well-off include Iran, Iraq, Algeria and Libya.

Kyoto II?

These countries are also among the most vulnerable to climate change, since each one of them is already struggling with scarce water resources and are subject to drought and record high temperatures. Saudi’s call for investment in diversification is a smart move, however, and kudos to the kingdom for taking a stand against waffling polluters.

Saudi Arabia thinks that a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol is a must, and without having unconditional emission reduction numbers from developed countries for the period beyond 2012, it will be impossible to have any agreement in Durban.

Saudi’s Solar Society

Despite being oil producers, Saudi Arabia and the UAE recognize that peak oil is near (and the world will be affected as soon as next year), and are leading the MENA region’s transition to a solar society. Just yesterday we covered a “game-changing” postage stamp-sized solar cell technology being developed in Canada, which received a $10 million capital infusion from Saudi.

It remains to be seen if Canada, China, the United States, and India are going to catch on to the seriousness of climate change during the next two weeks in Durban, but stay tuned for updates.

:: Bloomberg

image via Wallyir



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