Saudi Arabia pledges to be net zero by 2060

Article by Amanda Doyle

SAUDI Arabia – one of the world’s largest oil producers – has committed to net zero emissions by 2060. In addition, oil and gas company Saudi Aramco has pledged to have net zero emissions by 2050. However this does not include emissions caused by consumers using the fuel.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the net zero target ahead of COP26. The announcement was made at the Saudi Green Initiative Forum. The Financial Times reported that the country still intends to maintain its role as a leading oil and gas producer. Prince Mohammed said that that 700bn riyals (US$187bn) would be spent on new climate goals, which includes a reduction in emissions by 278m t/y by 2030. He also said that Saudi Arabia would cut its methane emissions.

According to The Financial Times, Prince Mohammed said that the net zero target would be achieved using a “carbon circular economy”, which likely means relying on the use of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies to allow for continued fossil fuel use.

Alongside the announcement, Saudi Aramco pledged to work towards net zero emissions by 2050, however this only includes scope 1 and scope 2 emissions which are directly related to production. Unlike other oil majors such as BP, Shell, and TotalEnergies, the target doesn’t include emissions produced when the oil and gas is used by consumers. These are known as scope 3 emissions and account for the majority of emissions associated with oil and gas companies. The Financial Times also reported that Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said recently that the company aims to increase production capacity from 12m bbl/d of crude oil today to 13m bbl/d later this decade.

Nasser commented on the net zero announcement: “As the largest provider of energy to the world, Aramco’s ambition to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across our operations in less than three decades is a historic step forward that will help tackle the most pressing challenge facing humanity. Our past success has not been measured by quarters or business cycles, but across generations. The same will apply to the positive results from our net-zero ambition, as the actions we take in the coming years will help safeguard our planet for future generations.”

“The road ahead will be complex, as the world’s transition to a more sustainable energy future will require collective action and major technological breakthroughs. But we remain focused on delivering reliable and affordable energy, investing for the long term as our efforts to further reduce emissions gain momentum.”

However, documents that were leaked to Greenpeace and shared with the BBC, showed that several nations are pushing back against the need to move away from fossil fuels, ahead of an upcoming report to be released by the IPCC. This includes Saudi Arabia, with the BBC reporting that an advisor to the Saudi oil ministry demanded that phrases such as “the need for urgent action” be removed from the report. They also requested that UN scientists remove the conclusion that "the focus of decarbonisation efforts in the energy systems sector needs to be on rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels". The Wall Street Journal also reported that sources familiar with the matter said that Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi Energy Minister, along with COP26 envoy Khalid Abuleif, have been pushing back against the International Energy Agency’s warning that no new oil and gas development can occur for the world to have any chance of meeting net zero goals.

Commenting on the leak of documents, Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change and Priestley Centre Director, University of Leeds, said: “In my over 20 years’ experience of writing IPCC reports there has always been lobbying from multiple directions. It is important to note that the authors get the last word as ultimately the report rests on peer-reviewed science, not opinion.   

“The ‘I’ in IPCC means ‘Intergovernmental’ for a reason. The governments of the world eventually agree the text unanimously. This the crucial for the IPCC becoming the trusted source of climate science for all nations.  This would not be possible unless all countries felt free to air their views and have them respected, listened to and responded to by the authors.”

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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