One of the world’s largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia has pledged to reach “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, joining more than 100 countries in a global effort to control man-made climate change.
The announcement was made by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the Head of the Higher Committee for the Saudi Green Initiative (SGI), in brief scripted remarks at the start of the kingdom’s first-ever SGI Forum, which comes ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), in Glasgow.
HRH the Crown Prince announced a diverse set of initiatives in the Kingdom as a roadmap to protect the environment and address climate change challenges while achieving SGI’s ambitious targets.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aims to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 under its circular carbon economy program in accordance with the kingdom’s development plan while maintaining the kingdom’s leading role in strengthening security and stability of global oil markets,” Prince Mohammed said.
The first wave of initiatives that will deliver against the targets under the Saudi Green Initiative include programs that aim to achieve more than 278 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year, up from a previous target of 130 million tonnes.
In March, Saudi Arabia pledged to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4 percent of global contributions through initiatives including generating 50 percent of its energy needs from renewables by 2030 and planting billions of trees in the desert state.
Saudi Arabia has been criticized for acting too slowly, with Climate Action Tracker giving it the lowest possible ranking of “critically insufficient”. Earlier this month, the Kingdom’s fellow Gulf OPEC producer the UAE announced a plan for net-zero emissions by 2050.
The economy of Saudi Arabia remains heavily reliant on oil income as economic diversification lags ambitions set out by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi officials have argued the world will continue to need Saudi crude for decades to come.
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 included 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 Prince Mohammed is serious about economic diversification.