RIYADH (MEMO) – Serious questions have been raised about Saudi Arabia’s ability to meet its own ambitious climate goals.
Analysts have slammed the kingdom’s progress as “critically insufficient” while pointing out that Riyadh has no economic incentive to switch away from fossil fuel.
Much of the blame for the lack of progress has been laid at the feet of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The de facto ruler has made several highly optimistic pledges in response to his critics including a promise to launch a “green initiative”.
Earlier this year, for example, bin Salman promised that the world’s top oil exporter would lead the “next green era” and vowed that 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s power generation would be provided by renewables by 2030, with the other 50 percent fuelled by gas.
“As a leading global oil producer, we are fully aware of our share of responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis,” the prince is reported as saying by the Financial Times as he unveiled the plan in March. “And as [with] our pioneering role in stabilizing energy markets during the oil and gas era, we will act to lead the next green era.”
Climate groups, however, have become deeply skeptical over bin Salman’s intention and Riyadh’s ability to deliver such an optimistic plan. Citing a lack of clear policies or data about its emissions, for example, independent research group Climate Action Tracker has rated Saudi Arabia’s climate commitments as “critically insufficient”.
“It’s not very clear how they actually aim to achieve these [climate goals], it’s not very transparent at all,” said Mia Moisio, an analyst at the NewClimate Institute, which helps collate the Climate Action Tracker data. “I am quite cautious about [the kingdom’s] announcements… There’s no reason why it wouldn’t be possible in Saudi. But there’s a lot of inertia.”
Doubt was also raised over Riyadh’s ability to meet its pledge following its objections to some of the wordings in a landmark UN climate report. Apparently, the Saudis were not happy with the use of the term “net zero”, which refers to reaching carbon neutrality.
A centerpiece of Saudi Arabia’s green revolution was expected to be an investment in solar power. However, there have been no details provided about its progress.