Saudi Arabia is aiming to reduce its annual carbon emissions to net-zero by the year 2060.
On Tuesday, the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, announced Saudi Arabia’s new climate action plan. In the region, the Kingdom is the largest oil exporter, but is pursuing environmental reforms as it diversifies its economy.
“We all have to find a balance between the ambitious economic plan and a strong climate change strategy,” the crown prince told the Secretary-General.
“I do not think we can govern an economy without caring about its environment,” bin Salman continued. “I have that conviction in my mind. I don’t care about other’s opinion.”
The crown prince further explained that Saudi Arabia wants to join the forefront of global efforts to achieve a successful Paris Agreement, which requires that national governments set a national goal for emissions reduction by the end of 2020, regardless of what form those cuts take.
The size of the country’s undertaking appears to suggest that some form of energy disruption is on the horizon. A report published in May by Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicates that while, for now, “Saudi energy generation is largely peaking,” this will change as the country’s economy diversifies, and a carbon intensity targets date gets closer. The new report attributes an increase in Saudi oil production, the planned shift from natural gas to renewables and some targets for lower emissions to these changes. The target date for the country’s emissions to be down to zero is determined using a linear model, but a current fixed trajectory would see emissions go down to roughly 0.6 metric tons in 2060 from the current level of 4.5 metric tons a year. It still means, however, that there would be an increase in temperatures, with a projected 1 degree Celsius increase by mid-century if efforts to reduce emissions are lacking.
The carbon reduction program, designed to address a range of issues — whether it be achieving access to employment for workers sidelined by the energy sector, as well as being confronted with energy bills that haven’t dropped despite ambitious economic changes, Saudi Arabia is reportedly still working out many details on its new climate action plan. But the “reflection” on the strategy is planned to continue until 2030, according to the new schedule.