Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s top oil exporters, has announced it aims to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060 and more than double its annual target to reduce carbon emissions.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the announcement in brief scripted remarks at the start of the kingdom’s first Saudi Green Initiative Forum.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aims to reach zero-net emissions by 2060 under its circular carbon economy programme … while maintaining the kingdom’s leading role in strengthening security and stability of global oil markets,” Prince Mohammed said.
It comes a little over a week before the start of the global Cop26 conference in Glasgow that will draw heads of state from across the world to try to tackle global heating and its challenges.
The Cop26 president, Alok Sharma, welcomed the announcement. “I hope this landmark announcement … will galvanise ambition from others ahead of COP26,” Sharma tweeted, adding he was looking forward to seeing more details on the Saudi plan.
Saudi Arabia is estimated to emit about 600m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – more than France and slightly less than Germany.
The kingdom’s oil and gas exports form the backbone of its economy, despite efforts to diversify away from its reliance on fossil fuels for revenue. It has resisted efforts to curb its investments in oil.
The country will aim to reduce its own emissions, but it will continue to pump and export fossil fuels to Asia and other regions.
Speaking at the event in Riyadh on Saturday, Prins Charles welcomed the target but said there was a “dangerously narrow window” to accelerate action.
Citing experts, he said the UN climate change conference must have nationally determined contributions (NDCs) with clear baselines in place.
The prince said the Saudi Green Initiative and a wider Middle East Green Initiative, which Riyadh will host on Monday, would help to accelerate the progress already made.
In a pre-recorded message, Charles said: “I am most touched to have been asked to address this event which inaugurates the Saudi Green Initiative and roadmap, and which takes place with encouraging timing, only days before the G20 in Rome and Cop26 in Glasgow.
“Cop26 is said to be the largest gathering of international leaders ever hosted by the United Kingdom. This reflects the fact that, at last, and after far too long, climate change and biodiversity loss are clear global challenges of paramount importance to the world.
“At the same time, the ongoing pandemic has highlighted that human health, planetary health and economic health are fundamentally interconnected.
“We now have a dangerously narrow window of opportunity in which to accelerate a green recovery, while laying the foundations for a sustainable future.”