Opinion: Resisting the inevitable – the Saudi Arabian dilemma on COP26

    11 Nov 2021

    We’ve found a remarkable article prepared by Climate Action Network (CAN). This is the world’s largest climate network made up of over 1,500 civil society organizations in over 130 countries, together fighting the climate crisis.

    Since its inception in the 1980s, CAN has grown into a member-driven network driving collective and sustainable action to fight the climate crisis and achieve social and racial justice. CAN convenes and coordinates civil society at the UN climate talks.

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    The Gulf region is rich in fossil fuels, which have been the driver of its economy for decades. Fossil fuels therefore have a deep-rooted social license, and national fossil fuel companies are a source of national pride. Of course, this has contributed to climate denialism over the last three decades, despite the impacts that have heavily affected the region, from desertification and loss of biodiversity, to more frequent and intense heatwaves, drought, and flash floods as well as significant impacts on agricultural yields and small farmers’ livelihoods. And these are only the tip of the iceberg, with more impacts predicted in coming decades.

    Denial of the science is no longer possible for governments of the region, as awareness of the climate emergency is more deeply entrenched in the minds of the population and the impacts manifest in their lives so profoundly. Sadly, the Saudi government, which has been obstructive to climate negotiations since their onset, continues to be so. They are predicted to be the final bastion of oil production in the coming years, due to having the lowest extraction costs and “high quality” of oil, and over the last week they have reaffirmed their intent to delay the inevitable end of the era of oil as far as possible.

     

     

    The moves of the Saudi government to cripple COP26 are deeply concerning. On Friday (November 6) night, Saudi negotiators moved to block the negotiations taking place over the creation of the so-called “cover decision” for the final text. The cover decision is the top line message coming out of a COP that signals what the final outcome means for the world and is a vital part of any successful summit. Many countries, especially those facing existential risks, have been attempting to ensure that Glasgow’s cover decision focuses on accelerating action to keep 1.5° C alive – thus the absence of any cover decision at all would cripple that effort and critically undermine the outcome in Glasgow.

    The Saudi government then blocked efforts to achieve progress on adaptation. A key pillar of the Paris Agreement, adaptation is the effort to help millions of people around the world cope with the impacts of rising temperatures. Lack of progress on adaptation would make it difficult for vulnerable countries, including the African block of nations, to embrace any final agreement, making success at COP26 less likely. Saudi negotiators are able to undermine the talks because all decisions require a consensus across all 196 countries in attendance – meaning a single nation can veto progress. There are no agreed voting rules in the UNFCCC because Saudi Arabia has been blocking them since the body was created after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

    The push on Friday night to block a cover decision was a textbook effort to strip ambition from the final text, while the move to dilute substance on the adaptation goal was designed to ensure vulnerable countries don’t get the support they need and therefore can’t sign up to a meaningful agreement at the end of this week. The Saudi negotiators in Glasgow have also tried to block ambition via the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs) group, pushing back on the inclusion of the 1.5° C temperature goal while demanding weak baselines in the Paris Agreement rulebook negotiations.

    Despite their historic dependence on fossil fuels, the Saudi government must undergo this challenging transition quickly, as the science has demonstrated that this is the only way to protect the region from the impacts of the climate emergency, a region that is warming at a significantly faster rate than the global average. The world is transitioning from fossil fuels and the Saudis seem insistent on continuing to invest heavily in them and locking in their economy and getting left behind. Instead, they should be initiating a swift, green and just transition, using their wealth of renewable energy potential, which can stimulate a vibrant economy with better jobs for a wide segment of society, based on equity and justice rather than concentration of corporate wealth.

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    What is climate change denial, or global warming denial, that activists mentioned in the text? This is denial, dismissal, or unwarranted doubt that contradicts the scientific consensus on climate change, including the extent to which humans cause it, its effects on nature and human society, or the potential of adaptation to global warming by human actions.

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    COP26: Saudi Arabia denies ‘fabrications’ that it is trying to derail summit negotiations

    But there’s the opposite side that needs to be heard. On November 10, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister says that allegations that he is trying to derail progress on fossil fuels are ‘lies.’ “These are not serious allegations; these are fabricated allegations,” he said.

     

     

    Saudi Arabia’s energy minister has denied allegations that his country’s negotiators were working to slow down negotiations and water down commitments at the U.N. climate talks.

    It is “a false allegation, a cheat, and a lie,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud told reporters on November 10 at the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

    Delegations of about 200 countries face a Friday deadline to negotiate consensus on next steps to cut fossil fuel emissions and otherwise combat climate change. Saudi Arabia’s team in Glasgow has introduced proposals ranging from a call to quit negotiations at 6 p.m. every day to what climate negotiation veterans allege are more complex efforts to block agreement on tough measures.

    Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, and a handful of other countries have long been accused of seeking to block measures that would crack down on fossil fuels. This year’s U.N. talks have seen a chorus of daily complaints from climate advocates at the conference.

    “Other governments now need to isolate the Saudi delegation if they want this” conference “to succeed for everyone, not just fossil fuel interests,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of the Greenpeace environmental group.

    Saudi Arabia has been accused of stalling and obstructing progress on a climate agreement by exploiting procedural rules that allow them to talk for extended periods of time and raise objections.

    These are the words of a very senior national representative heading into a tense round of negotiations on the recently released COP26 cover agreement – the document that will determine the success or failure of the summit.

    In an unusual unscripted encounter, the Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulazizbin Salman Al Saud told Sky News that allegations his country is trying to derail negotiations are “fabrications” and lies.

    Saudi says climate fight shouldn’t shun any particular energy source

    Saudi Arabia’s top energy official said on November 10 that efforts to combat climate change should not undermine global energy security or shun any particular energy source, and denied the kingdom was hampering international talks on the issue.

    The comments from the top producer nation in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries come as the UK hosts of the UN climate summit underway in Scotland push to secure ambitious pledges from world leaders to slash greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from oil, coal and gas.

    “It is imperative that we recognize the diversity of climate solutions, and the importance of emissions reduction as stipulated in the Paris Agreement, without any bias towards or against any particular source of energy,” Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud said at the summit.

    He added that negotiators should be “conscious of the special circumstances of the Less Developed Countries,” some of which have been resisting calls for aggressive moves away from fossil fuels because of the economic costs.

    “We should work together to help these countries mitigate the impact of climate change policies, without compromising their sustainable development,” he said.

    Several officials involved in the Glasgow talks told Reuters Saudi Arabia has been obstructing the progress of negotiations toward a strong deal, including by using procedural delay tactics.

    When asked by Reuters whether he agrees fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change, Prince Abdulaziz said: “No, I think there will be a good way forward. We should use all resources as long as we congregate around mitigating.”

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    You may also read the opinion of Egyptian journalist. He believes that Saudi Arabia is “the colonial petro-state to end all others, re-investing its vast oil profits in Western military hardware with which it can neither defend itself nor defeat asymmetrically underequipped neighbors.” Can the climate emergency show us how to see through the political stasis of MENA current regimes?

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