Saudis Seek to Ensure Climate Talks Won’t Hurt OPEC Oil Income

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest crude producer, will seek to ensure climate talks starting next week in Durban, South Africa, won’t unfairly limit the exporter group’s income, the kingdom’s envoy to the negotiations said.

Saudi Arabia and its OPEC partners are being asked to bear too much of the burden of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions because their economies depend on oil and natural-gas revenue, Mohammed al-Sabban, said in a speech at the Energy Dialogue conference in the capital Riyadh on Nov. 21.

Climate change talks are at a stalemate because richer nations want emerging nations to be included in a global deal. Poorer countries are seeking more effort from states that have emitted the most heat-trapping gases in the past. Members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which supply 40 percent of the world’s crude, oppose emission-reduction targets that threaten oil demand, al-Sabban said in an interview.

Any package adopted at Durban should include a detailed decision on how to minimize the adverse impact of climate policies on developing countries in general and OPEC nations in particular, he said.

Saudi Arabia hasn’t asked for compensation for the loss of income from oil sales as consumers look to obtain energy from cleaner fuels such as natural gas or renewable energy, al-Sabban said. Rather the kingdom wants technological assistance from developed countries and more direct investment to diversify its economy, he said.

Assistance Provisions

“It is very crucial to include provisions to this effect in any balanced comprehensive package we adopt in Durban,” said al-Sabban, who is also a senior economic adviser to the minister of petroleum.

UN climate negotiators gather in South Africa on Nov. 28 for two weeks of talks aimed at agreeing a successor to the present commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 5 percent below 1990 levels in the five years through 2012.

“Saudi Arabia thinks that a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol is a must, and without having unconditional emission reduction numbers from developed countries for the period beyond 2012, it will be impossible to have any agreement in Durban,” he said.

Saudi Arabia and other developing countries won’t agree to renegotiate the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as the UNFCCC, al-Sabban said.

The Gulf state wants carbon capture and storage, or CCS, to be included in the Clean Development Mechanism, the second-biggest CO2 market that was set up by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. CCS is an experimental technology that siphons off carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and factories and pumps it underground for permanent storage.

OPEC’s members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE