Oct 23, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Saudi Arabia vows net-zero emissions by 2060

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the opening of the Saudi Green Initiative Forum, via video link, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 23, 2021. (Photo by Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia on Saturday pledged to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, deepened its 2030 targets and joined an international coalition seeking to cut emissions of the potent planet-warming gas methane by 30% in nine years.

Why it matters: The pledges from the world's largest oil exporter come just before COP26, a key United Nations summit opening Oct. 31 that is aimed at rallying worldwide actions to stem emissions that are currently on pace to bring global warming well beyond the Paris Agreement goals.

Yes, but: The commitments are non-binding and apply only to Saudi Arabia's internal emissions, which are roughly 2% of global CO2 emissions.

  • It does not apply to CO2 from burning the millions of barrels of oil Saudi Arabia exports every day. The oil provides critical revenue to a petroleum-dependent economy — a global market the country sees remaining robust over the long term.
  • The transition to net-zero carbon emissions "will be delivered in a manner that preserves the Kingdom's leading role in enhancing the security and stability of global energy markets," the announcement states.
  • "The world cannot operate without hydrocarbon, fossil fuels, renewables, none of these will be the saver, it has to be a comprehensive solution," Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said at the Saudi Green Initiative event where officials announced the new pledges, per Reuters.

What's new: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the targets at the opening of the environmental summit in the kingdom. In addition to the 2060 goal, Saudi Arabia is revising its formal 2030 emissions-cutting pledge under the Paris agreement.

  • The country — which relies on oil and natural gas for almost all internal energy needs — is now aiming to cut emissions by 278 million metric tons per year by 2030, the announcement Saturday states.
  • That more than doubles its current target under the Paris Agreement of 130 metric million tons of CO2-equivalent of "avoided" emissions annually by then.
  • However, Prince Abdulaziz, in remarks at the event, said the 2030 reductions are relative to a "business as usual" scenario. According to Bloomberg, reaching this target could nonetheless enable absolute emissions to keep rising.
  • Saudi Arabia also announced it's joining the Global Methane Pledge first unveiled by the U.S. and European Union last month under which countries seek to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
  • The signatories to the non-binding pledge thus far include Nigeria, Canada, Japan, Mexico and over two dozen others.

How it works: Via Bloomberg, the energy minister said Saudi Arabia plans to rely heavily on carbon capture technologies to reach its climate goals.

  • But he also reiterated the kingdom's goal to have renewables make up 50% of its domestic electricity mix by 2030, Bloomberg reports.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with more information about Saudi Arabia's 2030 emissions targets.

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