RIYADH (AFP) – Top crude exporter Saudi Arabia will aim to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060, its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said yesterday, days before the COP26 global climate summit.
The kingdom, one of the world’s biggest polluters, said it would also join a global effort to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
The United Nations (UN) said more than 130 countries have set or are considering a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, an objective it says is “imperative” to safeguard a livable climate.
“I announce today Saudi Arabia’s target to reach net zero emissions by 2060,” Crown Prince Mohammed told the “Saudi Green Initiative” forum.
“I am pleased to launch initiatives in the energy sector that will reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tonnes annually by 2030, thus voluntarily more than doubling the target announced.”
“We also announce the kingdom’s accession to the Global Methane Pledge.”
A statement said Saudi Arabia would “contribute to cutting global methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, as part of its commitment to deliver a cleaner, greener future”.
The 2060 target would “enable us to have a smooth and viable transition, without risking economic or social impacts”, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.
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 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – more than France and slightly less than Germany.
The year 2050 has become a focus for carbon neutrality, defined as achieving a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
As COP26 approaches, a string of countries have pledged to aim for net zero emissions by 2050, and global airlines and banks are also targeting the mid-century goal.
UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Friday the current climate situation was “a one-way ticket for disaster”, stressing the need to “avoid a failure” at COP26 in Glasgow.
Held between October 31 and November 12, the gathering is seen as a crucial step in setting worldwide emission targets to slow global warming.
In March, Saudi Arabia unveiled a campaign to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions, including a plan to plant billions of trees in the coming decades.
The OPEC member aims to reduce emissions by generating half of its energy from renewables by 2030, Prince Mohammed said at the time.
The Crown Prince yesterday announced the first phase would include planting more than 450 million trees and the rehabilitation of eight million hectares of degraded land. Saudi Arabia also declared it would designate new “protected areas”.
The move brings “the total protected areas in the kingdom to more than 30 per cent of its total area”, Prince Mohammed said, adding the first set of green initiatives would cost more than USD186.6 billion.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud said the land conservation move was critical.
“We want to diversify our economy. Hospitality and tourism are key to that, but so is preserving our environment,” she said at the forum.
Saudi Arabia currently draws on oil and natural gas to both meet its own fast-growing power demand and desalinate its water – which consumes huge quantities of oil.