Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has announced that it will cut its own greenhouse gas pollution, build more solar power systems and build the world’s biggest carbon capture and storage plant. Saudi Arabia was the last of the 20 major economies to submit a proposal to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) just last week. Their plan comes on the eve of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, Nov. 30–Dec. 11.
The proposal could avoid 130 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2030. But the Saudi’s plan hedges its bets. While the country wants to reduce its use of fossil fuels, it doesn’t want to let climate change actions further weaken its already burdened economy. The Saudis have been in the throes of a fiscal crisis for over a year when world oil prices hit a 4-year low to $76 a barrel (US), down from $105 over the previous 5 months. The Saudi’s plan stipulates that any climate change pledge will depend on strong oil export revenues. In fact, it plans to use earnings from oil exports to support their diversification efforts.
Also, what the Saudis haven’t agreed to is supporting the end of fossil fuel use. In fact, their plan was heavily criticized for being too vague and lacking any clear carbon emission reduction figures. So far, 158 countries have formally submitted plans to combat climate change to the UN before the two-week long Paris summit. The ultimate goal of the Paris agreement is to prevent average global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius while paving the way for clean and sustainable development in the future. The Paris agreement is slated to become effective in 2020.