Here’s why Saudi Arabia is highly unpopular at Paris climate conference
Reacting to the recent agreement text which was released on Wednesday, Greenpeace’s Climate policy advisor Kaisa Kosonen said, ‘Some of the words in this text are smeared with the fingerprints of the oil-producing states’. The oil-producing state of Saudi Arabia has become highly unpopular at COP21 blocking the progress on talks on including the 1.5° global warming limit, the inclusion of human rights and favouring fossil fuels.
If an analogy can to be drawn to fossils, Saudi Arabia has worked very hard to keep up with its primitive ideas on human rights and science. At the COP21 negotiations, the country has been negotiating in a manner that refutes any consideration for the wellbeing of humankind.
Fossil fuel is at the centre of Saudi Arabia’s national submission to UNFCCC. Its seven page short Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) is elusive of any detail except that Saudi Arabia’s transition to renewable power will increase based on the revenue growth from its oil exports. Oil forms 90% of its export earnings.
Saudi Arabia’s blockade at COP21
Since the talks have begun last week, Saudi Arabia has been at its disruptive best in bringing about a weak agreement text that ensures greater room for global warming. The Climate Action Network claimed, ‘The Saudis are trying to torpedo three years of hard science, commissioned by governments, that clearly shows 2 degrees warming is too much for vulnerable communities around the world. Saudi Arabia is fighting tooth and nail to ensure the Paris agreement basically says, “Thanks, but no thanks” to 1.5 degrees warming.’
Saudi Arabia has also sought to block the reference of human rights in important parts of the climate agreement. ‘The draft text released Saturday sets out a commitment by countries to respect human rights and gender equality in all their actions related to climate change,” said Joe Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “However, some countries are seeking to remove these references, and the strong emphasis in the document on human rights, from Article 2, the purpose section of the agreement.”
‘Nongovernmental groups have pointed out that every country in the climate negotiations already is bound by at least one human rights treaty, and the inclusion of strong rights language in the purpose of the agreement reinforces the understanding that addressing climate change is not only about protecting the planet, but also the people living on it. Including rights in Article 2, they say, would help ensure that human rights are taken into account in carrying out the agreement’, Human Rights Watch said in a press statement.
Unity and Divide in the Arab league
While Saudi Arabia’s INDC gives no clear indications about emission cuts, not all the countries in the Arab are following suit. Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia have submitted INDC’s which are far more progressive than Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Morocco, the first Arab country to submit its INDC is also hosting the next year’s COP.
“The Arab civil society is pressurising the Arab countries to take a stronger collective position at the COP21 talks but it is difficult, especially for the oil producing states. Saudi Arabia is being very uncooperative and opaque at the moment. They have hired a PR team to handle all their communication and we are finding it very difficult to reach out to them,” said Reem Al Mealla, Co-Founder of the Arab Youth Climate Movement. She also feels that Arab countries with fossil fuel-based economies must re-direct a portion of their oil revenues into the establishment of an Arab Climate Fund.
But standing up to Saudi Arabia is not so easy for other countries.
“Most of the Arab countries will turn to Saudi when they are under any kind of crisis. The oil–rich kingdom not only provides financial support to these countries but also maintains political stability in the region. The countries are mindful of disturbing this stability especially after the Arab Spring. Divestment from fossil fuels will break the economy of rich Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar etc. This might create further conflict,” explains Al Mealla.
Yesterday at the stocktaking meeting after the draft text was released at COP21, Saudi Arabia spoke about food security and the availability of finance to move to green technology. Its vague reference of human rights did not have any buyers even as it aligned itself with the G77+ China, which is the biggest group of developing countries. A lot has already been written about India disrupting the climate talks but in light of the current developments, Saudi Arabia might be the reason why the final agreement might be in favour of fossil-fuel economies alone and override on the human rights and the wellbeing of the planet.
Author: Pari Trivedi
Photo Courtesy: Emma Cassidy | Project Survival Media