Saudis “threatened” by climate talks

United Nations climate talks threaten Saudi Arabia’s economic survival, the country’s top climate negotiator, Mohammad Al Sabban, told Reuters -- and the world’s biggest oil exporter wants support for any shift from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources. Saudi Arabia says it could suffer from any global pact that curbs oil demand by penalising carbon emissions.


The oil-rich desert kingdom seeks support to develop alternative energy sources and to earn credits for storing greenhouse gases underground in near-depleted oil wells. “We have a lot of sun, a lot of land,” Al Sabban told the news agency. “We can export solar power to our neighbours on a very large scale and that is our strategic objective to diversify our economy; it will be huge.”

“We need the industrialised countries to assist us through direct investment, transfer of technologies,” to ease the burden of a new climate deal, he added. Saudi Arabia wants access to a UN adaptation fund which the world body’s climate chief, Yvo de Boer, describes as a “pittance”. According to Al Sabban, “Adaptation is not only to the impact of climate change but also the impact of climate policies.”

The country also seeks a re-vamping of fossil-fuel taxes in industrialised countries to focus on carbon rather than energy, and elimination of subsidies for biofuels. “It’s a matter of survival for us also,” Al Sabban said. “So we are among the most vulnerable countries, economically. Saudi Arabia has not done that much yet to diversify.”

 Al Sabban spoke on the fringes of the just-concluded climate talks in Bonn. The conference was the latest in a series of meetings meant to forge — in Copenhagen in December – a global emissions deal extending beyond 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

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