• Saudi Arabia shifting towards climate mitigation advocacy as a long-term economic future opens

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

An interesting opinion piece by Reuters’ Rob Cox has looked at the changing position of Saudi Arabian officials towards efforts to mitigate climate change. While in 2018 at the COP24 summit, Saudi Arabia sided with Russia and the USA in playing down climate concerns, at the recent G20 summit in Naples, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the country’s energy minister, attempted to shift India’s opposition to a pledge to phase out coal power. While the effort was unsuccessful, it marks a shift in the country’s outlook, which according to Mr Cox is driven by a number of factors. One is optimism, with the oil price now above US$70/barrel and supply believed to be lagging demand, producing a relatively rosy short-medium economic outlook. Another is the shift of the position of its ally, the USA, with the election of Joe Biden, and a third may be a desire to improve its global image “after the dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi”. But fourth and fifth factors may also be at play. Saudi Arabia’s population is on average younger than most Western countries, and climate change concerns are often stronger in the young – giving a political motivation to act. On top of this, there are good conditions for the generation of green hydrogen in the country, with large, empty spaces, abundant sunlight and wind, and access to water. This holds out the prospect of a long-term economic future for the Kingdom as oil declines, and the combination of all of these factors may see a once unlikely supporter of action on climate become a champion of it.