Saudi Arabia accused of 'blocking' climate change deal at Paris summit

'Arab countries are standing silent and letting Saudi Arabia talk on their behalf'

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The Independent Online

Saudi Arabia has been accused of "blocking climate change talks" at the Paris summit in order to protect its place as one of the largest global oil producers.

During negotiations at the United Nations climate conference complaints surfaced the Kingdom was preventing an agreement from being reached by objecting to lower global temperature goals, climate change funds and periodic reviews of climate change plans.

The director of Climate Action Network, Warl Hmaidan, told The Guardian: “The world is changing and it’s making them nervous.

“Anything that would increase ambition or fast forward this energy transition that is already taking place is something that they try to block.”

Earlier this year, Saudi oil minister Ali Al-Naimi, admitted fossil fuels could become obsolete in the future and the country was investing in renewable energy.

Mr Al-Naimi said: “In Saudi Arabia, we recognize that eventually we are not going to need fossil fuels, I don't know when, in 2040, 2050... so we have embarked on a program to develop solar energy," Reuters reports.

Before the summit Saudi Arabia also released a plan to tackle climate change, pledging a “significant deviation” in emissions.

Despite this, Saudi Arabia opposed demands, now endorsed by more than 100 countries, to discard the long-standing goal of limiting global warming to 2C and replace it with the far more ambitious target of 1.5C.

Sven Hameling from humanitarian aid company CARE International said: “The review on temperature target, which resulted in strong arguments for a 1.5 degree limit as a safer way to protect all communities, ended up getting blocked from being sent to ministers, primarily by the Arab Group with Saudi Arabia leading.”

The sovereign state also objected to periodic climate change plan reviews, saying they would find the demand too difficult to meet as a developing country, The Guardian reports.

Saudi Arabia reportedly said: “We developing countries don’t have the capacity to do this every five years. We are too poor, we have to many other priorities.”

It has also resisted efforts to develop the Green Climate Fund, which aims to help poorer countries cope with global warming, and has asked to be be protected from loss of future oil income on the basis that some developing countries may receive compensation for damages caused by climate change.

Safa' al Jayoussi, head of climate campaign at IndyACT, said: “Right now, in the Arab Group, there is no peer pressure, there are no champions, so Saudi Arabia has been allowed to act as a blocker for much of the climate talks.

“Arab countries are standing silent and letting Saudi Arabia talk on their behalf. Morocco and Egypt have strong climate action plans and Jordan has the largest wind farm in the region, but due to their silence, their climate action and their reputations are being undermined."

Saudi Arabia has refused to cut production of oil, despite a global gut and prices falling to their lowest level since 2009, in June the country produced more than 10.5 million barrels per day.