In the first week of this year’s United Nations climate change conference, Saudi Arabia was one of four petro-states that blocked delegates’ full acceptance of the IPCC report on 1.5°C pathways, chewing up scarce and valuable negotiating time along the way. In a subsequent interview with Carbon Brief Editor Leo Hickman, senior Saudi negotiator Ayman Shasly claimed that “we adore and we really like the Paris Agreement” and laid out his country’s reasoning for standing firm against full adoption of the report.
Hickman’s bullet-form summary of the full, verbatim interview runs as long as a regular news story, and the full interview is good reading. Here are just a couple of highlights before you click through for the rest of the report:
On Saudi Arabia’s willingness to “note” the completion of the report, but not to officially “welcome” it—a subtle difference that makes a big difference in diplomatic circles: “You would not say things like, you ‘welcome’ it…because that [means] we are giving legitimacy to some scientific report…that had its own issues of scientific gaps, knowledge gaps.”
On his specific objections to the report: “It didn’t say that how much space we need to make for developing countries to continue their development, without hitting 1.5°C. That was not mentioned in the report.”
On the atmospheric space still available for carbon pollution in a 1.5°C scenario: “We’re all competing for this limited space,” and the report “did not really send a signal that someone needs to take more serious, more ambitious actions, for them to reverse their emissions, so that they make room for developing countries to develop.”
On Saudi Arabia’s vulnerability to climate change: “As a matter of fact, we are impacted by climate change, perhaps more than anybody else. We are a desert country that heavily relies on this single source of income. We have such a vulnerable economy, fragile economy, and with oil, we eat, we feed, we travel, we educated our people, we have medical care and everything.”
On the need for a fossil fuel phaseout: “We hope we get rid of fossil fuel before anybody else. We don’t want to be dependent…We want to move away from fossil fuels as soon as possible.”