Saudi Oil Minister Praises UN Climate Agreement, Says It Won’t Slow Their Oil Sales

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The Saudi Arabian energy minister said Wednesday that the new United Nations (UN) green energy transition pledge will not diminish the country’s ability to sell fossil fuels, according to Al Arabiya, a Saudi Arabian news outlet.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said that the landmark international pledge to transition away from fossil fuels will not affect Saudi Arabian crude oil sales, according to Al Arabiya. The UN hailed the agreement as “the beginning of the end” for fossil fuels, but Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest producers of crude oil, does not seem especially concerned that the pledge spells doom for the country’s economic lifeblood.

Nearly 200 countries, including the U.S., signed onto the energy transition pledge on Wednesday, just before the annual UN climate summit adjourned.

“The pharaoh methodology of dictating things has been buried, and so people are free in their choices,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the oil minister, told Al Arabiya in an interview. He also said explicitly that the COP28 pledge would not hurt the country’s ability to sell crude oil. (RELATED: Biden To Visit Saudi Arabia After Once Vowing To Make Them A ‘Pariah’ During 2019 Debate)

“We were given priority that I don’t think I have ever seen it in any such conference,” bin Salman told Al Arabiya regarding the level of access he and his colleagues received at the summit.

The pledge calls for “developed” countries, such as the U.S. and countries in Western Europe, to lead the way in the transition away from fossil fuels and in pursuit of green energy as “developing” countries follow that lead.

Notably, Saudi Arabia is considered a “developing” country despite its status as the world’s second-largest oil producer in 2022 and ranking as a top-ten emitter of carbon dioxide.

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, reacted to the announcement of the new commitment by asserting that fossil fuels “jeopardize our planet and our people,” according to the White House. “The climate crisis is the existential threat of our time. But as America has always done, we will turn crisis into opportunity – creating clean energy jobs, revitalizing communities, and improving quality of life.”

Saudi Arabian representatives, as well as delegates from other major oil-producing countries, reportedly resisted efforts from other officials to orient the commitment around a promise to “phase out” fossil fuels altogether, as opposed to a more broadly-defined energy transition.

Ultimately, it appears that Saudi Arabia, a leading member of OPEC+, got its way. The agreement does not call for a fossil fuel “phase out,” instead advocating for governments to accelerate the deployment of carbon removal technologies that could ostensibly prolong global reliance on fossil fuels, such as carbon capture and storage.

It remains to be seen whether or not the agreement’s signatories will actually follow through with the pledge’s stipulations. Lofty targets have been set at past UN climate conferences, only to be effectively ignored.

For example, at the 2021 summit, global leaders announced commitment to phasing down reliance on coal-fired power plants, but global coal demand is expected to remain at near-record levels in 2023, according to the International Energy Agency.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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