Saudi Arabia, the largest exporter of crude, on Saturday unveiled a broad campaign to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions, including a plan to plant billions of trees in the decades to come.
The linchpin of OPEC appears to be an unlikely champion of clean energy, but the “Saudi Green Initiative” aims to cut emissions by generating half of its energy from renewables by 2030, a declared de facto Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia also plans to plant 10 billion trees in the kingdom over the next several decades, he said in a statement released by the state-run SPA news agency.
Riyadh also plans to work with other Arab states on a “Middle East Green Initiative” to plant an additional 40 billion trees, as part of what would be the world’s largest reforestation program, he said. he adds.
“The kingdom, the region and the world must go much further and faster in the fight against climate change,” said Prince Mohammed.
“We reject the false choice between preserving the economy and protecting the environment.”
The statement did not specify how the mammoth plan would be executed in a largely desert landscape with extremely limited renewable water sources.
Saudi Arabia currently uses oil and natural gas to meet its own growing demand for electricity and desalinate its water, which consumes huge amounts of oil on a daily basis.
The new initiatives are part of the prince’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy.
Prince Mohammed said Saudi Arabia and the region face “significant climate challenges”, including desertification, which poses an “immediate economic risk”.
Some $ 13 billion is lost each year due to sandstorms in the region, while pollution from greenhouse gases has reduced the average life expectancy of Saudis by 1.5 years, he said. he adds.
The initiatives come as energy giant Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s cash cow, faces serious scrutiny from investors on its issues.
In January, Bloomberg News reported that the company had excluded emissions generated by many of its refineries and petrochemical plants in its global carbon statements to investors.
He added that if these facilities were included, the company’s self-reported carbon footprint could almost double, adding up to 55 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to its annual tally – roughly the emissions produced by Portugal. .
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