Oil coun­tries only slowly warm­ing to cli­mate chal­lenge

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

PARIS: Global oil pro­duc­ers, who pro­vide the world with much of the fos­sil fuel that causes global warm­ing, are in no hurry to brighten up their own im­age as cli­mate di­nosaurs. Some Gulf coun­tries have timidly started in­vest­ing in re­new­able en­ergy, but ex­perts say the ini­tia­tives are just a tiny crack in pro­duc­ers’ oth­er­wise solid front of in­dif­fer­ence to cli­mate change.

“So far ex­port­ing coun­tries, es­pe­cially Gulf coun­tries, have done ev­ery­thing to make any progress on in­ter­na­tional cli­mate agree­ments dif­fi­cult,” said Pa­trick Criqui, an en­ergy ex­pert.

Ma­jor oil ex­porters are get­ting bad press for top­ping the list of per capita green­house gas emis­sions, but they usu­ally just shrug off the bad rap. They say “don’t point the fin­ger at us too much be­cause we pro­duce the hy­dro­car­bons that are used the world over”, ob­served Fran­cis Per­rin, pres­i­dent of Strat­egy and En­ergy Pol­icy pub­li­ca­tions.

Some are, how­ever, start­ing to “smooth the edges,” in the face of global mo­bil­i­sa­tion for the en­vi­ron­ment, he said. But slowly.

FNH, a foun­da­tion run by French en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist Ni­co­las Hu­lot, said Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates had never put a num­ber on green­house gas re­duc­tion tar­gets, and Venezuela, Nige­ria and An­gola had failed to for­mu­late any kind of com­mit­ment at all. Rus­sia mean­while has just said it expects its emis­sions to re­main steady.

“Over­all and un­sur­pris­ingly, oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries make min­i­mal com­mit­ments, or none at all,” FNH said. It is true that de­pen­dence on oil in­come, which ac­counts for 96 per­cent of ex­ports for Venezuela and 70 per­cent of gov­ern­ment rev­enue for Nige­ria, makes the search for al­ter­na­tives a hard sell.

What’s more, half of OPEC’s mem­bers are de­vel­op­ing coun­tries that are find­ing it hard to ab­sorb the se­ri­ous squeeze on their bud­gets due to sharply lower oil prices, and don’t want to, or can’t, shell out on cost-in­ten­sive green in­vest­ment.

Coun­tries like Al­ge­ria, which hopes to cover over a quar­ter of its en­ergy needs with renewables within 15 years, de­mands fi­nan­cial aid from de­vel­oped coun­tries be­fore go­ing se­ri­ously green.

“For them, like for all de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, the fight against poverty and ac­cess to en­ergy are the pri­or­i­ties and will re­main so for a long time,” Per­rin said.

But Gulf coun­tries, still com­fort­ably off de­spite cut­backs, are start­ing to look at al­ter­na­tives, in­clud­ing nu­clear op­tions for Abu Dhabi and Saudi Ara­bia, and gas, which emits far less CO2 than oil.

The United Arab Emi­rates are turn­ing to so­lar en­ergy, with an am­bi­tious sus­tain­able ur­ban project, Mas­dar City, and Shams-1, the world’s big­gest con­cen­trat­ing so­lar power cen­tre.

And Saudi Ara­bia is the first coun­try in the Mid­dle East to have launched a car­bon cap­ture and stock­ing scheme. But any sense of ur­gency is un­der­mined by pro­jec­tions suggest­ing that fos­sil fu­els in­clud­ing oil will re­main king over the next decades. Fos­sil fu­els, ex­perts pre­dict, will still cover three quar­ters of the world’s en­ergy needs 25 years from now. — AFP

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