Saudi Arabia has led a quiet campaign during these and other negotiations — demanding behind closed doors that oil-producing nations get special financial assistance if a new climate pact calls for substantial reductions in the use of fossil fuels.
That campaign comes despite an International Energy Agency report released this week showing that OPEC revenues would still increase $23 trillion between 2008 and 2030 — a fourfold increase compared to the period from 1985 to 2007 — if countries agree to significantly slash emissions and thereby cut their use of oil. That is the limit most countries agree is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The head of the Saudi delegation Mohammad S. Al Sabban dismissed the IEA figures as “biased” and said OPEC's own calculations showed that Saudi Arabia would lose $19 billion a year starting in 2012 under a new climate pact. The region would lose much more, he said.
“We are among the economically vulnerable countries,” Al Sabban told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the talks ahead of negotiations in Copenhagen in December for a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
“This is very serious for us,” he continued. “We are in the process of diversifying our economy but this will take a long time. We don't have too many resources.”
Saudi Arabia, which sits atop the world's largest proven oil reserves, is seeing economic growth slide because of fallout from the global meltdown, but experts still expect the country, flush with cash from oil's earlier price spike last year, to be better able than other nations to cope with the current crisis.
Al Sabban accused Western nations of pursuing an agenda against oil producers, under the guise of protecting the planet.