Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Saturday the kingdom aims to eventually reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 — a goal he said would be the first among Middle Eastern and Gulf oil exporters, but which some international analysts noted is achievable, at least in the short term.
Speaking at the energy conference in Riyadh, Prince Mohammed said the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) plans to cut oil supply by 1.4 million barrels a day in an effort to boost the price of crude.
The current level of non-OPEC supply represents about one-third of the world’s demand, he added.
OPEC oil output rose last month to a 32-year high as Iraq and Libya boosted production amid production disruptions in Canada and Venezuela, the second- and third-largest producers in OPEC.
Saudi Arabia has been at odds with the Trump administration over Riyadh’s and OPEC’s oil production policy. Washington criticizes Saudi Arabia’s large production policy that it says sends U.S. oil prices to $80 a barrel or more.
On Saturday, Prince Mohammed addressed U.S. and Saudi business leaders at the conference, which took place just hours after the US imposed sanctions on Russia over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
OPEC and its allies – Russia and 10 other countries – have coordinated around a production cut plan that has sent prices soaring in the last couple of years.
However, Saudi Arabia said this year it planned to step up its oil output until it achieves its own production target of 11.2 million barrels a day and pump 9.5 million barrels a day by the end of the year.
To get there, the kingdom plans to boost drilling activities by some 6.8 million barrels a day and boost its production capacity to 14 million barrels a day by 2023, the United Arab Emirates energy minister said last month.
Despite plans to significantly increase their production capacity, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait are expected to take decades to reduce carbon emissions by that level by 2060, OPEC said last month.
“The Kingdom’s (Saudi Arabia’s) carbon footprint has already grown; the Kingdom’s greenhouse gas emissions and methane emissions are set to more than double during the 25-year period studied (1990-2050), if historic fossil fuel use patterns and management practice are maintained. According to our methodology, this trajectory should be dramatically reversed if human ingenuity and policy makers can find sustainable ways to feed, shelter and educate 9.5 million Saudi citizens and safeguard their right to work,” the committee said.
Saudis also face a dilemma as oil markets are increasingly “stranded” under the weight of the world’s “population growth and environmental degradation,” while Riyadh is looking to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on renewable energy, according to the International Energy Agency.
Spending on renewable energy will continue to increase, particularly in developing countries, according to the agency, with the amount climbing to almost $1 trillion in 2030, compared to around $400 billion a year at present.
Asked about rising oil prices, oil minister Khalid al-Falih said Sunday, “Saudi Arabia and all of the world’s major producers are, as they have always been, coordinating closely on the new role of energy.”
“Saudi Arabia along with other oil producing countries have a responsibility to ensure we are all taking this forward,” he said in a statement.
It is unclear what more OPEC will be able to do to boost oil prices after the action in Venezuela and Nigeria.
The meeting in Saudi Arabia with oil ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries member states and non-OPEC member Russia had been billed as one to discuss the upcoming production cuts at a meeting Nov. 30 in Vienna.
Likely to overshadow the meeting, however, is the arrest of 16 men by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed, a top son of the country’s founder King Abdulaziz. Two senior officials of the nation’s Education Ministry, who were held alongside government economists, were also detained, according to a statement carried by the state news agency SPA.
Kingdom Oil Co., the kingdom’s state-run oil company, declined to say if the detained officials were involved in the planned energy production cuts.