In response to the announcement that the administration of US President George W. Bush will not seek congressional ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, a Saudi official told MEES that his country "understands the economic concerns raised by the US that forced it to abandon the accord," adding that Riyadh "would not agree with any move to engage developing countries with reduction targets and timetables in any future alternative climate agreement."
In a statement to MEES, Mohammad Al Sabban, Senior Economic Advisor to the Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, and the head of the kingdom’s delegation to the UN negotiations on climate change, said that "developing countries agree unanimously that their priority is to eradicate poverty and develop their economies," while the developed countries "should take the lead if the international community wants to take measures to combat climate change in spite of the huge remaining scientific uncertainties."
With regard to President Bush’s announcement that he would not impose mandatory emission reductions for carbon dioxide at US power plants (MEES, 26 March), Dr Al Sabban said that Saudi Arabia, as well as other producers and exporters of hydrocarbons in the developing world, considers the economic impact of mitigating potential climate change under the Kyoto Protocol to be huge.
Dr Al Sabban agreed with the US administration’s assessment of the economic consequences of the accord, saying that if the US were to implement its emission reduction target, it would incur huge economic losses, arising from a shift away from coal – which is abundant in the US – to some other less available sources of energy.
"Such measures would be justified if the science of global warming were sound," he said.
Dr Al Sabban told MEES that Riyadh was skeptical of the European Union’s reaction to the US position on the Kyoto Protocol and suggested that the EU is seeking an economic advantage by having all developed countries ratify the accord.
"That is why they are lobbying actively to achieve this interest at the expense not only of the US and other developed countries, but also at the expense of the developing countries," Dr Al Sabban said.
The developed countries had not fulfilled their obligation under the Climate Change Convention, he added, especially with respect to assisting developing countries with finance and technology that would allow them to adapt to any potential climate change.
With regard to the emission reduction soft targets under the convention, he said most EU states were far away from achieving their targets with the exception of a few that had reached them accidentally.
"At the same time, these countries are asking developing countries to reduce their emissions and disrupt their development priorities, something that is totally unacceptable to developing countries," Dr Al Sabban said.
"As far as how we see the future," Dr Al Sabban continued, "Saudi Arabia believes that if the EU and the rest of the developed countries are going to go along with the Kyoto Protocol without the US – something which seems extremely difficult from an environmental and economic point of view – they should fulfill their commitments under the protocol as far as minimizing the impacts of their response measures on developing countries by implementing the following, inter alia:
"Restructuring their tax system to reflect the amount of greenhouse gases in each energy resource and not simply build on the existing distorted tax systems.
It is totally unacceptable to add more taxes, which are already very high, especially in Europe, on oil products, while continuing to subsidize or have very low taxes on more polluting sources of energy such as coal and nuclear power.
Nuclear power cannot be promoted under any global warming treaty because of its low emissions of greenhouse gases, forgetting its huge environmental problems.
"Assisting heavily dependent fossil fuel exporting countries, such as Saudi Arabia, with investment and transfer of technologies to enable our countries to achieve diversification and reduce dependency on oil.
"Compensating our countries for any proved economic injuries resulting from mitigation measures.
"Removing all market distortions such as subsidies and tax incentives that would result in encouraging more production of fossil fuels in the developed world."
"These demands by Saudi Arabia and other fossil fuel exporting countries are part of the position of the developing countries (G-77 and China) in the climate negotiations," Dr Al Sabban said, "and have been carefully thought out after it appears that the economic damages are going to be huge."
As one example, he said that Saudi Arabia alone would lose annually more than $25bn by 2010, according to several studies, including one conducted by OPEC.
"It is a very serious situation and we cannot allow ourselves, along with other developing countries, to do more than our fair share towards protecting the global environment. It is not true that once the dispute between the US and EU has been solved everything will go smoothly.
Developed countries have to fulfill their commitments in totality and not on the basis of pick and choose."
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)