A groundbreaking investigation by the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) and Channel 4 News has revealed a covert strategy led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to entrench dependency on fossil fuels across Africa and Asia. This maneuver, aimed at safeguarding Saudi oil revenues amidst a global shift towards renewable energy, is unfolding through the Oil Sustainability Program (OSP).
At the heart of OSP is a multifaceted initiative to flood emerging economies with gas-fueled vehicles, develop affordable oil-dependent cars, and even fast-track energy-intensive supersonic jet travel. These efforts, in stark contrast to the global dialogue on climate change mitigation, are designed to heighten the reliance on fossil fuels in regions already severely impacted by the climate crisis.
The investigation discovered that this extensive plan involves not only the deployment of fleets of petrol and diesel-fueled vehicles but also a calculated move to lobby against subsidies for electric vehicles across the globe. The program also plans to encourage the use of heavy fuel oils for power generation, framed misleadingly as a path to “sustainable development.”
Experts and activists have sharply criticized the Saudi government’s actions. Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, compared Saudi Arabia to a drug dealer, aggressively trying to get Africa reliant on its oil. Similarly, Akinbode Oluwafemi from Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) condemned the OSP as a detrimental gift to Africa, likely to deepen the continent’s climate crisis.
This covert operation starkly contrasts Saudi Arabia’s public stance on climate change. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has publicly pledged to reduce Saudi emissions to net zero by 2060 and assert a leading role in global climate change efforts. However, the OSP’s undercover strategies depict a different, more ominous picture.
Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil and gas company, alongside other powerful Saudi entities like the Public Investment Fund and petrochemical giant Sabic, are key players in the OSP. They are orchestrating a sweeping campaign to ensure emerging economies remain tethered to oil consumption, even as scientific consensus urgently calls for a reduction in fossil fuel use to mitigate climate impacts.
The OSP’s confirmation by Saudi officials, who admitted its objective to counter global efforts to reduce oil consumption, further underscores the Kingdom’s commitment to perpetuating the global reliance on fossil fuels. This strategy not only undermines international climate goals but also poses a significant threat to the economic and environmental stability of developing nations.
The revelation of Saudi Arabia’s OSP comes at a critical time, just before the start of the UN’s COP28 climate conference, where global leaders are set to convene with the aim of addressing the climate crisis. However, the CCR’s investigation into Saudi Arabia’s strategy, alongside similar revelations about the United Arab Emirates, raises serious doubts about the sincerity of fossil fuel-rich nations in the global climate conversation.
The OSP’s unveiling aligns with Saudi Arabia’s historical pattern of impeding global climate action, as evidenced by their obstructionist role in past UN climate talks. Experts like Joanna Depledge from the University of Cambridge point out that the Kingdom has consistently employed tactics to delay the climate change agenda while seeking to exploit its oil reserves to the fullest.
As the world faces an imminent need to transition to renewable energy sources, the OSP represents a glaring contradiction to Saudi Arabia’s public commitments to tackling climate change. This duplicitous strategy not only challenges the integrity of global climate discussions but also raises profound ethical concerns about exploiting developing nations for fossil fuel profits.
The international community, gathering for the COP28 conference, is now tasked with confronting these alarming revelations. It must push for greater transparency and genuine commitment to sustainable development, ensuring that global efforts to combat climate change are not undermined by the self-serving interests of fossil fuel-rich nations. The future of international climate action depends on holding these nations accountable and steering the world away from the brink of catastrophic climate change.