An undercover investigation has revealed that Saudi Arabia is driving a huge global investment plan to create demand for its oil and gas in developing countries.
Critics have said that the plan was designed to get countries “hooked on its harmful products”.
Although little was known about the oil demand sustainability programme (ODSP), the latest investigation has obtained detailed information on plans to drive up the use of fossil fuel-powered cars, buses and planes in Africa and elsewhere, as rich countries increasingly switch to clean energy.
According to the findings, the ODSP plans to accelerate the development of supersonic air travel, which it notes uses three times more jet fuel than conventional planes, and partner with a carmaker to mass produce a cheap combustion engine vehicle. Further plans promote power ships, which use polluting heavy fuel oil or gas to provide electricity to coastal communities.
Reports show that the ODSP is overseen by Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, and involves its biggest organisations, such as the $700bn Public Investment Fund, the world’s largest oil company, Aramco, the petrochemicals firm Sabic, and the government’s most important ministries.
In publicly available information, the programme is largely presented as “removing barriers” to energy and transport in poorer countries and “increasing sustainability”, for example by providing gas cooking stoves to replace wood burning.
However, all the planned projects revealed in the investigation by the Centre for Climate Reporting and Channel 4 News involve increasing the use of oil and gas. An official said this was “one of the main objectives”.
The head of the World Bank was quoted recently as saying that rich countries and companies needed to help developing countries leapfrog over the fossil-fuelled economic growth of the past and roll out renewable energy.
“If they did not, there was no hope of ending carbon emissions by 2050, as the world’s scientists had repeatedly made clear was necessary to avoid climate catastrophe,”Ajay Banga said.
Saudi Arabia had said that it is committed to the Paris agreement’s climate goals to restrict global heating to well below 2C while aiming for a 1.5C rise at most. To achieve this, fossil fuel emission must fall rapidly and most oil and gas reserves must be kept in the ground, meaning climate policies, such as support for electric cars, pose a significant threat to the oil-rich state’s revenues.
A issue which will form a major part of discussions at the UN’s Cop28 climate summit, which begins this Thursday, is whether countries can deliver a pledge to phase down – or phase out – fossil fuels. This year the climate crisis has smashed temperature records and supercharged extreme weather has taken lives and livelihoods around the world.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.