Saudi-led Bloc Blocks G20 Fossil Fuel Deal

Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Unsplash

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Just like global temperatures, tensions among the G20 nations are heating up.

After several days of debate at a summit among member countries in the Indian state of Goa, a motion to reduce fossil-fuel use was ultimately blocked by a group of countries led by Saudi Arabia, according to a summary document released last weekend and sources who spoke with the Financial Times.

Renewed Discussions

This summer has already seen multiple days breaking all-time global average temperatures. In the US, prolonged heatwaves continue to bake large swaths of the South and Southwest, while the Midwest and Northeast endure heavy smoke billowing down from massive Canadian wildfires. To prevent potentially irreversible devastating consequences, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for global emissions to be cut by 43% by 2030 — lest temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels (temperatures have already risen 1.1 degrees).

In April, the G7 nations — the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the EU, which cumulatively account for roughly a quarter of all global emissions, according to the IEA — agreed to accelerate their transition to renewable energy, and achieve net-zero in energy systems by 2050. But broader cooperation among G20 nations, responsible for about three-quarters of global emissions, has proven difficult. China and Russia — which both target 2060 for net-zero goals — have consistently opposed acceleration calls in past global summits. And in the latest push to scale back fossil fuels to favor renewables, Saudi Arabia and aligned countries, it seems, have their own set of ideas:

  • Instead of retreating from fossil fuels, Saudi and aligned nations favored scaling up the development and implementation of carbon-capture technologies, sources told the FT.
  • Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, South Africa, and Indonesia — each a major fossil fuel producer — opposed the foal of tripling renewable energy capacity by the end of this decade, Reuters reported.

Captured Audience: Carbon-capture technology, however, isn’t viewed by most experts as a substitute for reducing emissions. Speaking with TDU earlier this summer about carbon capture technology, Howard J. Herzog, senior research engineer in the MIT Energy Initiative who has spent decades developing the technology, said carbon-removal tech should ideally be used to capture the 5%-10% of emissions that will be difficult to eliminate: “[Y]ou’re not going to be able to do business as usual and expect these technologies to remove all the carbon emissions from the air. It’s just too expensive. You’ve got to reduce emission-center sources, it’s the No. 1 thing to do.”