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Suicidal Tendencies: How Saudi Arabia Could Kill the COP21 Negotiations in Paris.

by Antonia JuhaszNewsweek
December 9th, 2015



Suicidal Tendencies: How Saudi Arabia Could Kill the COP21 Negotiations in Paris

How does a country negotiate its own perceived demise? This may be the most pertinent question to consider when pondering the role of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations 21 st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris.

The simple answer is that it does not. Instead it undermines and blocks those negotiations and their goal wherever possible. Of course, it’s more complicated than that: in doing so, it is also wittingly accepting death by other means, but with its eyes wide open.

The goal of COP21 is a “decarbonized” global economy. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this means ultimately halting supply by keeping three-fourths of all known fossil fuels in the ground forever. On Sunday, Dec. 6, a group of 163 non-governmental organizations led by indigenous leaders and some of the world’s largest environmental organizations from 28 countries, released a “Declaration to Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground” urging nations to take immediate action on this pledge at COP21.

It is not a stretch to say that Saudi Arabia’s current world standing—their economic, geopolitical, military, and even to a degree religious power (including the ability to host 2 million Muslims annually during the Hajj at Mecca)—is derived from oil. It is the world’s largest oil producer and exporter . It holds 16 percent of proven oil reserves—the second largest reserves after Venezuela, and maintains the world’s largest crude oil production capacity , estimated at about 12 million barrels per day. Oil accounts for 90 percent of Saudi Arabia’s export earnings—making it virtually the only product the country sells outside its borders, while the petroleum sector overall makes up roughly 80 percent of total budget revenue .

While even an ambitious agreement in Paris will not put immediate restrictions on Saudi Arabia’s ability to produce oil, it would significantly constrain demand for fossil fuels. In short, the stakes at the COP for Saudi Arabia could not be higher. Leading the Washington Post to posit back in January that Saudi Arabia was intentionally manipulating world oil prices to increase demand for its product in advance of COP21. Midway through the COP on Friday, OPEC Ministers led by Saudi Arabia met in Vienna and announced that there would be no reduction in their current oil production levels.

Yet, here in Paris, one finds Saudi Arabia leading the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), composed of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE, in multiple daily briefings for the press and others on topics including, “Renewable Energy Initiatives Through Economic Diversification,” “Energy Efficiency Improvements,” and detailing the terms of each country’s climate action plan... continues...

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