58th Session of the IPCC – Is Saudi Arabia really fighting for the climate change?

On Sunday 19 March 2023, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was adopted.

As Isabela Kaminski reports in Climate Home News citing a think tank called IISD being the only organization that is allowed to report on the talks – governments fought over how their favored green technologies are described in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) scientists last week.

Carbon capture installations and related technology were at the center of the debate. Mainly carbon dioxide removal CDR and carbon capture and storage CCS are the two types of installations being pushed to be introduced and emphasized in the text of the Report by the group of Saudi Arabia. 

While CDR sucks carbon out of the general atmosphere, CCS sucks it out of a polluting source like a power plant’s smoke-stack.

The meeting and discussion of the report is a plenary in which scientists who wrote the report are in the room to push back, government negotiators regularly try to lobby for the inclusion of their priorities in the text.

The report needs to be approved line-by-line.

A group of mainly European countries insisted for the report to emphasize the role of wind and solar power in fighting climate change and note how much cheaper it has gotten recently.

This group of European nations wanted the report to say that solar and wind electricity “is now cheaper than energy from fossil fuels in many regions” to which Germany emphasized that this sentence was of “paramount” importance but according to IISD, Saudi Arabia “strongly opposed inclusion of the sentence”.

The representative of the Bahamas asked that the report specifically say that CCS technology, unlike wind and solar, is not getting cheaper. But Saudi Arabia pushed back, saying CCS and CDR were “actually inevitable.”

When Germany tried to reduce the emphasis on CCS in one paragraph and called for the inclusion of more information on the limits of the technology, Saudi Arabia pushed back.

CDR, which is less linked to high-carbon industry and fossil fuels than CCS, was supported by a broader range of countries. IISD reports that France and Germany “cautioned that CDR deployment at scale is unproven and risky” and “asked for more detail on their limits and risks”. Mexico, Kenya and Bolivia also raised concerns about CDR’s role.

Lili Fuhr, from the Center for International Environmental Law, told Climate Home that CCS was the “first line of defense” for the fossil fuel economy. Saudi Arabia has a history of promoting CCS in IPCC reports and in UN climate talks. In April 2022, it successfully lobbied for a stronger emphasis on CCS in the IPCC’s report on solutions to climate change.

Saudi Arabia export about 10 million barrels of crude oil / day, let’s calculate how much pollution resides in a barrel of oil:

According to American Petroleum Institute (API) crude oil gravity varies typically between 10 and 50. We will consider the light oil 0API >30 having density in between 0.90 to 0.85 kg/m3. In our calculation we’ll consider 0.88 kg/m3.

A barrel of crude oil has 159 liter * 0.88 kg/m3 = 139.92 kg 

Generally crude oil is 85% carbon by weight, multiplying by the weight of 139.92 we get the carbon content in a barrel: 

That is 118.93 kg carbon in a crude oil barrel.

The fraction of carbon in carbon dioxide is the ratio of their weight. One kg of carbon is equal to 3.67 kg of carbon dioxide.

1 barrel of crude oil will produce 118.93 * 3.67 = 436.48 kg of CO2 when burnt…

For every million barrels exported, 436 thousand tons of CO2 are exported. 

10 million barrel crude/day equal  4.364 million tons of CO2 to be emitted in EVERY day…

It is an opinion circulated for some time, in which the exporter of crude oil and petroleum products will be asked to pay compensation for the emissions that their product incubates. This seems to be the only solution for emissions to be offset where they are actually produced and affect people, the surrounding nature and, on a larger scale, the planet.

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